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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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Introducing the International Land Conservation Network (ILCN)

By Guest Observer May 22, 2016
Yellowstone to Yukon a transboundary conservation initiative Credit: Wayne Sawchuck

Yellowstone to Yukon a transboundary conservation initiative
Credit: Wayne Sawchuck

Private land conservation has been used as a land protection tool for centuries. Working within local and national political and legal frameworks, private and civic organizations have been protecting and stewarding private forestland, farmland, natural habitats, and historic/cultural sites around the world. Less well known than public protected areas, such as national parks and preserves, privately protected areas are gaining attention and momentum as a critical tool for modern day conservation.

In the last several years, conservationists in the US and around the world have started to quantify and assess international private land conservation efforts. Publications by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the European Commission highlight the broad scope of this movement, as well as opportunities to strengthen efforts through collaboration, legal reform, and capacity building. The IUCN report goes as far as to say that “privately protected areas deserve far greater recognition and support” than they have previously received, and that such recognition and support “will help bring the private conservation movement fully into the mainstream of global conservation practice.” It is also becoming increasingly clear that if nations are to meet international biodiversity, conservation, and preservation goals, privately protected land will have to be part of the equation.

The need and the recognition of a growing movement inspired the founding of the International Land Conservation Network (ILCN), which is working to connect organizations and people across a broad spectrum of action relating to private and civic land conservation. The ILCN envisions a world in which the public, private, civic (NGO), and academic sectors, together with indigenous communities around the globe, work collaboratively to protect and steward land that is essential for wildlife habitat, clean and abundant water, treasured human historical and cultural amenities, and sustainable food, fiber, and energy production.

The ILCN formally launched at its First Congress in Berlin, Germany in October 2015. Attended by 90 participants from 27 counties, the Congress catalyzed and reinvigorated national efforts and international exchanges around the world. Attendees from such disparate locations as Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile and Myanmar have continued to build relationships and learn from one another since the Congress. Overwhelmingly, participants called for a forum through which to share best practices, model documents, technology, case studies, and professional development/career training opportunities across the globe to address shared challenges and empower organizations.

The ILCN is working to implement these suggestions, beginning with an e-newsletter and a census of organizations working on private land conservation around the world. This is the first comprehensive effort to determine a baseline of organizations, and, already, over 1,600 organizations in more than 100 countries have been identified. As interest in, and support for, this movement grows, there is an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen this global community of practice and accelerate efforts worldwide.

Emily Myron
Program Manager, International Land Conservation Network
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

If you are affiliated with an organization that engages in private land conservation or stewardship, we invite you to please take our brief survey: https://LILP.formstack.com/forms/ilcn_2016_census_survey. We look forward to learning about your important work.

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National Academy releases report on Large Landscape Conservation   

By Brenda Barrett January 15, 2016
Yellowstone to Yukon Landscape Credit: Harvey Locke

Yellowstone to Yukon Landscape Credit: Harvey Locke

In November 2015 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report “An Evaluation of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives”, which concluded that a landscape approach is needed to meet the nation’s conservation challenges and that the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) provide a framework for addressing that need. The NAS undertook the study pursuant to a Congressional directive to evaluate the LCC program.

For those not familiar with the LCCs, the initiative was launched by a Department of Interior Secretarial Order in 2009 specifically to enhance the landscape-level approach to conservation. The intent of the Secretarial Order was to design a cooperative effort to bridge jurisdictional boundaries across agencies within DOI as well as across other federal, state, and tribal agencies and private lands. The LCCs consists of 22 individual, self-directed conservation areas that cover all of the U.S. including islands, and parts of Canada, Mexico and Pacific Islands. A LCC Council composed of federal, state, local, tribal, and nongovernmental organizations manages the network and has adopted an overall strategic plan.

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

What were the highlights of the recent NAS evaluation? Most importantly the report identified the need for a landscape approach to resource conservation. The geographic scale and the complex web of management responsibility for natural and cultural resources demand a collaborative approach to conservation. And that this is especially true in a time of scarce resources. The committee concluded that given this national need to work at a landscape scale, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives were an appropriate way for the Department of Interior to address this need.

The NAS was also charged with examining other Federal programs with similar goals to assess overlaps and issues of coordination. The report concluded that the LCCs were uniquely positioned to address landscape conservation needs at a national scale, for all natural and cultural resources, in a way that bridges research and management efforts. For those interested in learning more about the range of Federal landscape programs, the report is valuable resource offering a catalog of 20 other federal agency landscape initiatives and providing an in depth analysis of four of them.

Finally, the report stated that after a little more than five years, it is too early to assess the outcomes of the program or to expect to see much in ways of improving the management and conservation of habitat and fish and wildlife species. The evaluation process needs to be improved such that the Network as a whole can measure and demonstrate how they have advanced the goals of the Network and its partners. However, it noted that the LCCs had achieved numerous objectives and milestones, especially related to developing collaborative governance and shared conservation goals.

 The NAS concluded that the LCCs and the LCC Network have the necessary  elements and structure to deliver on the national need for a landscape approach the individual LCCs can point to many early accomplishments, and have made progress toward the LCC Network’s high-level goals related to addressing conservation strategy, developing collaborative conservation, and advancing science for conservation.

The report is an important affirmation that resource conservation must be tackled on a landscape scale. Also of interest to on-the-ground practitioners are the case studies profiling the evaluation and outcomes of some longer running landscape scale initiatives (Chapter 6). These include National Heritage Areas, Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes, Yellowstone to Yukon, and the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture. The report notes the important lessons to be learned from these programs that have been in existence for much longer period of time than the LCCs. These include such critical components as a unifying theme, strong stakeholder engagement, adaptive management, strategic planning efforts, metrics to aggregate project impacts, leveraging, and a lead agency that provides resources and/or leadership.

 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.  The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.  For more information, visit www.nationalacademies.org.

 

 

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Reading: The Science of Open Spaces

By Brenda Barrett August 29, 2015

9781597269926 3
My late summer reading list included Charles Curtin’s book The Science of Open Spaces: Theory and Practice for Conserving Large Complex Systems (Island Press 2015). In so many ways this is the book I have been waiting for. As the title promises it tackles working on a landscape scale from the ground up with examples from the US borderlands in New Mexico, to the seacoasts of Maine and then on to Ambesoli National Park in Africa. But Curtin is not just a keen raconteur, he also takes a deep scholarly dive into the theories that underpin this work – chaos, complexity and resilience to name just a few.

Do not be deterred by the term “open spaces”. As he use the phrase to sweeping effect defining its use “to invoke not only the challenge of physical size but also of time, ecology, culture and all elements therein.”

Using his broad ranging experiences, he tries to identify the recurrent patterns in landscape scale project across these different geographies seeking out common strategies and ways to sustain them. He calls out the need to go beyond conventional research in ecology and conservation and understand the social dynamism in which these ecosystem exists.

It would be impossible to summarize the range of theoretical mountains that the book traverses as it pursues a foundational basis for the field of landscape scale conservation. So I have just selected a few paths that resonated for me from my observations in the field of large landscapes such as National Heritage Areas and Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes. These include:

  • The importance of local knowledge as the key to how people relate to their environment. And the crucial role place based actions play in conserving and maintaining large landscapes.
  • The multiple challenges of sustaining support particularly funding support for this work over the long haul.The importance of a third party convener or as he calls it a “backbone organization” in providing unity and focus. Someone who can take both a local and high-level viewpoint, after all he notes “…there are limit to what one neighbor can tell another.
  • The needs for diversity of perspectives to tackle the complexity of landscape conservation to provide a wide range of potential solutions and build a resilient system. What he calls distributed cognition is build on the time-consuming process of collaboration and as he states “…there are not short cuts.”
  • The importance of adaptation and feedback loops to success and the need to look at both ecological and social factors.
  • And most importantly the role of power. Curtin make it clear “In building sustainability and effectively conserving open spaces addressing power relationships in not an issue- it is the issue”

Well I could go on and on, and I have not even tried to summarize the book’s theoretical underpinnings. Just buy the book. Every reader will appreciate the well-presented case studies and for those who have worked in the trenches struggling with landscape scale conservation efforts, I guarantee there will be many aha moments.

 

 

 

 

 

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PA Wilds: The Creative Economy and the Forest

By Brenda Barrett August 26, 2014

There is a lot of talk about how the creative economy – sometimes synonymous with the young, hip and artisanal – is helping to revitalize urban centers. Brooklyn is of course ground zero, but it is happening in large and small cities across the nation. The historic preservation community has certainly made the link. An upcoming symposium in New York City The Accidental Preservationist: Artists, Artisans, Outliers & the Future of Historic Preservation – sponsored by the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation on the occasion of its 25th anniversary – will be exploring the influence of non-traditional practitioners of historic preservation on architectural revitalization of cities.

But what about our rural landscapes? Can these ideas catch fire and help revitalize struggling communities far away from big city hipness and density?

Credit: Brenda Barrett

Joe, Andrea and Oliver in the print shop of Laughing Owl Press. Credit: Brenda Barrett

Joe and Andrea Lanich, who just opened their letterpress shop, may be on the leading edge of this trend for rural America. An engineer and architect, by training, they began their business, Laughing Owl Press, as a hobby in their garage. Needing more space for expanding production and the large Chandler & Price presses that Joe has adopted and reconditioned, they relocated to the main street of Kane, Pennsylvania. This small borough in the Northwest corner of the state is surrounded on three sides by the Allegheny National Forest. It was once known as the Black Cherry Capital of the World (as in trees not soda). The town’s economy had been based on timbering and manufacturing, but for decades Kane and the surrounding region have struggled. External forces like globalization have caused a decrease in jobs followed by high unemployment rates and population loss with the sharpest decline in the numbers of younger, working-age residents.

To counteract some of the regions economic problems, Pennsylvania’s state governments launched the PA Wilds  in 2003. The initiative was centered on a rural 12 county region that includes Kane and is known for its heritage of public lands and small historic communities. The region had 2 million acres of protected land including 29 state parks, 8 state forests, and the Allegheny National Forest. The PA Wilds strategy included a new brand name, promotional campaigns, a major investment in public recreational facilities, and a stated commitment to do so in a way that valued the stewardship of natural resources. It is considered one of the most ambitious of the emerging conservation landscape initiatives in the United States.

Credit: Brenda Barrett

Main Street in Kane, Pennsylvania. Credit: Brenda Barrett

Initially the PA Wilds focused on outdoor tourism. After all the region’s parks and forests add up to one of the largest block of public land on the east coast equivalent in size to Yellowstone National Park. The concept was to expand the recreational amenities on these lands, which will increase visitation and lead to economic revitalization. However, community redevelopment especially on a landscape scale is more complex than just heads in beds. And that is why the work of Ta Brant is so important. As the executive director of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, her job is to diversify the regional economy by building on local products and industries. For example, the PA Wild Artisan Trail helps marry the PA Wilds brand with the locally made movement. The program markets juried handcrafted items made in the PA Wilds, provides an online presence, and links artisans with sales outlets in the region. The program has expanded from artists and craftsmen to include craft winemakers and distillers. Brant sees local food products as an exciting future branding opportunity.

Creating this more complex local economy is critical to the future of small towns like Kane. The customer base for Joe and Andrea Lanich’s print shop come from around the world. But it is the people and potential of the community that attracted the couple to the town’s Main Street – a welcoming chamber of commerce, the Kane Historic Preservation Society, who sponsor an art galley and events in the historic train depot and other new creative economy businesses in Kane, for example the just launched distillery C& J Spirits.

The PA Wilds is hoping to build a network using culture and nature to create sustainable communities in the forest.

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Practicing Large Landscape Conservation: Can You Say that Again?

By Brenda Barrett July 30, 2013

The benefits of working at a regional scale are many and the large landscape work is being re-invented and reformulated all over the country, but  it is not always easy to explain how to operationalize this approach. The challenge of describing the process came home to me three times in the last two weeks, when I was called upon to explain, “So how does this work, again?”

So I decided to try and decode the large landscape approach by drafting a checklist of the common elements. The ones that show up over and over again in most landscape scale projects.  It seems that to be successful – you need to:

1)     Start with the Big Picture – To bring together communities and organizations at such a large scale, you need a compelling reason. What can help, as one observer noted, is a “regional storyline”. For example, heritage areas have done a good job of bringing together diverse people to tell authentic American stories. When thinking about a large landscape, always follow the resource whether it is a watershed, a mountain range, or the cultural resources that define a sense of place.

2)     Engage the Community – To understand both the landscape and the steps that can be taken to conserve it, ask the people who live there. They can ground truth the storyline and point the way to future opportunities. Nobody likes to be surprised, so plan to take your time on this part of the process. Always be on the look out for partners, who are interested in stepping up to the plate.

3)     Set Some High Level Goals – To make things happen, you need to have defined objectives. These should be specific enough to seem achievable, but general enough that they attract multiple partners.   The secret to effective landscape scale work is aligning the dollars and sweat equity of many partners to achieve a common goal.  

4)     Take Early Action – To build momentum for a landscape size projects, you need to be action oriented. Partnering is a skill that improves with practice. So get everyone’s hands in the dirt. Accomplish something that region has always wanted, to do but has just needed a little extra effort. Look for projects that cross traditional boundaries and bring in new partners.

5)     Sustain a Central Core or Hub – To continue any large landscape effort, somebody has to make it a priority. Somebody has to get up every morning and say, “how can I advance the work”.  Networks of partners thrive when they are tended by good communication and some incentives for good behavior. An effective core entity or hub needs to be a special purpose organization that is considered an honest broker, one, which will put the interest of the landscape first. And most difficult in this financial environment, one that is not always competing for funding with the other regional partners.

What is so exciting about the large landscape movement today is that recent research shows that it really does work.  The movement should take heart — not only from the growing numbers of initiatives*, but from new evidence that documents the effectiveness of our hard work. Many thanks to the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Office, Conservation Study Institute, and National Heritage Area Program, and others in the academy for tackling  this important research.  To access a bibliography see: Research on the Effectiveness of Large Landscape Conservation

In the end the most important thing is to put this research into action.  It is the networks of practioners like the Alliance of National Heritage Areas  and the Large Landscape Practioners Network that are central to the future of the movement. So join in the conversation and share your ideas on what are the core principles of this new way conserving the landscape.

 

*For an inventory and analysis of large landscape efforts:

 In the Northeastern United State see:  Landscapes: Improving Conservation Practice in the Northeast Megaregion (Regional Plan Association 2012)

In the Rocky Mountain West see: Large Landscape Conservation in the Rocky Mountain West (Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy 2013)

 

 

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What’s in a Name? Is Landscape Important?

By Eleanor Mahoney May 1, 2013
Photo: Wikipedia Commons User Dk4hb

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

In 2000, during the waning days of the Clinton presidency, then Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed an administrative order establishing the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). Housed within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the NLCS represented a significant shift in the agency’s mission and public persona. An organization once largely defined by its emphasis on “multiple uses,” now was home to a solidly conservation-oriented initiative, which currently includes more than 27 million acres. Even more noteworthy, the NLCS also encompassed a large number of newly designated National Monuments, many of which were distinguished by historic and cultural values, as well as their outstanding natural resources. Indeed, it was only in 1996 with the designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that the BLM joined the National Park Service and the Forest Service in administering such sites.

Over the years, the NLCS has not been without its share of controversy and critiques. Conservatives in Congress have repeatedly attempted to de-fund the program, seeing it as an additional layer of federal bureaucracy and oversight on lands that might otherwise be leased for grazing or resource extraction. Preservationists, meanwhile, have not always appreciated the BLM’s management approach, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation going so far as to place the entire NLCS system on its “Most Endangered Places List” in 2005.  In explaining the selection, the Trust commented,

“…BLM’s ability to provide this protection is seriously hampered by chronic understaffing and underfunding…Unless BLM gets the funding and staffing it needs for the National Landscape Conservation System, irreplaceable treasures will continue to be lost or destroyed, and important chapters in America’s story will be erased.”

Environmental organizations focused much of their critique on the politicization of the program during the Bush Administration, when funding, executive interference and even complete elimination became constant concerns.

Yet, despite these challenges, in 2009, Congress passed authorizing legislation for the NLCS as part of a larger omnibus public lands bill bus, achieving something that other large landscape conservation initiatives, including National Heritage Areas, have so far failed to achieve. “In order to conserve, protect, and restore nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations, there is established in the Bureau of Land Management the National Landscape Conservation System,” the bill reads, setting a new national precedent for the recognition and subsequent designation of large, complex, layered landscapes.

Yet, now, in an interesting twist, the BLM has decided to change the program’s name somewhat unofficially, referring to it simply as “National Conservation Lands.” What does such an alteration mean? Is it just semantics? I would argue no, it is not. For both practitioners and the public the term “conservation,” has specific and historic connotations, meanings not often associated with culture or with living landscapes. Instead, (rightly or wrongly) conservation is usually shorthand for natural resource centered activities and experiences. Including the word landscape, by contrast, offers an entirely different sensibility. It connotes a combination of the natural and human-made, of interaction, evolution and change, challenging the artificial boundaries between nature and culture. It also recognizes that even our “wildest” places were and perhaps still are sites shaped by people on an ongoing basis. Perhaps the word landscape is not so important, after all “National Landscape Conservation System,” is undeniably a mouthful, but I do not think so. Words are more than letters on a page, they contain myriad meanings and possibilities and landscape is not one I am quite yet ready to abandon.

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2013: Let’s Meet Up on Living Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett December 29, 2012

As you start planning for the New Year, take a look at the Living Landscape Observer events calendar.

Over the next six months, there are lots of opportunities to advance all of our understandings of large landscapes and living places.

  • January 14-15 – First up is the Conservation Landscapes Summit Naturally Connecting People and Places in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This conference was rescheduled from its original date in October and features two nationally known experts on large landscapes – Lynn Scarlett, co-director of the Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth, and Rob Pirani of the Regional Plan Association.  Also inspirational will be panels featuring grassroots leaders who have tackled land conservation, recreation and trails, and heritage tourism. It is not too late to register and it is worth the drive to Harrisburg to hear Ta Brant talk about her work in the Pennsylvania Wilds. http://www.pawilds.com
  • March 11-15 – The George Wright Society holds its conference every other year and it is the place to catch up on the latest trends in protected areas management.  The 2013 conference Protected Areas in a Changing World will be held in Denver, Colorado. Look for sessions on federal landscape scale policy initiatives, a report on international cultural landscape efforts, and the emerging concept of Indigenous Cultural Landscapes.
  • April 12-13 – The Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning is only held every three years and this is the year! Planned for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the event brings together experts who are influencing landscape planning, policy making and greenway planning from the local to international level. A special session is scheduled on state and national heritage areas from the foundation of the movement to predictions on its future.
  • May 2-4 – US ICOMOS 16th Annual Conference titled The Historic Center and the Next City: Envisioning Urban Heritage Evolution will be held in Savannah, Georgia.  The conference will join in the discussion of the recent UNESCO  ‘Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape’ encouraging a landscape approach to the study and conservation of cities within their broader urban contexts and their geographical settings.
  • May 30-June 2 – The Society for Industrial Archaeology will be holding its annual meeting in the twin cites of Minneapolis/ St. Paul.  Admirers of big stuff will gather to tour the industrial landscapes of the twin cities and to share their expertise on industrial places across the nation.

So pull out your planners and I predict that 2013 could be a landmark year for the living landscape movement.

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What are the Components of Creative Conservation?

By Brenda Barrett November 30, 2012

Many thanks to Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy in Washington, D.C., for sharing his recent article Creative Conservation: Reflections on a Way to the Future published in the October 2012 of Land Lines, the quarterly magazine of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. He makes an excellent point that the most hopeful and innovative strategies for landscape conservation are emerging at the ground level within individual landscapes like the Blackfoot Valley in Montana, the Flint Hills in Kansas, and the Hudson Valley on the east coast.

I know this is true, as I have seen the success of the Pennsylvania Wilds or the Lower Susquehanna in my home state of Pennsylvania. Bendick identifies a number of critical ingredients for these efforts such as working at a landscape scale, recognizing the human benefits, involving the people who live in the region, and mentoring a new generation of local conservation leaders. Government is assigned the role of maintaining a fair and consistent regulatory process and providing economic incentives for the right things to happen.

But can our government do more? With the election behind us, it is time to revisit the vision sketched out by the America’s Great Outdoors and other landscape scale programs initiated over the past four years. Call it what you will, these big ideas can help support local efforts and fire the imagination of what might be possible. I have seen it happen with the Conservation Landscape work in Pennsylvania and the many governmental partnerships in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of government as the protector of the common good should still be an important part of the mix.

Do read the article Creative Conservation. It is a great summary of some of our biggest challenges and best opportunities.

 

 

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N.Y. the Vanguard of Conservation

By Paul Bray October 21, 2012

Hudson River Greenway

Conservation of nature and heritage is important to having both good places to live and to leaving a better legacy for future generations. New York has done well in conservation, better than most people realize.

Bob Bendick, a former deputy commissioner with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and now director of U. S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy, recently wrote an article titled “Creative Conservation: Reflections on the Way to the Future.” It can be found on the Lincoln Institute website . It reinforced my belief that we have been in the vanguard of conservation for a long time.

Bendick advocates moving beyond the “100-year-old debate between conservationist John Muir and forest manager Gifford Pinchot.” This debate was about choosing between protecting nature for its intrinsic value, as we do in national and state parks, or being utilitarian and practicing sustained harvesting of forests, as we do other places.

It was simpler when conservation solutions could focus on specific places like creating a particular park. Today the health of land, air and water is at stake and impacts of threats like global warming mean every place needs some form of management.

Conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy are working at the landscape scale. A little more than a decade ago, The Nature Conservancy would concentrate on small areas of habitat to protect endangered species like the Karner blue butterfly in Albany’s Pine Bush. It has changed its focus to whole landscapes or what it now calls “whole systems.” Disconnected pieces of natural systems often do not survive. Nor does nature thrive just by being in traditional gated parks separated from their ecosystem.

This more holistic approach is spreading according by people like Bendick into “a nationwide movement of landowners, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community groups working together to protect the places they value, such as the Blackfoot Valley in Montana, the Flint Hills of Kansas, and the Connecticut and Hudson River valleys in the East.”

Bendick’s strategies for creative conservation are not new in New York. We have examples of working at landscape scale for more than a century starting with the creation of the “forever wild” Forest Preserve in 1885, the vast Adirondack Park in 1892 and the Catskill Park in 1904. Our natural landscapes were celebrated in the 19th century by the Hudson River School of Artists.

Now we have the Hudson River Greenway, the Hudson River National Heritage Area and the Hudson River Estuary program all working at landscape scale to protect the environment and serve human needs in the Hudson Valley.

The state’s innovative state heritage area program was established to achieve management goals for the amalgam of natural and cultural resources both cities as well as regions like the Concord grape region in western New York.

Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo said in a speech at a National Park Service conference in 1991 that the Adirondack Park is “home to thousands of residents and welcomes millions of visitors a year, but at the same time retains much of the majesty the Iroquois knew a century ago.” He declared “the greenway, I hope, will become New York’s emerald necklace — a place where the resources of one community become the resources of a broader community, where the value of the whole transcends the sum of the parts.”

Inspired by this legacy of working at an ecosystem scale, Rep. Paul Tonko has introduced legislation in Congress to establish a five-state Hudson-Mohawk Basin Commission encompassing the Mohawk River and Hudson River valleys and the New York Harbor.

Creative conservation is not new to us. We should be proud of our conservation achievements and take more advantage of our having had the foresight to protect and celebrate the large landscapes and heritage areas that are increasingly being valued.

Paul M. Bray was the founder of the Albany Roundtable – Read more and see this article in the Albany Times Union

 

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Conserving a Peopled Landscape: How are we doing?

By Brenda Barrett July 25, 2012
New York City in a Landscape of Water

New York City in a Landscape of Water

A recent conference (June 19, 2012) Landscapes: Improving Conservation Practice in the Northeast Megaregion brought together over 125 practitioners and state and federal officials to share insights on successful practices and build a network between comparable efforts. Hosted by the Regional Plan Association and America 2050, the event built on the organizations’ research on large landscape efforts in the Northeast and the principles in their February publication Landscapes reported in earlier Observer post.

The meeting was held in New York City and attendees who came early were treated to a tour of Governor’s Island and a different perspective on the city as a place rising from a landscape of water.  Maybe it was the location. Among many large landscape topics touched on through the daylong conference, the importance of people, community, and telling the story on a landscape scale came up over and over.  A poll taken at the end of the conference showed that 94% of the participants voted that to improve landscape practice and policy in the Northeast it was important to  “[c]reate a narrative of the region that motivates the people who live there.”

Why all this talk about the importance of people and populated areas? Mark Anderson, Director of Conservation Science at the Nature Conservancy, presented the conferees a compelling reason. His work has shown that species diversity is highly correlated with a diversity of landscapes – rivers, forests, coastlines and a variety of soil and underlying geology.  It seems that conservationists are delivering solid results preserving upland forests, but not the rich soils and riverine landscapes where people have flocked to settle for thousands of years. In other words, we have done okay on the easy stuff. Now to achieve real gains, particularly in the Northeast United States, we have to take conservation to where people live.

For more conference updates and information on some upcoming pilot projects, see Ron Pirani’s article Going Regional with Landscape Conservation on the Regional Plan web site.

 

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Fall Meetings and Networking

By Brenda Barrett July 25, 2012

This Fall Meet Up on Large Landscapes

Summer is the time to plan for  the upcoming conference season. Until recently there have been limited opportunities for folks on the ground to learn and share their best ideas on the large landscapes movement. However, this fall has produced a good crop of chances to get together. On the east coast, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is hosting the Conservation Landscape Summit: Naturally Connecting People and Places October 29-30, 2012 in Harrisburg PA.  This gathering will include elected officials, local organizations, and business owners who are working in seven conservation landscapes across the commonwealth to use natural assets for conservation and economic revitalization efforts.

Meanwhile for those on the west coast, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is holdings its annual conference for the first time in Spokane, Washington. On Friday November 1, 2012, there will be two sessions of interest. The Indigenous Cultural Landscapes: New Ideas on Place will look at defining larger landscapes from the perspectives and lifestyles of pre-Colonial Native peoples. A second session, Conservation on a Grand Scale: Large Landscape Approach, will provide an opportunity for the cultural community to shape the new landscape movement and develop working partnerships with environmental organizations. The speakers at both sessions are leaders in this new field and welcome your questions and participation.

This is all part of a trend to adapt the large landscape movement to encompass community sustainability and cultural heritage.  Oh, one more reminder from the Living Landscape Observer. If you are interested in cultural landscapes at a global scale consider attending the October 12-13 Cultural Landscapes Challenges in the 21st Century, Rutgers University, NJ . Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention and the 10th anniversary of the Declaration on Cultural Landscapes, the conference will bring together scholars and professionals from around the world.

 

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