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Featured Voice: Emily Bateson

By Eleanor Mahoney April 27, 2017

Emily M. Bateson is the Coordinator for the Network for Landscape Conservation. Before becoming Coordinator, Emily was the Network Co-Chair, and helped move the collaborative from its early formative stages to a more established, funded, and widespread network with active strategies and specific programs to help advance conservation at the landscape scale.

LLO: How did you become interested in the field of landscape conservation?

Morning in the Adirondacks. Credit: Thomas Cooper

Morning in the Adirondack Mountains, New York State. Credit: Thomas Cooper

Bateson: For me, landscape conservation is much more a matter of logical continuum rather than one recent “ah-ha” moment.

I spent my childhood summers in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. Protected under the New York State Constitution as “Forever Wild,” about half of the land within the six million-acre “Blue Line” is actually private land and populated hamlets, and the objective is management that sustains both natural and human communities. Founded in 1892, the Adirondack Park is one of the earliest examples of landscape conservation and management in the U.S.

My environmental career started at the New England-based Conservation Law Foundation, where we had a long battle in the 1980s, in and out of the courts, to keep offshore oil drilling out of the Georges Bank fishery off the coast of New England and Canada. I worked with diverse experts and stakeholders, including scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, local fishermen’s associations in New Bedford and Gloucester, MA, recreational interests on Cape Cod and the islands, and our Canadian counterparts to stop the drilling from going forward. This trans-border marine ecosystem was highly valuable ecologically, economically, and culturally, and needed to be managed as an integrated system – all the elements of landscape conservation today. That was when I learned to appreciate the critical need to work at the ecosystem scale, connecting sound science and local communities to environmental planning and policy.

Adirondack Mountain Lake. Credit: Thomas Cooper

Adirondack Mountain Lake. Credit: Thomas Cooper

As I moved on to land-focused New England projects and positions, I cannot think of a single example where working across whole landscapes was not fundamental to long-term success. At CLF, where I was Land Project Director for 16 years, we appealed a 1986 Management Plan for the White Mountain National Forest that looked at biodiversity piecemeal rather than across the whole Forest or across the whole region. Large-scale biodiversity protection was ecologically vital but not common practice at that time (and our appeal was actually before the word “biodiversity” was in use). As a funder at Sweet Water Trust in the 1990s, we worked to help people in New England protect larger and more connected areas based on biodiversity values – key components of landscape conservation and resilience today.

I then co-founded and served as the first director of Two Countries, One Forest, an early landscape conservation initiative founded in 2003 to help connect and protect the 80 million-acre Northern Appalachian/Acadian region in the eastern US and Canada – particularly through conservation of nine key habitat connectivity areas (work that continues to this day through its Staying Connected Initiative).

That initiative broke a “green ceiling,” since U.S. conservation maps (and associated conservation activity) had previously just shown white space above Maine. But the fundamental difference between political and ecological boundaries, the importance of ecological science to conservation planning, and the difference between top-down and collaborative conservation was already clear to me and to many, many others who had worked in conservation for the past 20 years.

LLO: How does landscape conservation differ from other approaches to the protection of places with cultural and ecological significance?

Bateson: The U.S. has a remarkable conservation legacy and impressive ongoing programs and progress. However, the loss of our natural and cultural heritage continues to occur at an alarming rate. The fact is that current programs and traditional, piecemeal conservation is simply no match for the ecosystem scale of the challenges confronting us today. Habitat loss and fragmentation, water scarcity and degradation, climate change impacts, and more threaten the integrated systems upon which human and natural communities depend.

We know today that even our largest protected areas are not big enough or connected enough to protect our ecological and cultural heritage. Conservation at the landscape scale is the practice of people working together – horizontally, not top down – across sectors, cultures, and geographies at the necessary ecosystem scale to conserve and connect our natural and cultural landscapes. This highly collaborative conservation approach embraces the complexity of working across these boundaries, from the urban and suburban environs to our wildest places, and across the public-private land continuum.

Today, more and more people across the country, continent, and the globe are advancing a landscape approach, working together to conserve their local landscapes for clean water, healthy outdoor recreation, climate resilience, sustainable local economies, connected wildlife habitat, cultural heritage, and local sense of place for the generations that follow.

We are erasing the hard lines between protected “versus” populated, and nature “versus” people. The landscape conservation approach recognizes that our natural and cultural landscapes are invaluable, intertwined, irreplaceable, and part of the very fabric of our society.

LLO: Could you provide some examples of how landscape conservation works – what do these types of initiatives look like on the ground and how might they differ based on location and community needs?

Bateson: Although many of the older landscape conservation efforts are regulatory in origin (such as the Adirondack State Park and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) many of the new landscape conservation initiatives are community-grounded, informal efforts. Many of these initiatives are also “nested,” so that an initiative focused on one culturally and geographic appropriate landscape is also part of a larger effort. And a good number have support from the growing number of state and federal programs that recognize achieving regulatory mandates must include support of conservation beyond public land boundaries.

For example: in central Massachusetts, the 500,000-acre North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, founded in 1997, focuses on conserving “ecologically, historically, and culturally significant lands.” Local municipal leaders, land owners, land trusts, agencies, conservation organizations, and academic partners work together on key activities, including mapping conservation and climate resilience priorities, expanding trail systems, promoting agricultural sustainability, improving conservation zoning, and developing a land acquisition transaction costs regrant program. Together, partners have conserved more than 12,000 acres of high priority lands, attracting far more in federal funding and making a far greater contribution to the future of the region than they ever could have alone.

Although this may appear small in scale to some, the North Quabbin Initiative is also the southern anchor of the equally effective two million-acre Quabbin to Cardigan Partnership that stretches up into the White Mountains of NH. And these two efforts are also part of a larger Network of 45 landscape conservation initiatives or “regional conservation partnerships” that together cover more than 70 percent of New England and increasingly learn from each other and work together on shared regional goals. This scale and structure fit the geography and culture of New England.

In the intermountain west, the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana focuses on conserving the 1.5 million-acre Blackfoot watershed (“Better Rural Communities through Cooperative Conservation Action”). Although the focus may be more on rangelands than the forests and agricultural lands around the North Quabbin, this group is similarly focused on watershed protection and has also had notable success through consensus-based and community-grounded collaborative conservation. They are also nested in larger efforts, including the 18 million-acre Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent and the 2,000-mile long Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative. As Executive Director Gary Burnett stated in a recent presentation, “But our watershed is a small place, and we need our neighbors – right across the fence and clear across the county – to sustain our local work and bring it to scale for people, water and wildlife.”

Are there differences across landscape conservation initiatives? Yes, context matters. And despite the similarities between North Quabbin and the Blackfoot Challenge, groups choose different governance structures, conservation priorities, and approaches. For example, The Intertwine Alliance, more than 150 public, private and nonprofit organizations working to integrate nature more deeply into the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region, is wrestling with higher density populations, local urban-specific priorities, and smaller scales than the Blackfoot Challenge. Their strategies and solutions may not look identical.

But I would suggest that there are more similarities than differences. Landscape conservation initiatives are working to achieve conservation that is both locally grounded and regionally significant. They are working, by and large, to look at conservation more expansively to include culture, community, traditional local economics, health, recreation, and local sense of place, while never losing sight of the long-term importance of healthy, connected natural systems for the future of their own landscapes and the world overall. Landscape conservation helps put the future back into the hands of informed and committed people living and working on the landscapes they love.

LLO: What are the biggest challenges as well as opportunities right now in the field of landscape conservation and how might the roles of public vs. non-governmental entities be changing in the coming years?

Bateson: Regardless of geography and scale, initiatives often share similar challenges regarding 1) meaningful collaboration and effective governance; 2) conservation science and planning at the local-to-landscape scales; and 3) funding for and commitment to long-term collaboration and conservation implementation.

One major challenge has been that there was no central place for sharing information, identifying best practices, tackling common challenges, and developing cutting edge research and analysis in this new field. That of course is what we are trying to change through the Network for Landscape Conservation.

Although I hope I am wrong, I think the current federal administration may be a challenge, which is too bad as conservation has been a robust bipartisan issue for many years. And recent Republican and Democratic administrations have made so much progress on moving toward a landscape conservation approach at the federal agency level, from the National Park Service Scaling Up program to the Landscape Conservation Collaborative Network and much, much more.

Despite the challenges, there are boundless opportunities in this rapidly growing field. We have enormous forward momentum in specific landscapes, and an increasing number of examples of effective initiatives and enduring success. Conservation at the landscape scale is increasingly embraced in local and regional landscapes across the country, continent, and beyond. It is the groundswell of local understanding and support that will carry this imperative conservation approach inexorably forward.

LLO: Your organization recently changed its name from the Practitioners’ Network for Large Landscape Conservation to the Network for Landscape Conservation. Does this reflect a shift in its mission or area of emphasis?

Bateson: The Network has only shortened its name, and not changed its mission. We decided it was evident we are a network for “practitioners,” and we dropped the “large” because many people thought it suggested only large, wild landscapes and not the equally valuable efforts in urban or other smaller-scale settings.

Founded in 2011, the goal of the Network continues to be building a “big tent” network and a robust community of practice to support and advance the rapidly growing landscape conservation movement. Before the Network, there was no central forum for landscape conservation practitioners to connect – there was too much reinventing of the proverbial wheel and opportunities for progress and innovation were being lost. Our Network of professionals in the private, public, non-profit, academic, and philanthropic sectors has already grown to almost 100 organizational partners and 2,000 individual practitioners.

We work with partners to build a valued nexus for connecting with peers, accessing information and resources, building skills, leveraging individual efforts, improving on-the-ground performance, and innovating new landscape conservation. One of our highest priorities continues to be connecting practitioners to each other and showcasing their work for the broader community.
We are all figuring out this pivotal, new landscape conservation approach together. I hope individuals and organizations will continue to join the Network for Landscape Conservation to help build the conversation and the community of practice, shaping the future of the local and global landscapes that will sustain our grandchildren and the many generations to follow.

Learn more: Network for Landscape Conservation : Advancing the Practice of Conservation at the Landscape Scale 

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Who is Responsible for Landscape Stewardship on Farm Land

By Guest Observer July 1, 2015

By Marianne Penker, originally published on the Project Hercules Cultural Landscapes Blog

Many rural landscapes are shaped by centuries of agricultural land use. As agricultural land use practices change, landscapes transform. In fact, transformation is a key-characteristic of any agricultural landscape. Most of these transformations occur without major notice. Others, however, are perceived as unwelcome and result in requests for landscape stewardship interventions. But who is responsible for defining the stewardship goals and the interventions needed for agricultural landscapes, for implementing and bearing the extra efforts or forgone profits?

Throughout Europe, farmers and their interest groups, nature conservation societies, grass roots, tourism associations and heritage organisations struggle for the allocation of rights and duties and for the definition of shared landscape development goals. Despite the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, socio-cultural and institutional differences play out in diverging interaction patterns of civil society activities, market instruments and state based stewardship schemes. Different legal regulations restrict farmers in their land use choices in favour of societal landscape goals. For pro-active landscape stewardship, public authorities often provide financial incentives or compensation payments for extra efforts or forgone benefits of farmers. Non-governmental organisations or local civil society also might bear some of the responsibility for landscape stewardship. And we also find market based mechanisms, such as eat-the-view or food origin labels. Consumers willing to pay extra for these labelled products reward farmers for their pro-landscape behaviour.

Practical landscape stewardship experiences indicate a need for self-organisation, collective action and intermediary organisations facilitating the deliberation of landscape goals and the allocation of responsibilities, costs and benefits among private land owners, state organisations, consumers and civil society. The agriculture chapter of the edited volume on landscape stewardship will look into theories of collective action and contrast them with actual agricultural landscape stewardship practices in different countries in Europe and beyond.

In a nutshell, there is no straightforward answer to the question of responsibility. Neither, we have clear indications if landscape governance should be better organised on the local level to provide context-sensitive solutions and landscape diversity or rather on the (inter-)national level to take into account international agreements. Dichotomies between central and de-central, private or state instruments blur in the face of landscape stewardship on farm land. In fact, context-specific landscape stewardship based on self-organisation or participation needs to be embedded in national and international governance frameworks. Then, the landscape can actually be an outcome of local people, their costumes and institutions that shape the diversity and uniqueness of landscapes (i.e., the ‘root meaning of landscape’ according to Olwig 2002) without jeopardizing internationally protected bio-cultural diversity or endangered species.

Reference

Olwig, K.R., 2002. Landscape, Nature, and the Body Politic. From Britain’s Renaissance to America’s New World. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

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Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project Wins National Award

By Guest Observer September 30, 2013
Credit: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Heritage Project documents the impact of farming on the state’s economy and culture.

By Dr. Sally McMurry

The term “gray literature” well conveys the level of visibility for much work done at agencies like the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office. Historic Structures Reports, National Register nominations, exhibits, and drawings may have limited long-term public exposure even though they are often based on high-quality research and analysis. The Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) has recognized that these efforts often make exemplary contributions to our understanding of the built environment, and the organization honors such work through the Paul E. Buchanan Award. VAF spokesman Michael Chiarappa has characterized the award as a “testament to VAF’s commitment to civic engagement and the idea that broad participation in the study and understanding of vernacular landscapes provides an indispensible social good.” We are proud to announce that the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project is the 2013 winner.

The VAF established the Buchanan Award in 1993 to honor Paul E. Buchanan, for many years the Director of Architectural Research at Colonial Williamsburg. Mr. Buchanan had a legendary reputation as a master interpreter and field observer; according to the VAF website, he “set the standard for architectural fieldwork in America” and mentored many who went on to make important contributions in the field. Past Buchanan Award winners have included field reports, exhibits, public programming, digital media productions, restoration projects, and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documentation. According to 2013 prize committee chair Michael Chiarappa, the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project merited the award for providing “unprecedented guidance in studying Pennsylvania’s agricultural landscapes” and establishing “a framework for honoring and protecting them” through National Register listing.

The VAF was founded in 1980 to promote the study and preservation of ordinary buildings and landscapes from all times and places. The term “vernacular” is flexible and has come to encompass not only building types but methodologies as well. Vernacular architecture study emphasizes social and cultural context and commonly employs analytical tools from diverse disciplines – anthropology, gender studies, and the like. The organization’s membership comes from diverse backgrounds. Some work in academic institutions in disciplines like anthropology, folklore, geography, history, architectural history, and art history. Others staff (and often lead) museums, government agencies, and private firms. All share a passionate commitment to understanding and celebrating everyday landscapes, from colonial era folk housing to 20th-century suburban enclaves to industrial complexes. With over 600 members in the US and other countries, the VAF has been a major contributor to a fundamental rethinking of which buildings and landscapes are valuable (and why), and how to study them.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project’s emphasis on typical agricultural buildings and landscapes is very much in keeping with the VAF’s founding principles. From the outset, the project framework treated Pennsylvania’s agricultural past broadly. For example, it acknowledged that diversified production prevailed until the mid-20th century and developed ways of portraying different kinds of diversified farming. As importantly, the conceptualization went beyond soils, topography, and markets to include social factors like land tenure, cultural repertoires, the gender organization of farm work, political factors, and labor systems. This approach accounts for ALL historic resources on a farm — it doesn’t stop with just the house and barn. Now we can better understand the tenant houses, “mansion” houses, multiple barn granaries, large machine sheds, and crop rotation patterns that typify the Central Valleys. We can see the role of cultural repertoires in making a three-bay “English” barn different from a three-bay German “ground” barn from the same period. We can appropriately interpret the Adams and Erie County fruit-belt areas where migrant workers were so important, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania region where much depended on women’s labor in home dairying. In turn, by enumerating specifically and comprehensively the buildings and landscape features typical for each region, the Registration Requirements allow users to assess a property’s eligibility quickly and accurately.

Finally, the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project products are good examples of VAF’s commitment to public education and outreach. The entire corpus of work is accessible on the Web. This includes census maps and manuscripts, a Researcher’s Guide, narratives for each of the state’s sixteen historic agricultural regions, a bibliography, farm survey forms, and (my favorite) an Agricultural Field Guide to help users identify barns, outbuildings, and landscape features. We hope that this accessible, powerful, award-winning tool will result in more National Register nominations from Pennsylvania’s historic farming community.

Sally McMurry is Professor of History at Penn State University (University Park) and served as Principal Investigator for the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project.

This post first appeared on August 21, 2013, in “Pennsylvania Historic Preservation” the Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office and is reprinted with the permission of the that office

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New Featured Area

By Brenda Barrett December 28, 2012

Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area

Silos and Smokestacks

Silos and Smokestacks NHA

Located in the heart of America’s tall grass prairie, northeastern Iowa includes some of the world’s most fertile soil. Across a gently undulating terrain, the landscape breaks into hills, valleys and bluffs as it approaches the Mississippi River at its eastern border. Diverse Native peoples farmed the valleys and managed the upland prairie with fire to improve habitat for game. Europeans arriving in the 1850s divided up the lands into individual farms. Many of these new settlers were immigrants from all corners of Europe. In the twentieth century, technological changes such as seed hybridization, food processing and preservation, and widespread mechanization expanded agricultural production. The region’s increased productivity helped supply world markets with food and grain. Local universities further developed the area as a center of agribusiness innovation. Urban centers supported packinghouses, farm equipment factories, and transportation links to support an agricultural economy.

As in all agriculturally-based economies, the region was buffeted by fluctuations in climate, the national economy and world markets. By the end of the twentieth century, it also faced other difficulties. This part of Iowa struggled with the loss of established food processing facilities, which impacted the vitality of the urban centers. The farming population was aging, some prime agricultural land was falling out of production, and there was farm consolidation that changed both appearance of the landscape and community vitality. More positively, the region still had a strong tradition of family farming and was known for its work ethic and traditional values.

In 1991, a new nonprofit, Silos and Smokestacks, surveyed one of the region’s depressed urban centers as part of an economic revitalization scheme. The survey found that the city’s heritage and economic well-being was inextricably linked to the larger rural landscape. Following on this work, the NPS was asked to study the potential national significance of the region. The resulting NPS Special Resource Study determined that northeast Iowa had made significant contributions to the story of national and international agriculture and proposed designation of a 17-county area as a new entity to be called a heritage partnership to tell this story.

One year later Congress designated a substantially larger region, 37 counties in all, as America’s Agricultural Heritage Partnership. This legislation also authorized a new a local management entity made up of representatives from volunteer associations, private businesses and state and local political subdivisions to interpret and promote the natural and cultural resources that contributed to the region’s significance. Similar to a National Heritage Area, the partnership was a large lived in landscape, which was to be managed locally with the federal government’s role limited to financial and technical assistance .

In the beginning, the new America’s Agricultural Heritage Partnership, which became known by the name of Silos and Smokestacks, faced many challenges. These included the scale of the initiative, which was over 20,000 square miles. Another was the rural agrarian culture, which places a high premium on individual action and on self-reliance. To overcome community concerns about the role of the national government in this new heritage designation, the original legislation authorized the Department of Agriculture to serve as the lead federal agency, given that this department was the traditional federal agency liaison to the farm community (NPS 2004). However, the project stalled when the Department could not envision itself in this new and unfamiliar role as a provider of heritage assistance.

Despite these setbacks, the nonprofit management entity, authorized in the legislation, persevered and built a strong partnership network. In 2000, the NPS was designated as the lead federal partner and the region became part of the agency’s National Heritage Area program. This program now has 49 Congressionally designated areas that receive assistance from the NPS (NPS National Heritage Areas, n.d.; National Park System Advisory Board 2006; Barrett and Mitchell 2003; Barrett and Wood 2003). The heritage area focused on interpretation of the agricultural story in order to implement the partnership network in a way that respected the area’s traditional values of independence and voluntarism. The primary goals were to add economic value through increased heritage tourism and to share the story with residents and visitors.

Over the last ten years, this focus on telling the story and adding economic value has been well received within the 37 counties. The area has 108 formal partnerships built on existing, valued community assets that strengthen the sense of regional identity. It has connected these partner sites around a series of broader interpretive themes and built the capacity of the organizations with targeted grants, workshops and technical assistance. Linking the areas’ identity to the NPS brand, regional signage programs, and multiple social media campaigns have helped promote the heritage value of this very large landscape. A recent evaluation documented that over 3 million people visit heritage sites a year. It also found that the heritage area responded to demand for youth programming, by adding a substantial educational component with a focus on history of farming, reading the landscape, and the impact of agricultural programs and policies. There have been 1,000 participants in training programs and 500,000 visits to the award winning web-based ‘Camp Silos’.

In conclusion, the Americas Agricultural Heritage Partnership has lived up its name and developed a collaborative approach where partners work together toward common goals. It is also able to tackle emerging issues through new partnerships, for example, flood assessment studies with Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, tours to introduce wine-making in the region, and supporting food security through heritage plants and breeds exchanges (Silos and Smokestacks NHA n.d.). This strategy has overcome the initial concerns of residents about governmental designation and outside control of agricultural resources. For National Heritage Areas, the NPS’s role is to be one of the partners offering guidance, limited funding and strong brand recognition. The nationally significant cultural landscape is still managed by the people that live in it, but with a much greater appreciation of the place they call home.

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