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The English Lake District: World Heritage Designation One Year In

By Brenda Barrett July 25, 2018

World Heritage Plaque English Lake Distict
Image: Chee-Wai Lee

It was last July 2017 that after many decades of effort  the English Lake District was finally recognized as a World Heritage cultural landscape  at the World Heritage Committee’s meeting in Krakow Poland. So how is the Lake District faring one year after designation? In many ways the inscription has not resulted in big changes. The World Heritage bid was put together by the Lake District National Park Partnership (Partnership) and it continues to play a key role in carrying out its stated mission for the Lake District as:  A place where its prosperous economy, world class visitor experiences and vibrant communities come together to sustain the spectacular landscape, its wildlife and cultural heritage.

 Established in 2006, the Partnership currently consists of 25 organizations representing the region’s public, private, community, and voluntary sectors. Its vision and the Partnership’s  Management Plan, was the foundation of the World Heritage nomination. What is most remarkable about the partnership is that it was created without statutory authority or any governmental mandate. Not only did the group prepare the most recent plan to backstop the nomination, but it also is the vehicle for carrying out the strategies to conserve resources and ensure that the site’s Outstanding Universal Values are protected.

In recent discussion with Partnership leaders responsible for implementing the Lake District management strategy, they provided several examples of the value of this partnership approach. When a controversial zip line was proposed across the Thirlmere Reservoir, the National Trust took the unusual step of opposing a project that would not directly impact a property in their ownership. They took the position that the English Lake District National Park should be looked as a unitary resource to be conserved in its totality. The fact that it was now a World Heritage site certainly reinforced this position. In the end the owners of the reservoir, United Utilities, who were also a member of the Partnership determined that the visual intrusion of the project was unacceptable.

The Partnership also has provided a flexible management structure. While the Lake District National Park Authority is the planning authority and the statutory body responsible for managing the national park and the  World Heritage site, recent cuts to National Park budget’s, up to 40% since 2008, have impacted the  Authority’s ability to  deliver services. This had led another partner, the National Trust (the major land owner in the park),  to play a more central role and  to step up its efforts to help out. One example, the Trust has led the discussion within the Partnership regarding a vision for the thirteen valley landscapes in the Lake District over the next fifty years.  This has been challenging for the partners (some of which are self-confessed single-issue lobbying groups).  The task of coordinating the questioning and working with the responses to work up something tangible has fallen to the National Trust who volunteered to co-ordinate a vision and action steps for the region by developing a plan for Sustainable Land Management. While such a visioning exercise might have fallen to the National Park Authority in the past, the Trust volunteered itself and employed additional staff for that purpose.  The approach has been worthwhile in establishing a starting point for the future conservation of these landscapes.

So, the verdict is that the Partnership is working effectively to manage and conserve the national park and the newly designated World Heritage site. However, dealing with outside forces that may impact the Lake District is much more problematic. And in the front of the line of pressing issues is Brexit.  What will it mean for the country’s agricultural policy? This particularly important for the Lake District – as it is noted in the World Heritage nomination the region is an “unrivalled example of a northern Europe upland agro-pastoral system” which is also  ”a land use that continues to today in the face of social, economic and environmental pressures.”

Brexit means leaving the well understood if not always popular rules and subsidies of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy and forging a new direction for British agriculture. Getting this new policy right is important as British farming supplies 60% of the nation’s food and uses 70% of the land area. In February 2018, Michael Grove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, rolled out an ambitious white paper Health and Harmony: The future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit  setting  forth an approach that claims to promote both environmental protection and profitable food production in service of a healthier society. The details of this over 50-page consultation document are too extensive to summarize here. However, the direction is to move away from a system of direct payment for production and reward other public goods such as environmental conservation. Of real interest to the Lake District, the document specifically recognizes the challenges of farmers in “the most remote and wild and beautiful parts of England” and calls out the environmental and cultural values of the rural landscape and the traditional way of life including the  upland environment.

There is much to like in this report starting with the title. The United States could learn a lot by studying the ideas proposed that meld food security, environmental conservation, and rural prosperity. The value placed on the cultural landscape and on such qualities as beauty never appear in any US farm policy document that I have ever seen. While recent US Farm Bills now offer some hard-fought financial support for better  wildlife and water management, proposals to offer financial support to sustain beauty, heritage, and the rural historic environment are unheard of on this side of the pond. It should be noted that this report is only the first step. There is still some time left as the government’s proposal is to maintain the current level of agricultural subsidies until 2021 and to have  a gradual transition of payments thereafter.   However, at a national level it cannot be said that Brexit negotiations are going smoothly and this will inevitably affect the agricultural sector.

Yes, the number of farmers impacted by Brexit in the Lake District is small, estimated at just a few hundred families, but sustaining their way of life is essential to maintaining the landscape’s  Outstanding Universal Value.  All eyes are on the future of farming in these unsettled times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shrinking Bears Ears National Monument: What has been Lost

By Brenda Barrett May 28, 2018
Bears Ears National Monument Photo credit Andy Laurenzi courtesy of Archaeology Southwest

Bears Ears National Monument
Photo credit Andy Laurenzi courtesy of Archaeology Southwest

Almost all readers know the outlines of the controversy surrounding the Bears Ears National Monument. How for years those supporting the monument attempted to negotiate with state and local officials in Utah to craft a compromise to protect this highly significant landscape. How when this failed President Obama, at the very end of his term, used his presidential powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate the region as a national monument. And how within less than a year the Trump administration reversed this action shrinking Bears Ears by over 85%.

While there is an understanding that the monument designation was a good thing and rolling it back was not good, there has not always been a full discussion of what has been lost by this action. At a recent program (April 13, 2018) Bears Ears National Monument and the Future of Our National Monument sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, William Doelle, President and CEO of Archeology Southwest, said it this way “Personally what I see as so important about the Antiquities Act is that it allows landscape scale, protection, preservation and planning… and in Bears Ears for the first time the impetus to use the Antiquities Act to establish a monument came from tribal voices.”

The creation of Bears Ears National Monument did not just set aside public land for enhanced management by federal agencies, it established a new management approach whereby five Native American tribes with historic associations to the place were part of the management of its future. At the recent Johns Hopkins program, Willie Gray Eyes, Chairman of Utah Diné Bikéyah, told how this monument was rooted in the idea of ancestral land and all the resources of mother earth – water, subsistence areas for hunting and gathering, as well as ceremonial and sacred sites. He noted that native people take a holistic perspective of place and for this reason traditional knowledge is as important as science to its management.

Octavius Seowtewa of the Pueblo of Zuni spoke of the grassroots effort to have the monument recognized. Five tribes came together and to form a coalition to work through challenging issues recognizing each other’s heritage and establishing boundaries for the monument. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition—an alliance of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni tribes was to be a ‘voice for the ancestors’ in the management and protection of this new national monument. This was proposed as an unprecedented level of collaborative management between tribes and the federal government for the new national monument. The Bears Ears’ lands would remain in public hands and open to all Americans. But for the first time, those lands would be managed in a way that also honors the worldview of today’s Native people and their ancestors.

The original 2016 proclamation establishing the Bears Ears monument specifically recognized the importance of tribal participation its care and management. To ensure that management decisions affecting the monument reflect tribal expertise and traditional and historical knowledge, the proclamation established Bears Ears Commission to provide guidance and recommendations on both the development of management plans and on its implementation. It further directed the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to fully consider integrating the traditional and historical knowledge and special expertise of the Commission in making management decisions. This careful and lawyerly language gave the tribes an unprecedent role in conserving these lands. You can read all this in the original presidential proclamation, which by the way is also worth reading for its stirring description of the landscape and the resources contained therein. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/28/proclamation-establishment-bears-ears-national-monument

Tommy Beaudreau, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of the Interior under President Obama, outlined the almost decade long process of negotiating the framework and boundaries for Bears Ears. He explained how the department, after extensive research, concluded that the whole landscape was a large object of scientific interest. Its significance went far beyond a collection of archeological sites on a map -the historic record covered the entire landscape. He also said that the designation was important because “At the end of the day, we wanted to establish the precedent of a different way to manage public land that included cooperative management with a role for Native American people. We wanted to have that model introduced.”

But as we know all of this was not to be. Although the monument designation moved forward on December 28, 2016, as soon as the new administration was in power, it was high on Secretary Zinke’s list to radically scale it back. And that is what happened.

In conclusion, we as a nation have lost so much with the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument. There will be less protection for an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites as well as the paleontological and geological wonders. We have missed a chance to manage part of our heritage on a landscape scale and most tragically the chance to do so in partnership with the tribes that have lived upon and cared for this land for generations untold.

Below – a video of the event.

Many thanks to Sara Chicone of The Cultural Heritage Management Graduate Program of Advanced Academic Programs, Johns Hopkins University and to all the participants on the panel on Bears Ears National Monument. For the whole story watch the  program here. 

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Network for Landscape Conservation: A Lesson in Nature and Culture

By Brenda Barrett April 30, 2018

unnamed-1The Coordinating Committee of the Network for Landscape Conservation gathered for a picture on Boneyard Beach, Bull Island in the Cape Romaine National Wildlife Reserve in South Carolina. The field trip kicked off an April retreat in Charleston South Carolina to finalize the outcomes of the recent  National Forum for Landscape Conservation and to identify strategic initiatives to advance the conservation at a landscape scale. Collaborative, cross border conservation is an emergingtrend in North America and beyond, offering a new approach to connect and protect nature, culture, and community. The Network was formed to serve as a new organizational center for practioners and to advance expertise on conservation at a landscape scale. The low country region is a great example of a conserved natural landscape with four Federal Wildlife Refuges, designation as the Carolinian-South Atlantic Biosphere Reserve, and  ACE Basin Project that manages over 100,000 of protected lands and estuaries. However, it is the cultural heritage of the region, it is one of the centers of Gullah Geechee culture, that makes the landscape of truly global  cultural and natural significance.

The Gullah Geechee people of today are descendants of enslaved Africans from various ethnic groups of west and central Africa, who were forced to work on the plantations of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The geographic isolation from outsiders and strong sense of family and community allowed the Gullah Geechee people to maintain a separate creole language and developed distinct culture patterns, which included more of the African cultural tradition than African-American populations in other parts of the United States. After the Civil War the island plantations were for the most part abandoned. The people of the region were able to maintain language, arts, crafts, religious beliefs, folklore, rituals and food preferences that are distinctly connected to their West African roots and to the natural resources of the coastal ecosystem

Former Rice Fields Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

Former Rice Fields Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

Today sprawling coastal development, changing job markets, and population shifts have impacted the natural resources of the low country and those same forces have adversely impacted many Gullah Geechee people. These changes have caused a loss of their traditional economy of farming, fishing, hunting, and small-scale marketing of subsistence products, most famously sweet grass baskets. In many cases real-estate development has led to loss of lands that had been in families for generations.  First came the northern owned hunting clubs and estates, later military bases, and then resort and second home development. This encroachment by outsiders has resulted in out-migration, economic hardship, and loss of Gullah Geechee culture.

At the April meeting the members of the Coordinating Committee were privileged to hear from two women who are working to preserve the culture of the Gullah Geechee people that is so deeply rooted in the low country region. Heather L. Hodges, the recently appointed  Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission spoke about activities to expand and preserve the body of knowledge on the culture and history of the Gullah Geechee people in the Low Country and Sea Islands. She also gave a briefing on how much the landscape we see today in Charleston region was created by enslaved Africans using knowledge from their homeland to grow rice. To learn more read The Creation of the Rice Coast: A Global Exchange.

Jennie Stephens, Executive Director of the Center for Heirs Property Preservation, explained how her organization helps prevent land loss among the traditional African American land owners, who often owned family land in common. As explained on the Center’s web site”In the Lowcountry, heirs’ property  is mostly rural land owned by African Americans who either purchased or were deeded land following Emancipation. At some point in the land’s ownership, it was passed down without a written Will – or was not legally probated within the 10 years required by SC law to make it valid – so the land became heirs’ property. Heirs’ property ownership is risky because the land can be easily lost.  Any heir can force a sale of the property in the courts – OR can sell his/her percentage of ownership to another (outside of the family) who can force a sale of the entire property in the courts.

To address this loss of cultural fabric, the Center for Heirs Property Preservation aids low wealth heirs’ property owners by helping them obtain clear title and keep their family land through legal education, legal and mediation services, community empowerment and free Wills Clinics. In addition, the Center promotes the sustainable use of such land to provide increased economic benefit to historically under-served families.

Slave Dwelling Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

Slave Dwelling
Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

For the Network for Landscape Conservation and all its partners, the Low Country of South Carolina is truly a powerful example of the interlinkage of nature and culture.  It is a lesson that effective landscape scale conservation must begin with an understanding of the region’s cultural and natural heritage as well as the living traditions of today’s descendants. And to fully value the significance of the resource, we need to place the story within a global context. In this case it is the transatlantic slave trade, the market in global commodities, and the vast international Atlantic exchange of indigenous knowledge that were the forces behind the creation of this landscape.Fortunately, an effort is underway, led by the  Charleston World Heritage Coalition, to nominate the iconic buildings and landscapes representative of the region’s Lowcountry plantation-driven culture as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps at last the whole story will now be told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vietnam: Looking for the American War

By Brenda Barrett March 26, 2018
Revolutionary Mural in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Revolutionary Mural in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum

 

In Vietnam, our tour guide told us, they call winter the American Season. This is when well-heeled baby boomers come to see a country that figured so large in much of their youth. Some also come to see what has happened to country that they last saw under battlefield conditions. What they find is a “communist” country in throes of entrepreneurial high spirits. Not a wealthy country by any means, but one becoming prosperous with a GDP growth rate of over 7%. The city streets are lined with small shops and choked with motor scooters. According to the Ministry of Transport, the country has 45 million motor scooters for a population of 92 million people.

Hoa Lo Prison Museum In Hanoi

Hoa Lo Prison Museum In Hanoi

But what of the war, what of the past?  In Hanoi out of country tourists crowd into the Maison Centrale, the notorious Hoa Lo Prison Museum. Today sharing  its site with a tall apartment block. Photographs of famous residents (Senator John McCain) and visitors (President Clinton) are on display.  Somber exhibits tell the history and horror of the prison built by the French during the colonial regime. Hanoi is also the place to visit the soviet style tomb of Ho Chi Minh as well as his modest residence. Located on the grounds of the former colonial government compound, the house was built in the style of a peasant’s stilt house and is Gandhi-like in its austere simplicity.

Reunification Palace in Saigon

Reunification Palace in Saigon

For most Americans though the most vivid images of Vietnam are all below the 17th parallel – China Beach, Da Nang, Hue, the Mekong Delta, and of course Saigon. Now officially called Ho Chi Minh City, but everyone still calls the bustling upscale city center by its former name. First on the list of the city’s historical sites is Independence Palace also so known as Reunification Palace. Architecturally it is an unlikely political symbol of revolution. This very modernist structure was commissioned in the 1960s by South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem on the site of the former French Governor General Residence. The original residence was destroyed in 1962 in an assassination attempt on Diem’s by his own air force. Diem then commissioned this new residence, but was actually assassinated before it was completed. And it was here in 1975 that North Vietnamese tanks pushed through the building’s gates ending the long war.

Just this short recounting of the building’s past, is a lesson in the complex history that is Vietnam. Today the building has been carefully preserved with each of the official rooms telling a different story of foreign and in particular American involvement in the war. The fact that the building and its furnishings were not looted during the transition of power tells another story about the discipline of the transition. Finally, the residence’s richly furnished living quarters tell one more tale. A tale of the  of the opulent life style of South Vietnam’s leaders,  quite a contrast to Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house in Hanoi.

Cu Chi Tunnel Complex  demonstrating hidden tunnel entrance

Cu Chi Tunnel Complex demonstrating hidden tunnel entrance

The other must do site especially for foreign tourists is a visit to Cu Chi Tunnel complex. These tunnels, now symbols of resistance, were originally begun during the period of the French occupation. The complex includes some of the original tunnels many with entrances widened to admit the larger size of out of country visitors as well as reconstructed kitchens, displays of armaments, and tanks, and gruesome exhibits on the range of booby traps. Providing additional verisimilitude, is the   constant sound of gun fire from the nearby National Defence Sport Shooting Range. There for $1.50 a bullet you can shoot weapons such as machine guns and M-16s, which in the site’s brochure is billed as part of the sites recreational and entertainment services.

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

The final stop on my personal American War tour of Vietnam was a visit to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum until recently known as the Revolutionary Museum. The building  housed in, a French Colonial neoclassical building from 1886, has its own complex story. It served as the headquarters of the French Governor, then the Japanese occupation, and even  as a temporary residence for the ill-fated  President Diem.

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Today the museum’s first floor displays antiquated exhibits of Vietnamese industry, geography and archeology. Upstairs there are only slightly more updated exhibits of the Vietnamese people’s resistance to theFrench, the Japanese, and finally the Americans.  The artifacts are the plain and touching remnants of the revolution: reading glasses, typewriters, and mess kits. The story is a continuum of struggle against outside forces from three continents.

And one more vignette: Seeking to escape the building’s atmosphere of humidity and dignified decay as well as a sudden rain shower, I headed to a coffee shop on the grounds of the museum. Opening its big glass door, I walked into a different world-  air-conditioning, gleaming brass fixtures, the whoosh of expresso machines, and a crowd of young Vietnamese sipping lattes and working on laptops.  No reason to look any further, welcome to Vietnam today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interpreting and Representing Slavery

By Brenda Barrett March 26, 2018
Panel on Assessing the Enduring Legacy of Slavery in Today's Societies

Panel on Assessing the Enduring Legacy of Slavery in Today’s Societies

Scholars from four continents gathered in the World Heritage listed Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for a two-day conference on “Interpreting and Representing Slavery and its Legacies in Museums and Sites: International Perspectives” (March 19-20 2018). The conference explored the variety of ways universities, historic sites and museums from around the Atlantic World tell the story of slavery and its far reaching legacy. The project was sponsored by  The conference is sponsored by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the University of Virginia (UVA), and the United States Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) in collaboration with the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, and Heritage.

Launched in 1994 the Slave Route Project explores the common links between Africa and the Americas. As described by Professor Paul Lovejoy in his article The African Diaspora: Revisionist Interpretations of Ethnicity, Culture and Religion under Slavery  it was the aim of the UNESCO project to “trace the slave trade from the original points of enslavement in the African interior, through the coastal (and Saharan) entrepots by which slaves were exported from the region, to the societies in the Americas and the Islamic world into which they were imported.”

Attendees at the Interpreting and Representing Slavery Conference

Attendees at the Interpreting and Representing Slavery Conference

In this the project has been very successful. The research that underlies the Slave Route Project includes extensive work on the history from the Africa perspective a topic that from the American side has been neglected or is just not well known. This is critical for understanding how enslaved Africans perceived this new world and modified traditional institutions and cultural practices to adapt to new conditions. The some of the publications from the project are featured on this web site.

The overall goal is to develop through a range of cultural and educational programs to enhance enhances awareness of this slavery and its consequences. The recent conference at UVA  featured museum and historic site practitioners, as well as scholars and public thought leaders who engaged in a knowledge exchange to:

  • Consider the global impact of the slave trade and the legacies of slavery
  • Discuss experiences and best practices on representing and interpreting slavery from different regions of the world
  • Examine the roles of the arts, humanities, and multimedia technology for interpreting and representing the memory and history of slavery
  • Contribute to the elaboration of a handbook on new approaches in interpreting and representing slavery in museums and sites
  • Explore opportunities and possibilities for partnerships among participants and with the UNESCO Slave Route Project.

Below are just a few observations from what was an extraordinarily rich conference. Fortunately, for those who were not able to attend the conference in person, the conference panels are already available to view on line.   

Use of big data

The Slave Routes project has generated a vast amount of data on the 12.5 million enslaved people brought to the new world. The availability of this information is one of the ways to break the chain of silence. And this information is about to become even more accessible. The Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant of $1.47 million to eight universities to link their individual data bases. When finished, the project, “Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade,” will enable scholars and the public to search millions of pieces of slave data to identify enslaved individuals and their descendants. Users also will be able to run analyses of enslaved populations and create maps, charts, and graphics. (Hear Dr. Paul Lovejoy speak on this initiative at the First  Session at the conference)

Making the connection to individuals

Rotunda University of Virginia

Rotunda University of Virginia

While the scale of the slave trade is important to understand, the conference speakers emphasized the need to recognize the individuality and humanity of each enslaved person. Both the Provost Dr. Louis Nelson and the President Dr. Teresa Sullivan in their introductory remarks used the names of the enslaved laborers who constructed the Rotunda where we were meeting. Other projects are underway to build a data base of enslaved individuals to break the silence by putting a name to each enslaved person. (Listen to Session One – Welcome to the conference)

The psychological impacts of slavery

One of the most powerful presentations at the conference was by Dr. Benjamin Bowser who addressed the long term consequences of the slave trade on mental health. These impacts have long gone unrecognized yet still influence behavior today. (Listen to Dr. Bowser speak at the Second Session)

 Role of museums and universities

The overall goal of the conference was to examine the variety of approaches used at museums and sites around the Atlantic to represent the history and legacies of the slave trade, slavery, as well as  emancipation with experts from the U.S. South Africa, the Netherlands, France and more. While this topic infused all the sessions at the conference, the panel on ‘Universities Confronting Slavery’ raised many challenging questions. Such as many universities are   historical actors with connections to slavery, what steps have these universities taken towards repairing historic injustices?  (Listen to session 5 for more information)

Importance of the arts and humanities

Early Immigrants by Ed Dwight

Early Immigrants by Ed Dwight

 

Also permeating the conference and rare at a history conference were the role of arts and humanities as an essential part of the story. Many speakers looked at how the arts can play a role in expressing and transmitting memory. (Listen to Mr. Ed Dwight speak on creating memorials to slavery on Session Six panel)

 

 

Again don’t just stop with my brief summaries of a few of the conference highlights. Go to the conference web site and listen in!  

 

 

 

 

 

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Places and People in Trouble

By Brenda Barrett February 7, 2018
Main Street of  Kane Pennsylvania

Main Street of Kane Pennsylvania

Can America’s small cities be saved? I spent quarter of a century managing programs to address this question.  And I am probably just one of thousands of practioners in the fields of historic preservation, parks and recreation, and community development across the country who have tried to tackle this problem.  In Pennsylvania, my home state, small cities are poster children for economic distress.  Over 30 municipalities, almost all of which could be characterized as small cities, have been designated   financially distressed under Act 47 a state law passed in 1987 that was  designed to provide failing municipalities with some relief. All across the commonwealth those small cities not yet designated under Act 47 were and are teetering on the edge. All of them had a similar litany of problems declining population and tax revenue, high pension and health care costs, a large inventory of blighted or tax-exempt properties, and heavy burden of municipal debt.

Once upon a time I administered programs that provided advice and assistance to preserve historic buildings, to revitalize main streets, to revamp park systems, and reimagine former canals and railroad beds as recreational assets. While there were some successes, even an enthusiastic supporter as myself could see that these initiatives and all the good intentions in the world were not going to turn these places around.

Now I have been out of this line of work for quite a few years.  However,  I felt my past frustration and despair rush back when within the space of three days, I was confronted by two opinion pieces concluding that many small cities are probably doomed. Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times (December 30, 2017), posits that while once these places had a clear rationale for being as service centers for the surrounding countryside and later adding on whatever industrial enterprises came along, this is no longer a winning strategy. The modern economic supply chain, one that is cut lose from the landscape as well as the pressures of globalization will inexorable erode the viability of small urban centers. See The Gamblers Ruin of Small Towns .

The other piece was a more in depth article in the Washington Post by Harrisburg native Heather Long titled “America’s Forgotten Towns: Can they be saved or should people just leave? . The article starts out by saying that …. ‘One of the great debates in American politics and economics in 2018 is likely to be how to help the country’s forgotten towns, the former coal-mining and manufacturing hubs with quaint Main Streets that haven’t changed much since the 1950s and ’60s.’ 

Well I thought – I do not hear a great debate going on in Pennsylvania although it would be great, if it were happening. As of now I have not seen the issue receive increased political attention. But if it was to receive attention, there is still no consensus about what strategies might revive small towns and cities or even if it is possible at all. Some economists have concluded that the best solution is for populations to move to where the jobs are located. But according to the census data that is not happening.  The American people are moving at about half the rate that they did in the 1970s and ’80s.

Why are people opting to stay put? Heather Long’s article suggests that one reason may be risk aversion to moving to another place that might also have an uncertain future and face the same problems. Even more importantly, people may have have the rational desire to stick with the trusted and familiar.  A local support system of friends and family has real value that will be lost upon relocation.   So if residents want to stay put and it is unlikely that many of these places are going to completely close down, then what?

Again there are no good answers. A recent report by the Pittsburgh Foundation found that Pennsylvania communities in the state’s Act 47 distressed municipalities program generally performed worse than average despite state assistance that in some cases has stretched for decades. Other programs like Main Street designations and other targeted grant assistance are just not game changers. And if indeed the problems are caused by global shifts in the national economy, local economies are not likely to respond to such small interventions. Heather Long is hopeful that the social capital of people and place will serve as the “Magic Fairy Dust”  to help build a better future. I hope so too, but experience has lead me to believe it will just extend the long goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Culture/Nature Journey: New Delhi India

By Brenda Barrett December 27, 2017
Taj Mahal  UNESCO World Heritage Site Agra India

Taj Mahal
UNESCO World Heritage Site Agra India

The recent Scientific Symposium at the 19th ICOMOS Triennial General Assembly in India (December 11-15, 2017) featured a track titled a “Culture/Nature Journey” that highlighted how the recognition of the interconnected character of natural and cultural heritage is critical for the future of conservation. The idea for this track was inspired by the September 2017 ‘Nature-Culture Journey’   launched a little over a year ago (September 2017)  at the IUCN  World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i. At the Congress, a week-long ‘Journey’ offered sessions and discussions that reflected on the importance of integrating the work of conservation. The two fields have been brought together by the growing evidence that lasting conservation of natural and cultural heritage in landscapes/seascapes depends on better integration for resource planning and management. The need for this approach is made more urgent by threats such as climate change, urban expansion and globalization that can only be addressed on a large landscape scale.

At the ICOMOS meeting in New Delhi, the Journey continued under Co Chairs  Susan Mcintyre-Tamwoy of ICOMOS  and Tim Badman of IUCN. A special track titled appropriately Culture/Nature consisted of 13 workshops, many providing updates on existing programs of the two organizations on this topic, 7 small focused Knowledge Cafes, 4 more traditional Paper Session, 2 Case Study Sessions and other events including a Culture/Nature lunch.

So what were some of the highlights?

India Habitat Centre New Delhi

India Habitat Centre
New Delhi

An important initiative is the joint ICOMOS/IUCN Connecting Practice Project. The goal of this effort is to explore how to link culture and nature through selected pilot projects at World Heritage sites. Leaders in this effort updated attendees on the fieldwork that has been carried out over the past few years and discussed its application to varied landscapes/seascapes. A key element has been the partnership with local and national management authorities who have been working to develop and strengthen policy and management frameworks to achieve long- term conservation and maintain biocultural resilience in regions as disparate as Mongolia, Hungary and South Africa.

Another capacity building initiative presented at the ‘Journey’ was an update on  World Heritage Leadership an effort to improve the conservation and management practices for culture and nature as a component of sustainable development. One proposed idea to better meld the practice of culture and nature is to publish a new integrated resource manual, which joins together the existing ICCROM-led Managing Cultural World Heritage manual with the IUCN-led Managing Natural World Heritage manual to be issued by 2020. As session leaders noted the current existence of the two separate manuals itself illustrates the existing divide.

A workshop also focused on how the Rights-Based Approaches (RBAs) can be more effectively framed and mainstreamed using a nature/culture approach to improve the effectiveness conservation and sustainable management in partnership with indigenous communities. Considering both values can enhance the experience of local communities with biodiversity conservation and reconnect people with their natural heritage.

Several workshops looked at the challenging issue of agriculture. These landscapes stand at the nexus of nature and culture and are repositories of bio- cultural diversity, associated intangible and tangible cultural heritage, including the physical shaping of the landscape and associated traditional knowledge and practice. However, there can be tension around the management of working landscapes. The challenge is to form new alliances among the traditional stewards of these landscapes and heritage conservation organizations that inter-weave of nature and culture, and that consider how these values can help to advance sustainability in the long term. One effort aimed at building crosscutting understanding is the World Rural Landscape initiative, which explores the entangled cultural and natural dimensions of rural and agrarian landscapes and examines conservation approaches for sustainability of these dynamic systems.

This is just a taste of the topics that were covered in the Culture/Nature Journey in New Delhi.  For further information, all of the session abstracts are available here.

Celebrating the Culture/Nature Journey Delhi India

Celebrating the Culture/Nature Journey New Delhi, India

As for outcomes on this Journey:  An important step forward was the adoption of two resolutions at the conclusion of the 19th ICOMOS Triennial General Assembly that document forward motion on culture/nature journey.

  • Adopted Resolution 19 2017/25 “Incorporating the interconnectedness of Nature and Culture into Heritage Conservation”
  • Adopted Resolution 19GA 2017/16 Adoption of the ICOMOS/IFLA “Principles concerning Rural landscapes as Heritage”

Also during the conference, a hardworking group attempted to distill the essence of many sessions and conversations. One message from this exercise was that success might be achieved by parties taking small steps aligned toward a common goal. There will be many more reports coming out of this event, but for some additional background visit the Culture Nature Journey Facebook page. 

Postscript:

Just a reminder that the highlights of the Journey at the Word Conservation Congress (September 2017) were captured in a recent issue of the George Wright Forum titled Nature Culture Journeys: Exploring Shared Terrain. This thematic issue of the George Wright Forum draws examples from this broad array of themes through examples of case studies and reflections on the journey experience. While not comprehensive overview of the Nature-Culture Journey, together these papers illustrate many of the important emergent themes from that gathering.

Explore this issue  on the George Wright web site.

 

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Half Earth: E.O. Wilson sparks the planet’s largest conservation effort

By Brenda Barrett October 30, 2017

unnamedOn October 23, 2017 conservationists gathered at National Geographic Headquarters for an event called “Half Earth Day” held six months after Earth Day in April. The half theme was to highlight renowned biologist, naturalist, and author E.O. Wilson’s big idea that half the planet is the amount of protected marine and land habitats required to save 80 percent of the world’s species. His book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (2016) is a compelling manifesto of the why and even the where of what we must conserve in order to reclaim our natural heritage.

However, the how to accomplish the aspirational idea of reserving half the surface of the earth for nature has been more difficult to envision. The recent program at National Geographic demonstrated whether this outsized dream might just come true. Most inspiring was a series of  presentations that featured young conservation leaders showcasing innovative landscape scale efforts around the world: The Gorongosa Restoration Project in Mozambique, Tompkins Conservation  in Patagonia, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve in Montana, and National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

All these presentations are well worth watching on the E.O. Wilson Foundation web site.

While less than 10% of the globe’s terrestrial area is officially protected and only 3% of the oceans, the speakers and discussants spoke confidently of ways to increase these numbers. The approach was not necessarily to set aside huge protected swaths, but to build conservation areas into all human developments. One speaker spoke about the need for “gerrymandering” nature preservation into all that we do. While all of the examples were exciting, the presentation  by Dr. Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and leader of the Pristine Seas Project stood out, as he broke down the complexity of conserving the planet’s oceans into a seemingly doable strategy.  A strategy that he has presented to country leaders, business leaders, NGOs, and local governments and communities and that has inspired the establishment of some of the largest marine reserves in the world.

Another example of turning ideas into action is the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act (HR 6448) to establish a National Wildlife Corridors System to ensure that species are able to move between habitats less encumbered by obstacles. Introduced by Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) the bill directs key Federal land and water management agencies to work with each other, as well as with States, tribes, local governments, and private landowners, to develop and manage national wildlife corridors. Although the political climate is challenging for such efforts,  the ideas embedded in the bill are already being implemented on the ground in such disparate efforts as the Yukon to Yellowstone a transboundary two countries, five American states, two Canadian provinces, two Canadian territories, the reservation or traditional lands of over 30 Native governments, and a number of government land agencies. And by the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership a regional coalition of over fifty partners engaged in land conservation and related fields all dedicated to saving this large east coast watershed.

Can all this work add up to 50%? Make no small plans

 

 

 

 

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Threats to the Conservation of U.S. Marine Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett October 30, 2017
 Remains of the USS Macaw that sank near Midway Island. Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

Remains of the USS Macaw that sank near Midway Island.
Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

Overshadowed by the controversy over shrinking the size of national monuments that protect large swaths of the United States’ western landscapes, is a parallel effort to change the protected status of the nation’s marine resources. While all eyes have been focused on Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce has been preparing its own report on the future of marine national monuments and national marine sanctuaries. The report is not yet public, but could impact a broad area of the nation’s off shore real estate.

Included in the Department’s review are the Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments as well as the Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, Greater Farallones, Monterey Bay and Thunder Bay national marine sanctuaries and the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Taken together areas make up 425 million off shore acres in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

What is at stake?

National Marine Sanctuaires  Courtesey NOAA

National Marine Sanctuaires
Courtesey NOAA

The Department of Commerce could propose changes to these protected areas such as boundary reductions particularly for the more recently designated national monuments like the recent expansion of Papahānaumokuākea, which is also inscribed as a World Heritage site. However, just as risky to the conservation of these monuments and sanctuaries as a boundary change would be change in permitted activities. For example, allowing energy development such as off shore oil and gas drilling and allowing commercial fishing in areas where it is now banned. At this time national marine and monuments sanctuaries are similar to national parks. Although fishing is allowed in some of them, oil and gas drilling is banned, as is undersea mining.

The review began in April of 2017 with an Executive Order that directed the Department of Commerce to examine six national marine sanctuary expansions and five marine national monument designations and expansions are part of this review. In the Public comment period over this summer nearly 100,000 comments were received, with 99 percent in favor of retaining the existing boundaries of the protected ocean areas. But the cold facts are that public opinion may carry little weight. The Commerce Department’s recommendations have not seen the light of day, however, if the outcomes follow the path of the land based monument things are not looking up for the marine protected areas. President Trump has already announced he will shrink the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante and this could just be the beginning. Recently the Department of the Interior offered its largest lease sale ever for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This action sounds an ominous note for those marine landscapes whose special protective status maybe stripped away. Stay tuned.

One side note:  Why is the Department of Commerce undertaking this review? The answer is that through a quirk in evolutionary bureaucracy the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  , which has its roots, two hundred years deep in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the US Fish and Fisheries Commission, has the current responsibility to oversee both national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments  a system that conserves a network of ocean and Great Lakes environments with extraordinary biodiversity, scenic beauty, cultural heritage and economic opportunity.  .

 

 

 

 

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Edward Abbey: Seer in the Desert

By Brenda Barrett September 27, 2017

One of the pleasures of my summer vacation, visiting  parks on the Colorado Plateau, was re-reading the 1968 classic by Edward Abbey Desert Solitaire. As always I enjoyed his lyric and intensely personal descriptions of the desert and his sketches of such characters as morose cowboys and a moon-eyed horse. But this time I was struck by something I had never noticed before, the book offers a glimpse into the future.  So what did Abbey, seer of the desert, foresee?

unnamed-31) The looming tragedy of the Glen Canyon Dam – Alright this one was not too hard to predict. One of the book’s most enjoyable chapters is the author’s leisurely raft trip down the Colorado right before the completion of the dam that would forever drown this stretch of the river. Calling out the project as a silt trap and an evaporation tank, he bemoaned the irony of calling the lake created by the dam after the great river explorer  – John Wesley Powell. But perhaps Abbey could not have foreseen that just 50 years later there are serious proposals to open the gates of the Glen Canyon Dam and let the river run free at least through the Grand Canyon. Or perhaps he might have said – I told you so.

93198BEB-155D-451F-67A4F28EE433B6E5-large2) Reimagining our National Parks – For me Abbey’s most revelatory thoughts addressed  the desired future state for our National Parks. As a park ranger in the late 50s -60s, he was horrified by the onslaught of motorized industrial tourism and the policies of an agency he sometimes refers to as The National Parking Service. But all his writing is not negativity, he makes some very concrete recommendations.

One -No more cars in National Parks. He proposes that the service repurpose existing roads for walking, bicycles and even buses if you must. For example, he notes how this would vastly improve the visitor experience in Yosemite, which he describes as a “dusty milling confusion of motor vehicles and ponderous campers”.

Two -No more road development in parks.

Three -Put rangers to work not selling tickets or filling out forms, but leading the public  into the outdoors to enjoy the wonders of an unfamiliar carless word.

This summary does not do justice to his ideas some of which are laugh out loud funny. However, I know Abbey would be glad to see his idea of banning car put into action in places like Zion National Park and in parts of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. As for his thoughts on new roads and ranger, well for better and for worse, budget short falls have taken care of those action items.

North Rim of the  Grand Canyon

North Rim of the Grand Canyon

 3) Wilderness as a Revolutionary Idea – Along with all the other good reasons to set aside public lands as wilderness, Abbey presented what he believed was an entirely new argument. He says it best “…the wilderness should be preserved for political reasons. We may need it someday not only as refuge from excessive industrialism, but also as a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression.”

He expands on this theme noting that few civilizations are able to hang on to personal liberty for their citizens. And he goes on to predict that places like national parks could serve as centers of insurrection. While it might be tempting to draw some parallels to current events,  See Park Rangers to the Rescue,  one prediction Abbey got wrong was who would be on the front lines. He speculated that the insurgents might be made up of self-sufficient types farmers, cowboys, and woodsmen. It has not turned out that way – the protesters in my experience are more likely to be 60 something year-old women – like the one I met  on a Roads Scholar bus trip  to the Grand Canyon wearing her Alt NPS Tee shirt. Time to work the phones, barricades can come later.

 

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The Future of the Bureau of Land Management’s Master Leasing Plans

By Brenda Barrett September 26, 2017
Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for administering 247 million acres or over an eighth of the land mass of the United States. With a multiple use mission, BLM oversees leases for grazing, mining, oil and gas drilling as well as recreational uses and is charged to do so to benefit the economy, environment and enjoyment of people today and in future generations. Needless to say this basket of competing interests makes for a challenging job. And nowhere is the work of BLM more difficult than in balancing interest of the public when  leasing land  adjacent to our National Parks.

Conflicts between BLM practices and the need to protect National Park resources has resulted in the agency adopting a landscape scale approach to reviewing proposed leasing. This is the background as reported in a recent letter (Aug 29, 2017) http://protectnps.org/over-350-coalition-members-sign-letter-to-secretary-zinke-against-oil-and-gas-developm issued by the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks,

”In 2008, the BLM sold several oil and gas leases next to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. It was a rushed exercise, and NPS was not consulted until late in the process. A federal court halted the leases, because of the grave threat to the national parks, and an internal review conducted by a veteran BLM/NPS leadership team recommended a series of changes to BLM’s leasing program designed to avoid similar conflicts in the future. Those recommendations were largely adopted, and are achieving their goals. Master Leasing Plans (MLP’s) are reducing conflicts across the West, including around Arches and Canyonlands, and a new leasing process has created a vehicle for identifying and resolving NPS concerns for leases proposed near national parks. MLP’s prevent irreparable damage to park resources and avoid costly litigation, while allowing appropriate levels of oil and gas development to occur”

However, today the Coalition and other conservation minded organizations are concerned that the use of the MLP approach may be falling out of favor in the new administration. The Coalition noted that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed oil and gas leases near NPS units including Zion National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site. In addition, BLM has decided not to go forward with proposed “master leasing plans” (MLPs) in Utah.

These actions place National Park resources such as dark skies, clean air, scenic vistas and peaceful enjoyment of cultural and natural wonders at risk. Or as the Coalition eloquently said: Our national parks are not meant to be islands in seas of development.

While energy development may be a necessary activity on public land, it needs to be done in a way a way that balances competing interests. The MLP offered such an approach  for our National Parks and should be continued.

 Want to learn more?

Listen to a recent telepresser    held by the Coalition to urge Department of Interior Secretary Zinke not to lease lands next to any national monuments or national parks, and instead ensure that the lands around our national parks and monuments are protected and developed responsibly.

This comes at a pressing time, as this  September  (2017)all agencies will be providing a finalized report to the White House that identifies what existing rules and policies, which could include important protections for our land and water, should be eliminated in order to further President Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order. These decisions will directly impact the future of our national parks, national monuments, and their surrounding communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nature and Culture: The Journey Continues

By Brenda Barrett August 29, 2017
The voyaging canoe Hokulea'a Credit: Polynesian Voyaging Society and ʻŌiwi TV.

The voyaging canoe Hokulea’a
Credit: Polynesian Voyaging Society and ʻŌiwi TV.

In 2013, the traditional voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa set sail from Hawai’i on a round-the-world journey using only traditional Polynesian wayfinding techniques, including observations of the stars, the sun, the ocean swells, the winds, birds, and other signs of nature. After a journey of over 60,000 miles, visiting more than 23 countries and territories and 150 ports, the Hōkūleʻa returned to Hawai’i on 17 June 2017. The wayfarers carried a message of Mālama Honua –  a Hawaiian expression meaning “to care for our island Earth” – and gathered ideas to meet the challenges facing our world today.

And so it was in September 2016 that another journey occurred with similar intentions to the Hōkūleʻa – this one at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Hawai’i .  In the Hawaiian spirit of Mālama Honua, over 8,000 people travelled to Honolulu from around the world to share ideas and learn from each other’s innovations to better address the many conservation challenges facing our planet.

unnamedIn the conservation world, the two faces of nature and culture have become more a dichotomy than a duality. And yet, there is growing recognition that only by taking a more holistic approach can the field address the most urgent issues facing our planet – climate change, urbanization, and the transformations wrought by globalization. To explore these challenges  a Nature-Culture Journey was launched part of the larger WCC conference. It brought together a broad array ideas that touch on the duality of the nature – culture divide. For example, how the World Heritage Convention has shaped our perceptions of the two fields, the role of indigenous communities, traditional knowledge and spiritual values, and the challenges of conserving agricultural heritage landscapes.  While it would be impossible to represent the many threads of dialogue from last September’s journey, an upcoming issue of the George Wright Journal titled Nature – Culture Journeys: Explorations on Shared Terrain is dedicated to highlighting some of these intersections from   different fields and different geographies. The Journal provides a dive into some of the most critical topics where nature and culture merge and is a must read for those who recognize the urgency of taking a holistic perspective for a sustainable future.

March Billings Rockefeller National Historic Site Credit: Nora Mitchell

March Billings Rockefeller National Historic Site
Credit: Nora Mitchell

To read all of the articles in this issue of the George Wright Journal Nature – Culture Journeys: Explorations on Shared Terrain, you will need to become a member of the society. Note that selected content from this issue is available now and all the  content will become available to all readers on line after the publication of the next issue of the Journal.

As a reader of this blog I know you will be interested in this issue of the George Wright Journal and I urge you to consider becoming a member and supporting the mission of the society. The George Wright Society promotes professional research and resource stewardship. As a bridge between science and management, the GWS brings together hundreds of leaders across disciplines in natural and cultural resource management. With members in nearly all 50 U.S. states and numerous countries around the world, the GWS unites a community of Indigenous peoples, resource managers and park staff, researchers, professors, emerging leaders, educators, government agencies, nonprofits and outdoor enthusiasts.

This article draws in part from the work of Nora Mitchell in the Introductory essay to the issue of the George Wright Journal Nature – Culture Journeys: Explorations on Shared Terrain

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Culture and Nature: Thoughts on the English Lake District

By Brenda Barrett July 28, 2017
Lake District National Park Credit: Brenda Barrett

Lake District National Park
Credit: Brenda Barrett

At every level conservation practioners labor to understand and balance natural and cultural values at a landscape scale. Globally, this challenge plays out in the push and pull of the World Heritage inscription process.  When in 1972 UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, referred to as the World Heritage Convention, the document recognized the importance of both natural and cultural heritage. However, these values were generally treated in a parallel manner. To be inscribed on the World Heritage list a site must be of Outstanding Universal Value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria.  of which six are focused on cultural resources and the other four on natural resources. Most sites are nominated under either the cultural or the natural criteria. While sites can be nominated as mixed site by qualifying independently for the cultural and  for the natural criteria, this is not common. To date only 35 sites out of over one thousand World Heritage listings are classified as mixed properties. The fact that two separate organizations, ICOMOS for cultural resources and IUCN for natural resources, are responsible for the development of operational guidelines and technical assistance for proposed World Heritage nominations has further reinforced the bifurcation of the  program. However, recently there has been a surge in interest in viewing sites more holistically motivated in part by the recognition that global issues such as climate change, population shifts and urbanization, and political instability threaten all resources. This has resulted in renewed efforts to bridge the culture- nature divide and seek more universal solutions.

Drystone wall Lake District National Park Credit: Brenda Barrett

Drystone wall Lake District National Park
Credit: Brenda Barrett

The recent (July 2017) inscription by the World Heritage Committee of the English Lake District  highlights some of the challenges and opportunities of integrating cultural and natural values. Located in northwest England, the English Lake District represents the  combined work of nature and human activity, which produced a harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes; a region whose valleys were carved by ice age glaciers and then shaped by centuries of agro-pastoral land use; a landscape that has been appreciated from the 18th century onwards by the Picturesque and later Romantic movements, which has been celebrated in paintings, drawings and words. It also has inspired an awareness of the importance of beautiful places and triggered early efforts to preserve them for future generations.

This is a celebrated and iconic landscape, but there have been bumps on the road to gaining World Heritage recognition. The English Lake District was first nominated in 1986 as a mixed site proposed under both the cultural and natural criteria. However, in 1987 the World Heritage Committee was not convinced by this approach and decided to leave open its decision on the nomination until it had further clarified the committee’s position regarding the inscription of cultural landscapes. Two years later the state party then submitted the nomination under cultural criteria alone and while the nomination was discussed again at the World Heritage in 1990, there was still no resolution on how to address a site best described as a cultural landscape.

Herdwick Sheep Lake District National Park Credit: Brenda Barrett

Herdwick Sheep Lake District National Park
Credit: Brenda Barrett

The idea of a cultural landscapes category within the World Heritage Convention first began to emerge in the 1980s, as the committee debated the issue of how to recognize landscapes that included both cultural and natural resources.  This debate was spurred in part by the saga of the United Kingdom’s unsuccessful nomination of the Lake District, as a natural and then as a cultural site, and also by uncertainty among many committee members about the relationship between the idea of a lived-in landscape and the concept of  a Mixed Sites. It was fitting that in October 1987 an international expert symposium was convened in the Lake District National Park to examine these issues. The outcome was the Lake District Declaration, the opening lines of which are echoed in the current Lake District nomination, “People in harmonious interaction with nature, have in many parts of the world fashioned landscapes of outstanding value, beauty and interest.”

The Lake District Declaration made many recommendations to improve the management and understanding of protected landscapes. Since that time much progress has been made by the World Heritage Committee in refining the criteria and operational guidelines to better define cultural landscapes as:

47: Cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent “combined works of nature and of man” designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal.

English Lake District Credit: Brenda Barrett

English Lake District
Credit: Brenda Barrett

Applying these criteria in 2016, the United Kingdom prepared a new nomination for the English Lake District as a cultural landscape based  solely on World Heritage cultural criteria (ii), (v) and (vi).  While IUCN did not participate in the technical evaluation of the Lake District nomination, it did provide comments from a natural resource perspective to the World Heritage Committee. (See IUCN World Heritage Evaluation 2017)   IUCN’s comments noted that quarrying within the boundaries of the nominated property was a matter of concern for its impact on the region’s flora and fauna. Also the IUCN report raised the issue of providing a buffer zone or  additional planning strategies to protect the property from climate change and over development.  Its comments also stated that the English Lake District played an important role in the development of IUCN Category V resources – protected landscape/seascape.  These resources are defined as a protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values

English Lake District  Credit: Brenda Barrett

English Lake District
Credit: Brenda Barrett

The English Lake District is often cited in the literature on protected areas  as the classic example of a Category V landscape and has provided the basis for the application of the concept  in other parts of the world. While the IUCN comments on the recent nomination suggested that this connection should be more strongly emphasized, the comments did not follow on and provide guidance on one of the most pressing culture/nature issues facing the region. The challenge, which is explicitly stated in the nomination,  is how to sustain the 200 or so shepherding families and their flocks of hefted Herdwick sheep that have been instrumental in  creating much of the special character of the landscape and are indispensable to maintaining many of its defining features. The traditional shepherding way of life is threatened by global market forces that impact the viability of farming communities and in the United Kingdom national agricultural plans and subsidies face additional uncertainty in a post Brexit world.  And if this is not enough, shepherding as a way of life in the Lake District is also threatened by some nature conservation policies that promote a different vision for the region: A vision that encourages the re-wilding of the landscape. The most out spoken critics of the traditional shepherding practices describe the Lake District as a “sheep-wrecked landscape”.  The bid for World Heritage designation has been criticized as discouraging other efforts to re-introduce a great variety of plants and wildlife in favor of the status quo.

In considering the nomination, ICOMOS recognized the value of this agro-pastoral landscape. ICOMOS also made specific recommendations to the World Heritage Committee to address the long term survival of this way of life – recommending national farm supports to assist shepherding community in maintaining the heritage values of the landscape as well assistance in preserving the genetic diversity of the herds and their role in providing for the nation’s future food security. In addition the report recommended rebalancing public funding for preserving natural resources in the region to provide support for conserving its cultural landscape.  This is good stuff. But it would have had even more power if IUCN had weighed in using the principles articulated for Category V  Landscapes   including one of the  primary objectives for these places: To maintain a balanced interaction of nature and culture through the protection of landscape and/or seascape and associated traditional management approaches, societies, cultures and spiritual values.

If ICOMOS and IUCN had presented unified recommendations in this matter using both the cultural landscape approach and the principles of Category V landscapes, the Lake District nomination could have provided future guidance on how to balance natural and cultural values in this lived in landscapes.  It could have provided an additional chapter in the English Lake District’s long journey to World Heritage listing.

Postscript

For the conservation community the successful nomination of the English Lake District is only one more step on the Nature/Culture Journey. At the IUCN sponsored 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaii a special track featuring over 50 related sessions brought together the Nature and Cultural community to look at interrelated ecological and cultural topics – often across large landscapes – to better understand the field’s complementary knowledge and capacities. This will be followed by a complementary Culture/Nature Journey at the upcoming Scientific Symposium at the ICOMOS General Assembly meeting in Delhi India in December 2017.

IUCN and ICOMOS have also  launched the Connecting Practice initiative devised and implemented by “to explore, learn and create new methods that are centered on recognizing and supporting the interconnected … character of the natural, cultural and social values of highly significant landscapes and seascapes”. The goal of this practice led approach is to deliver a fully connected approach to considering nature and culture in the context of World Heritage. A number of pilot studies to test this strategy of learning while doing have undertaken in Mongolia, Hungary and South Africa. Read the just released report on Connecting Practice  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is in a name? The National Monument Version

By Brenda Barrett May 27, 2017
Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument Courtesy: Bureau of Land Management

Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument
Courtesy: Bureau of Land Management

National Monuments were once an obscure protected area designation. Today they are a big story in major news outlets.  Reporters are struggling with names likes Bears Ears, Grand Staircase – Escalante, and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. What put these places in the headlines was the new administration’s signature on an April 26, 2017 Executive Order authorizing a review all National Monuments designated since January 1, 1996 and specifically those over 100,000 acres.

The press coverage usually gets the origin story right. The Antiquities Act passed in 1906 during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. It authorized the president by proclamation to set aside land owned or controlled by the federal government for conservation purposes. This power has been used by 16 presidents of both parties for over a hundred years to create 170 national monuments. However, there are some ongoing misconceptions. The biggest one is that the designation locks up private lands.

The legislation is clear that monuments are to be created out of the public estate or lands that have been donated for public purposes. However, general readers might conclude from the rhetoric in the press that this is a Federal land grab. To start with the President called it a land grab when he signed the E.O. And a Utah local government official is quoted in the New York Times as saying., “You just don’t take something from somebody,” equating the designation of Bears Ears as a national monument to grand theft.  In Maine, where one family has donated over 87,000 acres to the Department of Interior to create the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, opponents claimed the land would be better returned to timber production. But, as noted by Lucas St. Clair, a spokesperson for the family, in an interview with the Guardian: “This was private land that my family owned and wanted to donate to create a national park… they (opponents) fail to realize the land was sold to us by people from the forest products industry because it was no longer valuable to them as a landscape to log and cut trees…the argument that this is taking this land out of potential fiber production is absurd.”

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Courtesy: National Park Service

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Courtesy: National Park Service

Another source of confusion is what National Monument status means. The New York Times opined that, in terms of protection, national monuments are generally considered one step below national parks. Some of this confusion may be caused by the different agencies tasked with managing the individual monuments. For example, Grand Staircase – Escalante is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Papahānaumokuākea is administered jointly by three co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior and the State of Hawai’i. But just to set the record straight those National Monuments managed by the National Park Service are part of the National Park system and are not second class citizens.

The size of monuments also appears to be a concern.  And this is in part because the Antiquities Act states that a monument “be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”  Secretary Zinke raised this issue at his confirmation hearing and it is reflected in the recent order to review the larger sized monuments. But, as a recent well researched post in the National Trust Forum notes, some monuments are  “pretty monumental” take the Grand Canyon. And we can add the Grand Tetons and multiple parks in Alaska to the list.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Courtesy: NOAA

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Courtesy: NOAA

There are also some big unknowns.  Just what will happen if some of the national monuments are rescinded or boundaries adjusted. Drill rigs are pictured in many environmental alerts on the topic and that is certainly a possibility. And opponents talk about the limits monument designation may impose on economic activity such as logging, and oil and mineral extraction. However, the local people of San Juan County Utah are more likely objecting to the designation of Bears Ears because they want more control over their place on the earth. President Trump certainly played to this theme. In signing the April Executive Order to study the targeted monuments by saying “Today I am signing another E.O. to end another egregious abuse of Federal power and to give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs”.

Department of Interior Secretary Zinke, who has the challenging task of implementing the study, has taken another path. Many of  his public statements have been supportive of continued federal ownership of public land. See the Living Landscape Observer Listening to Zinke. So how will this all play out?

One discouraging sign is that despite his declarations about  the importance of listening to residents and affected communities, Zinke issued a Department of Interior memo (May 5, 2017) sending a  temporary stop work order to over 200 Department Advisory Committees. The stated goal is to review the charter and charge of each committee and as a spokeswoman for the department said “to restore trust in the Department’s decision making.” However, many of the committees, as has been pointed out by their members, were created to give local community input.  Just one example, the 16-member, volunteer Acadia advisory commission was created by Congress in 1986 in response to community concerns about the park expanding its boundaries without adequate input. Membership is primarily 10 local governments adjacent to the park. Now government decisions are being made while they sit on the sidelines. Even more ironic, the agency’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument advisory committee will be suspended throughout the debate over the monument’s future.

With all of this is happening in the very short time frame of  120 days, it is hard to even set the record straight on what  national monuments are or are not,  before other changes may be proposed to this venerable conservation program.

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Take Notice: Trending for Large Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett April 25, 2017
Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area

Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area

Every two years protected area managers, scientists, and every kind of experts on cultural and natural heritage gather at the George Wright Conference to present papers, engage in lively discussions and swap professional gossip at the bar. I always find these meetings to be the place to spot emerging ideas and trends in the field. For the 2017 conference titled Connections across People, Place and Time, I journeyed to the conference location in Norfolk VA with my attention focused on what is ahead for the  large landscapes movement.

The answer: It is headed to the top of the charts. The conference’s opening session was titled “Making the Big Connections: The Future of Conservation on a Landscape Scale”.  And it featured two of the preeminent leaders in the field of connectivity conservation, Harvey Locke, Co-founder and Strategic Advisor of the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative and Gary Tabor, Founder of the Center for Landscape Conservation.

They spoke about the vast scale needed to conserve migratory wildlife and of the critical need to work on a large enough canvas particularly as climate change disrupts  our natural systems.  For example, the Yellowstone to Yukon worked to identify bottlenecks to species movement and facilitate  targeted land acquisition in this 3,500-kilometer corridor.  Both speakers proposed that this big picture strategy needs to go global and that to thrive nature needs half.

So this was a strong start. What other ideas from the conference had implications for landscape scale work? Well here are a few:

1.The indivisible connection between Nature and Culture

The need for a dialogue between the disciplines of culture and nature is now out in the open and landscapes are an important place of intersection.  As one speaker noted “Culture is the pathway to the conservation ethic”.  One session reprised some of  the highlights of the  Nature Culture Journey at the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaii where there were over 60 presentations on the topic.

Most interesting for someone not inside the National Park Service (NPS) was the inclusive tenor of the recently issued NPS Director’s Order 100. It states that 21st century resource stewardship requires coordination between natural and cultural resource programs and follows up with a host of proposed action to achieve such integration.  A long time attendee, grasping the full scope of the order, said to me “ I have been waiting my whole NPS career for this”.

2. The importance of the Urban Interface

There were a good number of sessions on nature in the city. These included initiatives in Chicago, Portland, and Tucson. Many of these efforts are linked together by such groups as the Metropolitan Greenspace Alliance who’s tagline is “Nature is not a place to visit it is home” and Natural Neighbors  which works to promote metropolitan and regional conservation alliances.  And it is not just  about nature. The Natural Neighbors web site  identifies the importance of cultivating a community’s sense of belonging and of civic responsibility by valuing a region’s history and culture, as well as its natural environment.

And one more thing, the NPS Urban Agenda is making a difference. For example, every year the George Wright Society sponsors a prestigious program for graduate students called Park Break Program. This is an all-expenses-paid, park-based field seminar for graduate students who are thinking about a career in park management or park-related research and education. In 2016, the  Park Break seminar was held in Detroit a place without a traditional national park  unit to serve as home base. Under the direction of the city’s NPS sponsored urban fellow, the students tackled research on the cultural heritage of the city. This the way to develop 21st century protected area managers!

3. The recognition of Indigenous People in the Landscape

The George Wright Society has a strong commitment to ensuring that indigenous voices are represented at the biannual conferences. The organization puts it money where its mouth is by offering travel grants for participation by indigenous people from Canada, Mexico and the United States with the goal of encouraging discussion on parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. More than any other professional gathering I have ever attended, the George Wright meetings weave together indigenous viewpoints as part of opening ceremonies,the  plenary presentations, the conference sessions, and at special events and receptions.

This year taking advantage of the conference location in the Mid-Atlantic, there were a number of sessions on the innovative work being done to better understand the deep time depth of the human occupation of the Chesapeake watershed. Many thanks to Chief Ann Richardson and Chief Stephen Adkins for their perceptive presentations placed their people in this landscape in the past through to today.  Sessions and discussions included contextualizing the recently designated national monument Werocomocco and an update of the Indigenous Cultural landscape approach to the home land of the Rappahannock people on the eastern shore of Maryland. Read the full report on Defining the Rappahannock Cultural Landscape.

Finally, and not directly related to large landscape practice, I was struck by the number of presentations that focused on the history of protected area management. Perhaps it is the current state of the nation, but attendees were seeking solace in lessons from the past. For the large landscape movement, this conference seemed to confirm that the time is now.  As noted in NPS Directive 100, land and seascapes need to be managed to sustain biodiversity and viable ecosystems as well as to be managed in such a way as  to understand the resources larger thematic and geographic context. However, when we look back on this moment in fifty years, will we see this as a break through moment or the beginning of a long slide down hill?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Federal Budget: First Look is not Promising

By Brenda Barrett March 29, 2017

On March 16, 2017 the Whitehouse released the America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again  and the news was not great for programs that support large landscape conservation. For the FY 2018 budget, the Department of Interior faces a proposed 12% budget cut. Although not as bad as other agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency is facing a 31% reduction – the decline is still troubling. The budget document is very brief and in general it does not identify where the pain will fall. However, is it is clearly not supportive of land acquisition or regional conservation initiatives and threatens parks and protected area funding. Let’s look at the actual language in the Blueprint– limited as it is:

Impact on Landscape Scale Conservation

  • Eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. (EPA)
  • Reduces funding for lower priority activities in the National Forest System, such as major new Federal land acquisition; instead, the Budget focuses on maintaining existing forests and grasslands. (Agriculture)
  • Reduces funding for lower priority activities, such as new major acquisitions of Federal land. The Budget reduces land acquisition funding by more than $120 million from the 2017 annualized CR level and would instead focus available discretionary funds on investing in, and maintaining, existing national parks, refuges and public lands . (Interior)
  • Zeroes out over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant, which primarily benefit industry and State and local stakeholders. (Commerce)

All of the above programs have been identified in an  National Academy of Sciences 2015 report as part of the public policy tool kit that helps support landscape scale conservation efforts. As for what will happen to the Department of Interior’s landmark program, the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC), well the fate of the LCCs are not mentioned by name. However, given the proposed drastic budget reductions and the trend to de-fund landscape scale conservation initiatives, the signs are not hopeful. And this all before the proposed cuts and deletions of any  program that addresses climate change.

Impact on National Heritage Areas

  • Eliminates unnecessary, lower priority, or duplicative programs, including… National Heritage Areas as more appropriately funded locally. (Interior)

The National Heritage Area (NHA) program has been a favorite target of the Office of Management Budget for almost two decades. This is despite the fact that each areas is congressionally authorized with the mission to conserve significant  heritage landscapes and tell part of our nation’s story and that the program has had very positive evaluations. In the just one and half  pages allocated to the Department of interior’s 11.6 billion dollar budget, the NHA’s line item of only 16 million (FY 2017)  is specifically singled out for elimination.  Even more ironic, the Blueprint then goes on to comment favorably on other DOI programs that:

  • Leverages taxpayer investment with public and private resources through wildlife conservation, historic preservation, and recreation grants. These voluntary programs encourage partnerships by providing matching funds that produce greater benefits to taxpayers for the Federal dollars invested. (Interior)

Wait a minute, isn’t that just how the NHA program is supposed to work with every Federal dollar matched by other public or private contributions? And, in addition, doesn’t the program have strong evidence to back up claims that it provides such a match as well as  additional public and private leverage? This is very discouraging.

National Park Service

  • Supports stewardship capacity for land management operations of the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management. The Budget streamlines operations while providing the necessary resources for DOI to continue to protect and conserve America’s public lands and beautiful natural resources, provide access to public lands for the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, and ensure visitor safety. (Interior)

This all sound good. However, any proposal that imposes a 12% reduction in funding for land managing agencies is problematic.  Front-line services at National Park units could be hit the hardest and it will certainly impact the service’s other cultural and natural resource programs. The Blueprint also proposes upping dollars to the NPS for deferred maintenance, but if staff for maintenance, planning and administration such an initiative is lost this increase will not provide much of a solution. For a comprehensive overview of the NPS funding and infrastructure issue see Denny Galvin’s recent testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources.

And now to Congress            

It is important to emphasize that in most cases the March 2017 Blueprint does not contain information on exactly which programs and accounts will lose out, but with such deep cuts in base funding there could be many losers. However, these proposals, both at the aggregate level and the specific program level, are just that—proposals. They are the administration’s ideas on how Congress, to whom the Blueprint goes next, should allocate dollars in each of these areas. While it needs to be taken very seriously as an indicator of the direction in which the President would like to head, it is only a starting point for the 2018 Federal Budget.

So over to you Congress… we  all need to be watching closely or better yet taking action.

See Something Say Something!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thinking About Heritage Tourism

By Brenda Barrett March 29, 2017

unnamed (5)The World Heritage cities of Florence, with an estimated visitation of 16 million tourists a year, and Venice, with 20 million, are great places to think about 21st century tourism.  Recently, I had the opportunity to visit both of these great cities and to participate in the 2017 Life Beyond Tourism conference sponsored by the Fondazione Romaldo Del Bianco in Florence.  My week long stay offered some insight on how to make tourism a richer experience for all parties.

The Fondazione focuses on heritage tourism, with a particular emphasis on World Heritage sites, as an important opening for intercultural dialogue. It is an approach that uses heritage to advance civic purposes such as sustainable development. With a global market of 1 billion travelers, it is the organization’s hope to draw more of them into a deeper dialogue around the understanding of place and more importantly the people who live in a place. The goal is to implement an approach that goes beyond just consumer driven products or as they characterize it – hit and run tourism.

The Fondazione works to implement this new model sponsoring annual conferences, training and certification programs, and seeking partnership commitments through international resolutions and memorandums. Most promisingly, the organization has a robust program to involve youth and next generation professionals. Putting their philosophy into action, the Fondazione has recently piloted its own booking engine called  Viva Firenze  that retains the profits from hotel bookings in the community. The booking site also allows guests to designate a contribution to the restoration and interpretation of local monuments and historic preservation projects as part of their stay.

unnamed (2)So what did I take away from the March 2017 conference “Smart Travel, Smart Architecture, Heritage and its Enjoyment for Dialogue”?  Well with participants from 48 countries and multiple short presentations in three parallel tracks, there is no easy way to summarize the outcomes. We will need to wait for the papers to be published in e-book form later this year. However, the conference gets high marks for bringing together an international mix of heritage professionals, government officials and representatives of the tourism industry and, despite some communication challenges, the dialogue is underway.

And what did I take away from a week of being a tourist? In a small way, I supported local tourism by booking through the Viva Firenze hotel reservation portal and selected a historic property to benefit from my participation. In both cities, I was stunned by the level of visitation in March – early in what the industry calls the “shoulder season.” As  early indicators predict travel to U.S. cities dropping over concerns about the reception visitors might receive on U.S. shores, I wondered if these welcoming cities may be even more impacted.

unnamed (4)In Venice, I had a glimpse of the new person-to-person entrepreneurial tourism economy. Renting a place from a Venetian couple on Airbnb, we had a chance to share travel stories and benefit from recommendations on where to eat and how to navigate the waterer transport system. Without help I never would have found the large, bright and very well-hidden supermarket.  I also joined a fully booked three-hour neighborhood tour with a newly launched program – Venice Free Walking Tours. The excellent guide offered a mix of history and architecture as well as insight into the challenges of living in a city where the local population is shrinking and everything is based on tourism. While no one would mistake these experiences for living like a local, I was struck by this opportunity and the demand for a more human dimension to tourism.  Heritage tourism still needs conferences and joint resolutions, but on the ground and face to face the dialogue has already begun.

 

 

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US National Parks on the Southern Border

By Brenda Barrett February 27, 2017
Border Fence  Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Border Fence
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Standing in the shade cast by a twenty high border fence, our ranger discussed the challenges facing Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument as a park on the border between the United States and Mexico. The tour we signed up for was described as an opportunity to visit the Gachado Line Camp, a historic cowboy camp, and so we did. But as our ranger said, what people really want to see when they come down here is the border and that was true for our little group.

Border Vehicle Barrier Courtesy National park Service

Border Vehicle Barrier
Courtesy National park Service

The southern border of the United States is an evolving concept. This particular boundary was imposed on the landscape by the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 and for decades it was only marked by intermittent concrete monuments. The first border fence, in what is now the national monument,  was a strand or two of barbed wire to prevent the spread of hoof and mouth disease. It was only as illegal immigration and drug trafficking increased at the turn of the 21st century that the National ParkService installed a low metal vehicle barrier along the monument’s 31-mile boundary. This prevented vehicles from crossing the border and impacting the fragile desert environment, but was permeable to wildlife.

In 2007 a twenty-foot border fence was erected for a five mile stretch on the park’s boundary by the Department of Homeland Security in part as a response to the tragic shooting of NPS Ranger Kris Eggle. He was shot in 2002 by a Mexican national who had fled into the park after committing a crime on the other side of the border. This spotlighted the security issues in the monument, border patrol presence increased dramatically and for years afterwards whole sections of the park were closed to visitors. Today with increased park staff and reduced incidents on the border, the park is once again open for business.

Biosphere Reserve Plaque Organ Pipe Cactus National Park

Biosphere Reserve Plaque
Organ Pipe Cactus National Park

President Roosevelt created the monument by proclamation in 1937 for its exceptional Sonoran Desert habitat and as the northern most range of the Organ Pipe Cactus. In 1976 the park was also declared a biosphere reserve under the international Man and Biosphere program, which seeks to conserve examples of ecosystems around the world. Sustaining these values in particularly the Mountain Lions and the newly revitalized herd of Sonoran Antelope, is challenged by the boundary defenses. At this time wildlife population seem to be able to navigate around the high wall that only seals off a quarter of the park, but questions remain.

Crossing the Rio Grande  Big Bend National Park

Crossing the Rio Grande
Big Bend National Park

The National Park with the biggest footprint on the border sits on the big bend of the Rio Grande River in Texas.  Because of its remote location and the ecological values of its riverine boundary, there are no barriers on the border in Big Bend National Park. On a visit a of couple years ago, we watched local residents ride back and forth across the river as they have done for centuries. Just as at Organ Pipe, visitors to the park are provide with cautionary advice  and sent on their way to enjoy this special Chihuahuan Desert environment.  Authorized by Congress in 1937, the park was recently added to the US World Heritage Tentative list for its outstanding universal natural values.

Chamizal National Memorial  El Paso TX

Chamizal National Memorial
El Paso TX

Chamizal National Memorial is not only right on the border between the US and Mexico, the mission of this small, 55-acre site, in El Paso Texas is to memorialize that border. It was created in part by the 1966 Treaty of Chamizal that resolved a long running border dispute between the two countries.  The recently prepared Foundation Document for the park defines the site’s significance as commemorating these successful diplomatic negotiations,  the complex  geography of the border,  and the  cultural connection between the people of the two nations. Very different than the other parks, Chamizal is in an intensely urban environment with the channelized Rio Grande as one boundary and car traffic from the nearby border crossing causing both noise and air pollution on another. Among many challenges at the site, the document noted that NPS staff were unable to officially travel to the sister park Parque Publico Federal et Chamizal on the Mexican side, which constrains the cross border programming and partnership part of the memorial’s charge.

Mexican border  Chamizal National Memorial

Mexican border
Chamizal National Memorial

So here we have three vignettes of the current conditions facing US National Parks in carrying out their mission on the nation’s southern border.  Recent proposals to harden the infrastructure of the border, for example to build a wall, and to increase militarization and enforcement will not make this any easier for our protected area managers.  But I take hope from our Organ Pipe ranger’s concluding words. He said these are not National Park Service lands, not even the federal government’s land, they are your public lands, you own them. Let’s protect this priceless legacy.

 

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US World Heritage: Filling the Gaps

By Brenda Barrett February 27, 2017
Brooklyn Bridge New York Credit: Jim Henderson Wikipedia Commons

Brooklyn Bridge New York
Credit: Jim Henderson Wikipedia Commons

World Heritage designation connotes that a property is of outstanding universal value and is  seen as the gold standard of global significance. However, this appellation is not as well known or sought after in the United States as in most other countries where designation is seen as a source of national pride, a potential ticket to more state support, and a possible economic benefits from increased tourism. For this reason, in many countries proponents of a World Heritage nomination invest serious dollar and even political capital in preparing a bid for World Heritage inscription.

The first step in the process is for a state party to create a tentative list of potential World Heritage candidates. Recently the United States updated its tentative list. This is a big deal as the last US tentative list was a prepared in 2008.  With little public fanfare, the US Department of the Interior has added five new cultural properties to the United States’ World Heritage Tentative list. The new list was published  in the Federal Register in early December 2016 with a brief 15 day comment period and is now final. The updated and complete tentative list of both the US cultural and natural properties is available on the web sites above.

gap-study-logo-square-600x400 (1)While in the past the preparation of the US tentative list was the bailiwick of a small group of experts, starting in 2015 the National Park Service broadened the outreach process for cultural properties. The agency partnered with US ICOMOS to conduct an online expert consultation, which reached out to almost a 1,000 architects, historians, archaeologists, site managers, ethnographers, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, State Historic Preservation Officers and their expert staff. Respondents were surveyed to identify their area of expertise, familiarity with World Heritage program, and related topics. A central component of the consultation was an expert discussion forum of six threaded topic areas. Each topic area was moderated by at least two experts who posed questions and encouraged a robust online discussion.

Ellis Island New York By Ingfbruno; CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29079811

Ellis Island New York
By Ingfbruno; CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29079811

The six selected cultural resource themes for the consultation were not just based on disciplinary categories, but attempted to address the recognized gaps in the existing US World Heritage tentative list as well as identified gaps and lack of representation in the overall World Heritage list. The full list of the selected themes can be found at the end of the article. Over one hundred experts contributed their ideas and suggested representative properties.  Such an ambitious approach to consultation had never been tried before. Based on this information US/ ICOMOS issued a synthesis of these findings, U.S. World Heritage Gap Report. 

This information was further reviewed by an experts round-table and all this information was shared with the US National Park Service as part of developing the final recommendations for the recent tentative list.

The first question that might be asked is –  did this process make a difference? How many of the themes and specific examples identified in the US/ICOMOS Gap report were included in the expanded tentative list? Or to put in another way, did the process help make our nation’s tentative list more representative?  Well let’s take a look at the recommendations.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

There was high level of consensus under the theme of Technology and Industry and the sub theme of Auto Industry & Transport that more examples in these categories needed to be included on the tentative list. And no surprise, the Brooklyn Bridge was a identified as a stand-out example of outstanding universal value. The bridge was  called out multiple times in the report under the theme of Industry, but also under the theme of Architecture and Innovation

Central Park, New York

The topic of cultural landscapes attracted the most commentators in the consultation. The discussion under this theme were categorized into broad areas two dealing with African American culture and plantation landscapes and African American Civil Rights sites and another in a different vein looked at designed parks and protected areas and specifically the development of the US national park system. It is in this category that Central Park in New York City was the preeminent example not just as inspiring other city parks, but later the creation of scenic reservations and national parks.

Early Chicago Skyscrapers Illinois

Another underrepresented theme dealt with Architecture and Urbanism and in particular the sub theme of innovation, technology and scientific development in the field. The skyscraper as a type, particularly the innovations that began in Chicago, were repeatedly identified as an important resource.

Ellis Island, New Jersey and New York

At both the global level and in the US,  properties related to the theme of Living Cultures and Diverse heritage are underrepresented types on the World Heritage list. The sub-theme of migration and globalization was identified as one of great international relevance. And Ellis island is one of the best known symbols of both migrants to the US and to the families left behind.

Moravian Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Also under the theme of Living Cultures and Heritage was the Moravian community in Bethlehem Pennsylvania.  Founded in 1741, the site was part of a closely knit world-wide network espousing the greater good of a world community.

As might be foreseen, a number of themes and representative properties discussed in the gap report could not be included in the most recent US tentative list. However, it should be noted that the  five new additions to the list were all identified in the US/ICOMOS report and provide some diversity to the list. For example, adding more places of recent history, technology and innovation, and world migration and immigration. While the list is tilted towards the Eastern Seaboard and New York City specifically, it does offer some counter balance to the western slant of the 23 World Heritage sites in the US inscribed to date. It does a good job of working around the limitations that hobble many US proposals including the requirement for the written consent of all property owners.

In conclusion, this online consultation has had collateral benefits.  For one thing, it was a once in a decade chance to engage interested practioners and academics  in the US directly with the World Heritage program.  And did so in a cross disciplinary manner. It was also an opportunity to introduce the professional community to the World Heritage process and of course to US/ICOMOS as the country’s preservation organization with a global focus. Given are current political climate in the US, some persons have suggested that our discussion of World Heritage should be played down. However, I think that this is an exceptional opportunity to engage with proponents of new world heritage sites and to promote the ideas for which they stand as part of a much needed  international dialogue.

 

List of Themes and queries:

ARCHAEOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY: Are there types, regions or periods of Archaeological sites or landscapes that are underrepresented on the current list?

ARCHITECTURE & URBANISM: What types of urban heritage and architectural ensembles of outstanding universal value could address gaps of underrepresented typology, region or period?

TECHNOLOGY & INDUSTRY: What opportunities exist to address gaps related to Science, Technology, Invention and Industrial Heritage?

LIVING CULTURES & HERITAGE, two questions were asked: Are there living cultures, subcultures and examples of America’s diverse heritage that have been qualitatively underrepresented? Are there themes of migration, settlement, modes of subsistence, human interaction, cultural coexistence, spirituality and creative expression in the US that have been qualitatively underrepresented?

CULTURAL LANDSCAPES: What types of Cultural Landscapes in the US are responsive to the gaps identified on the World Heritage List, for living landscapes in particular.

 

 

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Listening to Zinke: The Landscape Ahead?

By Brenda Barrett January 28, 2017
Gold Butte Nevada Photo courtesy of the Department of the Interior

Gold Butte Nevada
Photo courtesy of the Department of the Interior

At his confirmation hearing on January 17, 2017, Representative Ryan Zinke (R MT) spoke up before the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and shared his vision for the position of Secretary of Interior. The leadership of the Department of Interior is central to the future of protecting the nation’s landscapes. Those who care about conservation at scale, protected areas, and our cultural heritage were listening carefully to what he had to say.

What did we hear? Zinke kicked off his opening remarks by declaring his unabashed admiration of Theodore Roosevelt as his conservation hero and he made historical references to Pinchot and Muir in framing his answers to other questions from members of the committee. So far so good,  he then laid out his top priorities for the department as:

The first is to restore trust by working with rather than against local communities and states. I fully recognize that there is distrust, anger, and even hatred against some federal management policies. Being a listening advocate rather than a deaf adversary is a good start.

 Second, is to prioritize the estimated $12.5 billion in backlog of maintenance and repair in our national parks. The president-elect is committed to a jobs and infrastructure bill, and I am going to need your help in making sure that bill includes shoring up our Nations treasures.

 And third, to ensure the professionals on the front line, our rangers and field managers, have the right tools, right resources, and flexibility to make the right decisions that give a voice to the people they serve.

For National Park advocates, his words held out real hope that promises on the campaign trail about infrastructure investments might be turned into real benefits for our aging park system. Although Zinke added a dose of reality, stating that while it is his job to convince the new president that parks should be high on the administration’s agenda, congress needs to step as well. And he asked for the committee’s help in getting the necessary funds to tackle the backlog. Drawing on his military background (he served for 26 years as a Navy Seal) he noted, “we can fly the helicopter, but you must supply the gas”.

It is also interesting that Representative Zinke’s other two priorities dealt with the human dimension of delivering the department’s mission – building trust with people on the ground is clearly influenced by his western perspective issue and authorizing the “ground troops” to implement national policy is good tactical leadership. He talked a fair bit about collaboration as a strategy and his strong support for local partners coming together to tackle conservation issues. He specifically said that to make this approach work collaborative planning needs to be incentivized. It also needs to be based on science and set targets to measure success.. On partnership programs, he emphasized his backing for permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and also spoke to the importance of trails both on and off public land. Overall he emphasized the theme of consultation, collaboration and communication

At the hearing Representative Zinke stated his unequivocal support for keeping public land public.  When specifically asked, he stated, “I am absolutely against the transfer or sale of public land”. It should be noted that he has put his money where his mouth is on this issue.  Last year he left his post on the GOP platform writing committee, after the group included language in support of transferring federal lands to the states.

These are positive indicators, but one of the big questions both in the hearing room and on everyone’s mind is his position on the Antiquities Act and more specifically the recent Obama administration’s designations in Nevada and Utah. When queried, he said that the better way to designate national monuments is with the support of the adjacent communities, the states and congressional delegation. On the question of whether recently designated monuments could be de-designated, he said that was for the lawyers to decide. And under questioning, he agreed that no such process explicitly described in the act. However, he has already committed to visit the 1.35 million acres of federal land that make up Bears Ears Butte in southeastern Utah and about 300,000 acres of Gold Butte in Nevada, northeast of Las Vegas. These recently designated monuments are exemplars of the scale need to conserve our natural  and cultural heritage. How the department position on  these iconic western landscapes will be an important signpost for the future.

On hot button issues Zinke tried to strike a measured tone. When asked about renewable energy and traditional energy development on public land, he said “all of the above’ and expressed his support for a strong economy and energy independence. On climate change he agreed that the climate is changing, but did not attribute any definitive causation.

All things considered, conservationists should take heart from Zinke’s opening words at the hearing: Upfront, I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National Forests. Today, much of those lands provide American’s the opportunity to hike, fish, camp, recreate and enjoy the great outdoors.

But here are some concluding thoughts. In the next days and months, the Department of Interior will be flooded with political operatives and representatives of energy development schemes all seeking to catch the ear of the new Secretary of Interior.  They will not be interested in the words of Teddy Roosevelt or the values that public lands offer the American people. Representative Zinke needs to hear loud and clear that his vision is strongly supported by land conservationists, sportsmen, heritage areas managers, and everyday citizens or his department will be swamped by competing agendas.

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And Now for the Next Four Years

By Brenda Barrett December 12, 2016
Mount Rushmore National Memorial  Courtesey of: Wikipedia Commons

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Courtesey of: Wikipedia Commons

For years I have told my family and friends that I am one issue voter and my issue is the United States National Park Service.  Which political candidate is most committed to America’s best idea? Who embraces the vision that our parks and protected areas are part of the nation’s common wealth and should reflect the complex stories that make up our country? What party recognizes that government service has value and that protecting public lands is a collective enterprise? How will a particular candidate or party fund and invest in the now 413 park units and the many national park programs that touch almost every American community? Because these questions are not just about one government agency, they go to the heart of the conservation of our natural and cultural heritage.  As the old saying goes – How you do one thing is how you do everything.

 It is way too early to speculate and predict exactly how landscape scale conservation will fare in the next four years under newly elected president. An earlier article (Landscape Scale Conservation: The Next Four Years) August 30, 2016 examined both the Democratic and Republican platforms with the caveat that these documents are always imperfect reflections of what direction a presidential candidate will take.  Now while it is still early days, we have somewhat more concrete directions from the newly elected President Donald Trump’s 110 Day Plan.

Lamar Valley Yellowstone National Park

Lamar Valley Yellowstone National Park

Energy and environmental protection take up a lot of space in this plan with calls to rescind restrictions on drilling and mining, lift roadblocks to pipelines and energy infrastructure, and cancel our international support for climate change programs. This part of the agenda puts a big bulls eye on all public lands including national parks.  Also of concern is a proposed hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health). Most heart breaking is that this was proposed not for financial expediency, but is listed as number two of six measures designed to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC.  What does this say to the next generation who want to grow up to be foresters, wildlife biologist or national park rangers? What are we to do with all those Junior Ranger badges?

Print Shop Benjamin Franklin Memorial Philadelphia PA

Print Shop
Benjamin Franklin Memorial Philadelphia PA

So what now? This is still early days and there will be a new Secretary of Interior and a new Director of the National Park Service who will bring their ideas on how to implement this agenda. However, the beauty of large landscape work is that it draws strength from a mix of public and private partnerships. This model of dispersed leadership and support makes it a resilient approach. One that can navigate the political headwinds that may lie ahead. For those of you engaged with cultural and natural conservation work in you landscape large, keep up the good work and double down. And consider joining up with a larger community to advocate for conservation in the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson just to name some of my presidential conservation  heroes!

Let me suggest some of my favorite places to find like-minded people with powerful ideas:

The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks    – Membership is open to anyone who ever worked for the NPS and there is a supporter category as those who align with the mission of protecting parks. This small but, high profile organization has an effective record of advocating for National Parks issues from snowmobiling in Yellowstone to defending the agency’s management policies.  Membership is free although donations are encouraged and comes with a monthly on-line newsletter. Contributions of time, experience as well as dollars are always welcome.

Practioner’s Network for Large Landscape Conservation  A broad based coalition established to advance the practice of large landscape conservation across all sectors and geographies. The Network’s strength is in the diversity of individuals and organizations that are actively engaged and who are creating a collective body of knowledge, experience, and commitment to advancing conservation at the landscape scale. Membership donations are voluntary and your expertise and advocacy are always welcome.

Preservation Action  A small organization, but a big advocate for historic preservation issues. The source for the latest information on legislation and policy matters in the field.  A basic membership is $40 and the weekly online newsletter covers breaking news and what is going on in the world of US heritage. In partnership with other national organizations, Preservation Action organizes an annual lobby day in Washington DC in mid-March.

US ICOMOS  Maintaining our connections to global heritage is more important than ever. A membership in US/ICOMOS opens the door to international best practices through knowledge exchanges, scientific committees, symposiums, and the organization’s well respected international exchange program for students and young professionals. Join at the international level and your ICOMOS card will open doors, at no or low cost, to museums and historic sites around the world.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to join at least one of these organizations and give yourself and others the gift of fellowship and advocacy.

 

 

 

 

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Lamar Buffalo Ranch and the Landscape of Wildlife Conservation

By Brenda Barrett November 1, 2016
Lamar Buffalo Ranch Yellowstone National Park

Lamar Buffalo Ranch
Yellowstone National Park

Oh Give me a home where the buffalo roam” goes the old cowboy song, but the fact that 21st century citizens can still enjoy the star of this song was a very close call.  According to the U S Fish and Wildlife Service   estimates of the North American bison population at the time of European contact range from 30-75 million animals. However, by 1900 intensive hunting and a purposeful program of eradication to deprive American Indians of their livelihood had reduced the population to near extinction.  At that time Yellowstone National Park counted only 25 bison in residence. Thanks to a citizen’s campaign, Congress allocated funds to purchase 21 additional animals from private sources and begin a breeding program at what is now known as the Lamar Ranch in the park’s Lamar Valley.

American Bison  Yellowstone National Park

American Bison
Yellowstone National Park

This is a success story. Today over 4,000 bison roam the range in Yellowstone National Park and they are a character defining part of the landscape. The evocative Lamar Buffalo Ranch, with its quintessential weathered western buildings (1905- 1930),  is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors who stop by the ranch can get a short history from an interpretive sign. But less well known, is the role the ranch played in the reintroduction of wolves to the park.

The last wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park was eliminated in 1926. Again after a long campaign and much controversy, Congress appropriated the funds for a reintroduction  program. In 1995,  thirty-one Canadian  Grey Wolves were brought to pens at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch to acclimatize to the park before being released. Today there are approximately 100 wolves in the park with many of the packs concentrated in the rich hunting ground of the Lamar Valley.  The ripple effect on the elk herd specifically and the park’s ecosystem overall of the introduction of a top predator is fodder for another story at another time.

Wildlife Watching Lamar Valley Yellowstone National Park

Wildlife Watching Lamar Valley
Yellowstone National Park

I would like to make a different point. Millions of tourists come to Yellowstone every year. Thousands of them line the roads through the Lamar Valley – getting up at dawn and watching for hours to marvel at herds of buffalo and to catch a glimpse of a wolf. The Lamar Buffalo  Ranch now serves as an education center for the Yellowstone Association and the buildings have been restored as models of off the grid environmental stewardship. But I wonder how many understand the full story of human intervention into this place. Preventing the American Bison from disappearing from this landscape took intense effort.  As for the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, the park web site describes the work that took place there in the following terms, “ A program to raise bison like domestic cattle in Yellowstone may seem incongruous and unnecessary in retrospect..”  I am not sure that is how I would tell the story. Yes, yes the vista of grazing herds in the Lamar Valley may seem so natural us today that we may think it always looked that way. And yes, we may want to repress the role that humans played in wrangling bison back into the landscape, let alone the tale of how we slaughtered the millions.  But that would be a mistake.

Morning in the Lamar Valley Yellowstone National Park

Morning in the Lamar Valley
Yellowstone National Park

And as for the wolves, the reintroduction is still so controversial that the park’s web site looks like the docket of a small claims court of environmental justice where wolves are listed and delisted as endangered species with head snapping frequency. The role of the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the wolf story has not yet even made into the official history. But when you go to Yellowstone (and I hope you will) head to the Lamar Valley, stand in front of the ranch, and contemplate the role we as humans have played in creating and almost destroying  the wildlife that we enjoy today. And know that nothing is static, and only continued advocacy and at times active intervention will conserve these  landscapes for future generations. .

 

 

 

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A Nature Culture Journey at the World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i

By Brenda Barrett October 1, 2016
September Sunset Waikiki Beach Honolulu

September Sunset Waikiki Beach Honolulu

The Hawaiian Islands were created by a chain of volcanic hot spots in the Pacific and long settled by voyageurs who travelled thousands of miles across open water. The interrelationship and adaptation of nature and culture on these islands by early settlement and more recently by the arrival of Europeans and others starting in 1778 present lessons for the future of conservation. So it was fitting that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held its first ever World Conservation Congress  in the United States in Hawai’i. For ten days in September (1-10, 2016) more than 10,000 conservationist leaders from at least 193 countries gathered to advance conservation thinking and strategies around the theme of “Planet at a Crossroads”.  The need to approach conservation at the landscape scale was implicit or explicit in most of the presentations and the importance of looking at nature and cultural in a holistic manner was highlighted at the congress by a track (called a journey) dedicated just to the topic.

IUCN and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites – the cultural heritage counterpart to IUCN) co-sponsored the Nature-Culture Journey   and a companion World Heritage Journey at the conference. This special track helped bring together a diverse community of international conservationists who are members of indigenous community groups, working with World Heritage Sites, large landscape practioners, and representing the traditional ecological knowledge of working landscapes and seascapes.  Featuring over 50 related sessions, the journey examined the growing evidence that natural and cultural heritage are closely interconnected in many landscapes/seascapes and the need to better integrate both disciples for effective conservation outcomes.  Both natural and cultural heritage experts face similar conservation challenges in places with complex interrelated ecological and cultural networksoften across large landscapes – and each brings a body of complementary knowledge and capacities.

The connections and insights gained during the journey underscored the need to work more closely together to advance good conservation practice. This dialogue produced a statement of commitmentsMālama Honua: to care for our island Earth that was signed by the Nature Culture Journey attendees at the Journey’s closing reception.  This statement (currently being translated into French and Spanish) will soon be on-line and available for additional signatures. Follow up discussions are being planned for the 2017 ICOMOS General Assembly in Delhi, India. Based on the promising work in Hawai’i, strengthening the connections around a shared interest in nature and culture conservation is an idea that is now on the horizon.

Many thanks to Nora Mitchell one of the lead planners of the Nature Culture Journey for her contribution to this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Landscape Conservation: The Next Four Years

By Brenda Barrett August 30, 2016
Maine North Woods Photographer: George Wuethner

Maine North Woods
Photographer: George Wuethner

How will the next election impact the idea of large landscape conservation? This topic is not the stuff of campaign speeches or sadly even photo ops. No one spoke at the conventions in Cleveland or Philadelphia about how large landscapes made a difference in their life.  However, landscape scale practitioners are interested in how the next election might change the landscape.  And one place to look for clues is in the platform of each party. Both the Democrats and the Republican have adopted platforms that offer the voting public some ideas about the party’s principles or goals. Not surprisingly, they offer very different perspectives on landscape conservation

There is no question that the landscape scale approach has prospered under the current administration. Under the leadership of Secretary Ken Salazar (2009-2013) followed by Secretary Sally Jewell (2013 to present), the US Department of the Interior made landscape conservation an organizing principle for much of the agency’s work. For example, the department launched the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives  to serve as a centerpiece of these efforts Other department’s including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Defense, and others all adopted a big picture strategy. See the recent National Academy Report for a snapshot shot of these program.

So let’s take a look. The greatest divergence between the two parties is the protection of public lands. The Republicans state that “experience has shown… that private ownership is the best guarantee of conscientious stewardship.”  The Democratic platform lead with the statement that “…we need policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public.” In analyzing these two positions, it should be noted that the interpretation in some media outlets that the Republican platform endorses the sale or transfer of our National Parks is an overstatement. However, it is a fair to read their platform as saying that other public lands might receive a lot less protection. This an important distinction as many landscape scale efforts feature a concentration of different kinds of public lands to pull the whole initiative together: Think of Waterton Peace Park in the center of Crown of the Continent or Everglades National Park in South Florida. In both these cases and many more, the public lands of the US Forest Service lands or the US Fish and Wild Refuges are important to reaching critical conservation mass in these landscapes.

A related issue is how America’s public lands will be managed and who should be in the conservation driver’s seat. The Democratic party goals are generally about conservation and protection of all public lands and waters and the document even proposes a funding program to expand state, federal and local parks. The Republican platform takes  another tack. It states that “…(we) must balance economic development and private property rights in the short run with conservation goals over the long run”.  And speaking specifically of the west, suggests that more public land could be made available to ranching, mining and forestry. The underlying principle being that these lands are best managed by the people who are closest to them.

Another difference is that the Democratic platform explicitly identifies cultural resources as a value to be protected along with natural landscapes as a way to help tell the story of America’s complex and diverse history. This topic is not addressed in the Republican document.

One more indicator of how landscape conservation might fare in the future is in the two parties’ transition teams. The Republicans’ have selected Governor Chris Christie. He has recently run into flak from conservation voters for vetoing open space funding  in his home state of New Jersey.  While the Democratic team will be headed by no other than the former Obama administration Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar coupled with a platform  thatincludes a number of his favored initiatives “…Everglades, Great Lakes, the Arctic, and all that makes America’s great outdoors priceless.”

In conclusion the beauty of large landscape work is that it draws strength from a mix of public and private partnerships. This model of dispersed leadership and support makes it more resilient approach that can probably survive whatever political headwinds are encountered.  However, taking the two platforms at their word one direction could be smoother sailing than the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lessons in Partnerships along the Appalachian Trail

By Brenda Barrett July 29, 2016
Appalachian Trail Museum in Pennsylvania's Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Appalachian Trail Museum in Pennsylvania’s Pine Grove Furnace State Park

I live in central Pennsylvania near the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and my favorite place, Pine Grove Furnace State Park, is at its epicenter. In a visit early this July (2016) the place was hopping.  Thru-hikers, both end to enders and sectional hikers mingled with day users on the trail, which runs through the center of park. And there is a lot of outdoors to enjoy. However, it is generally only the distance hikers with calories to burn who stop by the park’s historic general store and attempt the half gallon challenge.  Read more on this  ice cream eating tradtion.  Or cluster around the  park’s  limited electrical outlets to charge up their smart phones and catch up with friends and family. Lucky long distance hikers can even get a bunk bed at the park’s hostel. Known as the Iron Masters Mansion, it was once the impressive  home of the owners of the nearby iron furnace. “Yes business has been very brisk this year” says the Mansion’s innkeeper Thom Morris, “but we were expecting it.”

View of the Appalachian Trail from the porch of the Iron Masters Mansion now a hostel in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

View of the Appalachian Trail from the porch of the Iron Masters Mansion now a hostel in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Laurie Potteiger, a spokesperson for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), confirmed that use of the trail is rising. The number of northbound thru-hikers passing through  Harpers Ferry is  up by 11% this year. Interest in the trail spiked after the publication of Bill Bryson’s amusing tale  A Walk in the Woods (1998), which has been recently been released as a rather  sappy movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Pottegeiger noted that “We don’t have good data about what spurred the increases this year, but we have been seeing an increase of about 5-10% among northbound thru-hikers every year since about 2007. I have yet to talk to a thru-hiker who got 100% of their inspiration from the movie, but some were reminded of a long-held dream when they saw the film or the trailer and were inspired to take the plunge this year because of it.”

The rising numbers of users has raised concerns about overuse of the AT by some in the trail comment. However, what is of more interest to this writer is the lessons that the trail and the venerable ATC, the nonprofit organizations that manages the trail,  offers to anyone interested in protected area management.  The story of a long distance trail envisioned in the 1920s to run from Maine to Georgia and then actualized by the work of determined volunteers is well known.  What is less discussed is how over time this resilient partnership model harnessed the efforts of trail clubs, state and local parks, private property owners as well as the power of federal funding and even eminent domain to secure the trails right of way forever.  And how in 1984 the National Park Service  entered into an unprecedented agreement with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a non-profit organization to take responsibility for the length of the trail.

Exhibit on Earl Schaffer - First AT thru-hiker Courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Museum

Exhibit on Earl Schaffer – First AT thru-hiker
Courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Museum

For this reason, it was a treat to read Sarah Mittlefehldt’s book Tangled Roots: The Appalachian Trail and American Environmental Politics (2013).  The book covers the history of the early decades of the development of the trail. But the book really get interesting when she tackles the intersection of the trail with the growth of the environmental movement, the need to secure  permanent protection for the pathway, and in particular the accommodations that had to be made with the rise in the property rights movement. Fittingly, she labels the introduction to her book The Tortuous Path toward Public – Private Partnership. Building on the book’s title she describes the creation of the AT of today as combining “the horizontal dendritic roots of grassroots social action with the strong central taproot of federal authority.”

A thru- hiker (2007) herself Mittlefehldt brings a close to the ground perspective on the value of the trail as well as a sensitivity to the viewpoints of local landowners and communities. I particularly like the recognition she gives of the working landscapes that the trail traverses. She applauds the ATC for its hard won efforts to  maintain close relationship between the trail community and its neighbors. Also the ATC’s work to enhance  economic and conservation opportunities through programs like Trail Towns, a Trail to Every Classroom, and Gateways community forums. Most importantly she recognizes that the success of the AT could a guide to how parks and protected areas will be acquired and managed in the future. Some of her closing thoughts on the lessons from the trail are:

  • The value of building long term bipartisan leadership at the local, state and national level.
  • The importance of a campaign of coordinated grassroots action that can operate on multiple scales from local to national.
  • The pivotal role the federal government has played in protecting the AT’s fragile right of way.
Appalachian Trail Museum a stop on trail in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Appalachian Trail Museum a stop on trail in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Interestingly, in this political season, Mittlefehldt also takes the position that conservation is compatible with conservatism, arguing that the differences between political parties in many cases are not so much about the need to protect the environment, but about “the means by which decision makers propose to do it.” The principles of the AT that rest on decentralized community-based management, the role of the private sector volunteers all resting on the bedrock of patriotism and love of country are conservative values.  She highlights the relationship between the environmental movement and traditional rural land uses of as a topic worthy of further exploration. The AT as it winds its way through working forests, farm fields, and community backyards illustrates both the tensions, compromises, and benefits of the trail’s  people centered approach.

But to conclude this story,  let us return to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. There just steps from the AT itself  is a another gem the  Appalachian Trail Museum .  Through engaging exhibits and hard working volunteers , the museum connect park visitors and hikers with the history of the people who made and continue to make the AT possible. The museum, located in a repurposed grist mill, is a multi-purpose venue with a rest area that welcomes thru-hikers and a fun new children’s center – perfect for inspiring ambition in the next generation go  all the way.

Tangled Roots: The Appalachian Trail and American Environmental Politics, Sarah Mittlefehldt, University of Washington Press (2013)

 

 

 

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