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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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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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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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New US ICOMOS World Heritage Gap Study Report

By Guest Observer March 30, 2016

gap-study-logo-square-600x400 (1)The US/ICOMOS Gap Study Report is the product of a series of consultations that took from August to December, 2015. US/ICOMOS is grateful to the hundreds of heritage professionals and experts who participated in this process. Drawing from their feedback, the Study identifies categories of U.S. cultural resources with potential universal and national significance that could both represent the breadth of U.S. heritage and also fill gaps in the World Heritage List previously identified by international experts.

The Tentative List is an inventory of those properties that a Nation intends to consider for nomination to the World Heritage List in the future. Only properties that have already been included on Tentative List can be considered for inscription.  Nations are encouraged to submit in their Tentative Lists cultural and/or natural heritage sites that they consider to be of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription. In addition, in 1994 the World Heritage Committee launched the Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List which further encourages Nations to prepare Tentative Lists from categories of eligible cultural resources not currently well-represented on the World Heritage List.

The difficult context in which the U.S. World Heritage efforts now operate must also be acknowledged.  The U.S. ceased all budgetary support to UNESCO, including to the World Heritage Center, in the fall of 2011. This is the first time the U.S. has failed to provide financial support for World Heritage since its ratification of the World Heritage Convention 40 years ago.  The cut-off of U.S. funding has not only undermined our country’s status within UNESCO, it has had profound consequences for the staff who work there.   Budget cuts and layoffs have hit particularly hard the heritage professionals who administer the World Heritage Convention.  The resulting erosion of the World Heritage Center’s capacity to address the destruction of heritage as a tactic of war currently occurring on a shocking scale across North Africa and the Middle East is an especially unfortunate consequence of this policy.

In short, it has never been more important that Americans who cherish the World Heritage program demonstrate their passion through informed, respectful, professional and committed engagement of all its processes.

In view of the importance of this process, US/ICOMOS has launched this U.S. World Heritage Tentative List Update Resource Center.  The site provides a rich array of background information on the legal, regulatory and heritage aspects of the pending Tentative List revisions. This includes resources developed during the U.S. Tentative List Expert Consultation that occurred in 2015.  This site will also provide updates on the revision process as it unfolds over the coming months.

US/ICOMOS has been committed to the principles of World Heritage since even before the U.S. ratified the Convention in the summer of 1973. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, US/ICOMOS remains deeply committed to the World Heritage program, both working to build domestic support for this international program and aiding in the nomination and conservation of U.S. inscribed sites. This work builds on the international work of ICOMOS, the formal advisory body to the World Heritage Committee on all aspects of cultural heritage.

 

Andrew Potts

Executive Director US/ICOMOS   http://www.usicomos.org/

 

 

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San Antonio Missions: Learning from the World Heritage Experience

By Brenda Barrett February 21, 2016
Mission San Jose San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Credit: Dan Stern

Mission San Jose
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Credit: Dan Stern

On October 17, 2015 dignitaries from around the country gathered to celebrate the inscription of the San Antonio Missions as the 23rd World Heritage Site in the Untied States (US) and the first in Texas. The San Antonio Missions are a group of five frontier mission complexes situated along an over seven mile stretch of the San Antonio River. Inscribed under Work Heritage Criterion ii the missions are described as “ an example of the interweaving of the cultures of the Spanish and the Coahuiltecan and other indigenous peoples, illustrated in a variety of elements, including the integration of the indigenous settlements towards the central plaza, the decorative elements of the churches which combine Catholic symbols with indigenous natural designs, and the post-secularization evidence which remains in several of the missions and illustrates the loyalty to the shared values beyond missionary rule. The substantial remains of the water distribution systems are yet another expression of this interchange between indigenous peoples, missionaries, and colonizers that contributed to a fundamental and permanent change in the cultures and values of those involved.”

Behind the well-deserved World Heritage hoopla and the carefully crafted statement of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, there is more than a decade of hard work. As interested in World Heritage recognition grows in the country and around the globe, what can we learn from the hard won experience of the San Antonio Missions? A few lesson for existing and aspiring World Heritage properties are:

Think long term – While the first official step is gaining a spot on the state parties tentative list; this is preceded by many prerequisites. For example n the US cultural properties must first be designated as a National Historic Landmark. All this takes a good deal of time. The San Antonio Missions were officially proposed for the World Heritage Tentative list in a 2006 Federal Register listing.

Seek Out champions –The International Office of the National Park Service (NPS) manages the development of the tentative list and in partnership the State Department determines, which sites will be proffered to the world body ICOMOS for consideration. There is no question that determined champions are critical. In the case of the missions the number of advocates was along one starting with the nationally respected San Antonio Conservation Societ . Also important were the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park’s  friends groups Los Compadres. Finally, unified political support at the city, county, state and national support was invaluable.

 Gain expert support – Only properties that meet the World Heritage criteria for Outstanding Universal Value can be considered for inscription. The NPS and the park leadership contributed their expertise behind the effort to nominate the missions. They helped convene an experts meeting 2012 to help frame the argument for World Heritage designation. They also hired an professional in preparing the dossier for presentation to the World Heritage Committee.

Anticipate the Management Plan – Just as challenging in many ways as making the case for Outstanding Universal Value is developing a credible management plan for the resource. Particular difficult is to develop a buffer to zone to protect the property. While this might be easier in a discrete historic sites, the missions located in a complex urban and rural with multiple property owners. What made the management plan for the resource credible was all the historic preservation land use controls that had been implemented for the region over the last several decades.

Be prepared to spend money – A World Heritage nomination is a pricey document. While the San Antonio supporter raised several hundred thousand dollars, they estimate that over half a million in in kind services were contributed to the effort. These included a NPS expert staff position In addition, much of lead writer and historian’s time was donated as well a, student interns and untold volunteer hours from the friends group and the Conservation Society helped reduce the costs.

After designation the real work begins! – After a site is listed what is next? In San Antonio a community where tourism is economic development; the promotional opportunities of the designation are very important. However, the community is also using the designation to deepen their connection to the past and the heritage of its diverse citizens. To learn more about ongoing programing on the World Heritage at the missions, visit the excellent San Antonio Missions Word Heritage *Our Heritage web site. 

Many thanks to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park staff Susan Snow who serves as the site’s World Heritage Coordinator and  to Tom Costanos, Volunteer and Partnership Coordinator, both of whom gave generously of their time. All the wise words were from them, any errors are mine!

 

 

 

 

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World Heritage Sites in the United States

By Brenda Barrett January 29, 2015
Credit: National Park Service

Papahanaumokuakea World Heritage Site. Credit: NPS

Quickly now, how many World Heritage Sites are in the United States? Well, there are twenty-two most administered by the National Park Service (NPS). The others are managed by various other interests – states, private foundations, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and an Indian tribe. The United States and Canada jointly nominated two World Heritage Sites: Waterton-Glacier and Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek/Kluane. The most recent World Heritage inscription was for Poverty Point in Louisiana, which was voted on in the fall of 2014 in Doha Qatar. For more information on all the U.S. World Heritage Sites visit the National Park Service’s web site.

Why is recognition as a World Heritage site important? The motivations vary from country to country, but include such factors as national pride and of course the economic value of increased attention and tourism. In the past, the U.S. involvement the program has not been touted. A site’s World Heritage status was only recognized in the fine print in a brochure or by a small plaque. However, this is changing. Along with the updated web site on World Heritage, the NPS has recently developed a new travel itinerary for the World Heritage Sites in the United States. The itinerary provides a description of the heritage values of each of the properties and offers information on how to plan your visit. And for younger visitors, they can become a ” World Heritage in the United State  Junior Ranger.

Credit: Susan Guice

The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point. Photo by Susan Guice, courtesy NPS Office of International Affairs

Today there is growing interest in achieving World Heritage designation for more places in the United States. And we can certainly ask for more, after all, Mexico has 32 sites and even Cuba has 9! So how do properties advance through the process and what sites will be next? Well one way to see what might be coming up is to look at the tentative list, see World Heritage in the United States: The U.S. Tentative List 2008. This report presents the tentative list as of that date and describes the criteria and process for inscription of potential new sites. As for the future, the NPS has announced that it is in the process of developing the next tentative list with a target date of 2016. This is a great opportunity for the public to be engaged in identifying what they think is worthy of World Heritage designation and to build greater knowledge of the program.

And awareness of World Heritage is very important as the program is at a critical juncture in the United States, but that is another story. Read more about this in US World Heritage Program at Risk.  In the meantime many thanks to the NPS for running a great promotional campaign and special Junior Ranger badges to all who support this effort!

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Compare and Contrast: ICOMOS General Assembly and World Parks Conference

By Brenda Barrett November 30, 2014
Photograph Courtesy of Rolf Diamant

Ponte Vecchio in Florence Italy, site of the recent ICOMOS general assembly. Photo by Rolf Diamant.

Last month (November 2014) was a very busy moment for World Heritage. At almost the same time, but half way around the globe, ICOMOS held their 18th triennial General Assembly in Florence Italy and IUCN held their once in a decade gathering the World Parks Congress in Sydney Australia.* A few enterprising individuals managed to make an appearance at both meetings, but as is often the case the forces of culture and the forces of nature were far, far apart.

The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 was a landmark global forum on protected areas. The Congress shared knowledge and innovation and helped set the agenda for protected area conservation for the decade to come. Building on the theme “Parks, People, Planet: Inspiring Solutions,” the gathering presented, discussed and created original approaches for conservation and development and focused on how to address the gap in the world’s conservation and sustainable development agenda.

The ICOMOS 18th General Assembly had as its theme “Heritage and Landscapes as Human Values.” The conference presented a series of scientific symposiums, re-examined earlier foundation documents, such as the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (known as the Venice Charter) originally adopted in 1964, and the original 1994 Nara Charter was reconsidered with a new document “Nara + 20: On Heritage Practices, Cultural Value, And The Concept Of Authenticity.”

So what was similar about the two meetings? Well, both were gatherings of experts in the field of culture and nature from around the world with the shared mission of how to best conserve our global heritage. At both meetings, there was recognition of the role of sustainable economic development and of people in any conservation paradigm.

 

Photograph Brenda Barrett

Harbor Bridge in Sydney Australia, site of the recent IUCN Word Parks Congress. Photo by Brenda Barrett.

Both had multiple sessions on the importance of traditional knowledge and specifically on traditional ecological knowledge as the basis for balanced and innovative conservation programs. And finally both meetings recognized the central role of landscape as a framework for both cultural and natural resources.

What was different was scale. Over 6,000 attendees, primarily protected area managers, journeyed to Sydney, while the ICOMOS meeting in Florence only drew about 1,000 registrants. Also different was the level of international attention garnered by the two meetings. While the Florence meeting seemed to have good coverage in the Italian press, the World Parks conference garnered an opinion piece on the front page of the editorial section in the Sunday New York Times written by no less a personage than Thomas Friedman. See Stampeding Black Elephants  from the November 23, 2014 edition.

Is it any wonder that ICOMOS is very enthusiastic about the joint initiative with IUCN titled Connecting Practices. This has been established with the stated purpose of providing an opportunity for exploring how to form a more genuinely integrated consideration of natural and cultural heritage under the World Heritage Convention – ‘bridging the divide’ that is often observed between nature and culture.

With so many areas of common interest, the effort should be off to a good start.

* A quick primer on the two organizations: IUCN, short for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, http://www.iucn.org was established in 1948 to create a communication network for environmental conservationists across the globe. ICOMOS, the International Council of Sites and Museums http://www.icomos.org/en/ was founded in 1965 to work for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places. It is a global non-government organization dedicated to promoting the application of theory, methodology, and scientific techniques to the conservation of the architectural and archaeological heritage.

Both organizations have a responsibility in an advisory role to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (secretariat of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention) for the evaluation and monitoring of World Heritage Sites.

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World Heritage Committee Match Up in Doha Qatar

By Brenda Barrett July 1, 2014
Credit: Maximilian Dornhecker (Cartographer)

Map of the Earthworks at Poverty Point. Credit: Maximilian Dornhecker (Cartographer)

While not as closely watched as the World Cup in Brazil, for those who care about international heritage the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar (June 15-25, 2014)  was an important event. Among the highlights were the inscriptions of the 1,000th World Heritage Site, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and Myanmar’s first property on the World Heritage List. During its ten-day meet up, the Committee added a total of 26 new sites the List to bring the number of World Heritage Sites to 1007, in 161 countries.

Representatives from the United States (US) were there to follow the voting on the Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point. This was country’s first  World Heritage nomination since the US   withdrew the its support for UNESCO. See US World Heritage Program at Risk  Score one for team US.  On June 22, 2014, the nomination for Poverty Point was inscribed as the 1,001st property on the World Heritage List.

(However, see the comment below – it turns out it was a very close game!)

Listed under Criteria iii, the site was determined to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared. The monumental prehistoric earthwork complex is located in Louisiana’s Lower Mississippi Valley. It was part of a trading network 3,000 years ago that stretched hundreds of miles across the North American continent. Poverty Point is a remarkable system of monumental mounds and ridges that were built into the landscape for residential and ceremonial use by a sophisticated society of hunter-fisher-gatherers. It is a masterpiece of engineering from its time as the major political, trading, and ceremonial center of North America.

Not scoring so well was Australia; although the committee deferred for 12 months a decision on whether to place Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the Committee expressed concerns over planned coastal developments, including development of ports and liquefied natural gas facilities. It asked Australia to submit an updated report on the state of conservation of the reef by 1 February 2015. In addition the World Heritage Committee rejected the Australian Government ‘s proposal to delist 74,000 of hectares from the boundaries of the Tasmanian Wilderness. It was reported that the current government of Australia lobbied the delegates in Doha unsuccessfully to get more flexibility in the management of these iconic resources.http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/confused-grief-over-great-barrier-reef/story-e6frgd0x-1226961709198

Scoring points for good deeds was the host state of Qatar. The Prime Minister of Qatar opened the meeting by announcing a donation to the World Heritage Center of $10 million to establish a new fund to assist World Heritage sites affected by conflict or natural disaster. He called on “all of the states in the big World Heritage family” to contribute to this fund. To see some the challenges view Culture under Attack: A Photo Exhibition on Cultural Heritage and Armed Conflict.

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Our Predictions for Living Landscapes in 2013: How Did We Do?

By Brenda Barrett January 2, 2014

Last December, the Living Landscape Observer ventured a few predictions for the coming year of 2013. So looking backward, how did we do? Let’s answer the question.

1. The large landscape movement will continue to expand. With no big change in course at the national level the landscape scale programs at the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management will continue to grow and prosper. The America Great Outdoors initiative will frame the work of the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service will issue guidance on how to “Scale Up” efforts around National Park Units. On the private side, conservation organizations will come together around the new Large Landscape Practitioners Network.

Answer: Yes, we were right on! Sally Jewell the new Secretary of Department of the Interior is just as committed to the large landscape approach as former Secretary Ken Salazar: highlighting large landscape efforts US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, encouraging the National parks to Scale Up and issuing departmental Order 3330 “On Improving Mitigation Policies” in part through landscape scale planning . On the nongovernmental side, a new web site to connect large landscape practitioners is launching in the New Year.

2. National Heritage Areas will be pulled back from the brink. One of the country’s premier large landscape programs, the National Heritage Areas, are in a precarious position. The twelve original areas are facing a loss of funding and most of the newer areas are severely underfunded. We predict the program will be rescued, but remain unsure on whether much needed program legislation will be passed.

Answer: Just barely, but nobody is a winner in this game of chicken. In 2013 the sequester followed by the government shutdown played havoc with all protected area programs. National Heritage Areas were particularly hard hit. For example, the future of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is very problematic. Once a shining example of public private partnership, it is struggling to keep the doors open, more on this story in the coming months.

3. The concept of cultural landscapes will be revitalized. New ideas about cultural landscapes including Indigenous Cultural Landscapes and Historic Urban Landscapes are attracting new and diverse audiences, including the conservation community, regional planners and urban developers. Look for these approaches to proliferate and shake up traditional concepts of cultural significance. Just one example of new ways to think about landscape is what’s happening at the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge.

Answer: On track to succeed, the National Park Service launched a series of initiatives to rethink the meaning of cultural landscapes in the National Register program. For more information on another innovative idea, the Indigenous Cultural Landscape Initiative, see our post on the sessions at the George Wright Conference in March of 2013.

4. The Gullah Geechee National Heritage Corridor will be in the spotlight. This is a given – after all the Commission has been honored by an invitation to march in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade on January 21, 2013. With a newly completed Management Action Plan, this should be an important year for the preservation of this national treasure. See our post on the Gullah Geechee National Heritage Corridor.

Answer: Congratulations to the Gullah Geechee Corridor for their strong promotional efforts in 2013. These include offering banners and highways signs for the region and advancing awareness of the corridor through gubernatorial proclamations. Despite limited funding and the budget woes of their National Park partner, the corridor is moving forward. The observer covered the float in the Inaugural Parade , the new Gullah Geechee Commission and the challenges of community conservation on Sapelo Island. Despite limited funding and the budget woes of their National Park partner, the corridor is moving forward. The next step, a nationwide search is on for the corridor’s first executive director.

Also in 2013:

Not predicted, but we all should have seen it coming, was the United States’ defunding of UNESCO and the impact this has on the World Heritage program . Just when there is a popular ground swell of interest in World Heritage designation in places as disparate as San Antonio, Texas and southern Ohio, the United States has stepped back. Follow this issue thanks to the work of Preservation Action.

The Living Landscape Observer predicts that there is plenty of unfinished work for 2014. What do you think?

 

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The World Heritage Convention and the National Park Service

By Guest Observer June 28, 2013

Peter Stott wrote the following commentary as the conclusion to a series of three essays on the role of the National Park Service in the World Heritage Convention.  The essays were published in successive issues of the George Wright Forum 28:3 (2011), pp.279-290; 29:1 (2012) , pp.148-175; and 30:1 (2013) pp.18-44. This epilogue provides a strong case for the value of the United State’s (US) participation in the World Heritage Convention. It is reprinted with the permission and support of the George Wright Society.

The World Heritage Convention and the National Park Service

Epilogue: Into the next half-century

As the last of this series of essays comes to an end, it seems fitting to restate the original intention of the United States in proposing the convention. Conservation was the original goal, as first articulated by the convention’s US proponents; identification of sites with outstanding universal value was the means to that end, not the goal. The emphasis on conservation must remain the convention’s true aim and the US implementation of it. Based on the foregoing review of the Park Service’s role in the convention, the writer offers some thoughts on the US role in the convention in the next half century.

The 2011 admission of Palestine as a member state of UNESCO (and a state party to the convention) has triggered two US laws from the 1990s prohibiting the US payment of dues to UNESCO or to the World Heritage Fund. While the non-payment of dues may not affect the ability of the US to vote in the General Assembly, it would limit the effectiveness of any moral leadership the US might try to exercise. The international suggestions below assume that this state of affairs is of no long duration.

View of Yosemite National Park, a world heritage site in the United States. Photo by Dan Stern.

View of Yosemite National Park, a world heritage site in the United States. Photo by Dan Stern.

Concerning the World Heritage Committee: Since its most recent service on the com­mittee ended in 2009, the US has remained an active participant in World Heritage meetings. A fully engaged US delegation can continue to help guide the convention’s development, whether as observer or as a member of the committee. In the absence of a strong chair, or articulate members, it takes very little to prevent the committee from taking a “course of least resistance” in making its decisions, often adopting politically motivated decisions in opposition to advisory body recommendations, its Operational Guidelines, or even its own Rules of Procedure. But as this history has shown, any display of intellectual rigor or institutional memory by a committee member (or in some cases by an observer delegation) is often picked up by other members and can change the direction of discussion. The US and other delegations that care about the conservation goals and the integrity of the convention must be vigilant.

The biennial election of committee members at the General Assembly could be more effectively used to ensure that candidates are focused on conservation rather than on the national self-interest. While the US never announces in advance its voting decisions, it can, with like-minded states, announce that it will only vote for those candidates that publicly pledge to put forward no nominations of sites in their own territories during their mandates (the US itself made this pledge when it ran for election to the committee in 2005). The US could also make it clear that states which pledge to give a role to heritage experts (as required by the convention) would be favored. Both expectations were recommendations of the 2011 audit discussed above.54

World Heritage expert meetings in the United States: Over the years, many countries have sponsored expert meetings to foster exchanges on specific technical subjects. An occasional expert meeting hosted at a relevant US World Heritage site would not only be a significant contribution to the World Heritage community, it could also give US site managers and their staffs a role in, and the experience of, international meetings. Possible topics might include those the US and Canada have already expressed an interest in, at the time of the 2005 Periodic Report: how to recognize the importance of local populations residing within and/or adjacent to natural World Heritage sites; or a discussion of guidelines for evaluating visual impacts on World Heritage properties.

Concerning bilateral partnerships: In creating the Office of International Affairs in 1961, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall explicitly recognized the role that the National Park Service should play in sharing its expertise with other countries. “We must,” he said, invoking the European phrase of the moment, “establish a Common Market of conservation knowledge and endeavor.”55 Nearly a half century later, this commitment was reiterated in the final report of the National Parks Second Century Commission, the blue-ribbon panel commissioned for the upcoming National Park Service centennial in 2016.56 As the National Park Service embarks on its second half-century in international cooperation, it must continue to renew its bilateral relationships, which are mutually beneficial both to NPS and to its resource management partners in other countries.

One of the founding programs in bilateral relations was the International Short Course in the Administration of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves. “That was one tangible element of leadership,” former Assistant NPS Director for Natural Resources Mike Soukup recalled, “that was unmistakably successful. Throughout my career whenever I met with foreign Park people, they would say to me, ‘You need to put that back together. That was so important to my career . .. to my country .. . to the world, that you had that course available and funded’ … That’s the one thing we could do internationally,” Soukup said, “that would restore a healthy leadership position for the Park Service and for the nation, in the eyes of a tremendous amount of people around the world.”57

The second program that should be restarted is the cooperative program with the Peace Corps. For over a quarter of a century, between 1972 and 2000, the National Park Service had an active partnership with the Peace Corps to assist other nations in developing national parks, providing training to Peace Corps volunteers in park planning, management, and interpretation. In an era of disengagement, the program was allowed to expire in 2001. With the support of USAID, it should be renewed.

Concerning US World Heritage sites: The network of World Heritage sites in the US needs to be reinforced. Site managers attending the 1992 Santa Fe meeting have repeatedly stressed how important the meeting was to them, and how beneficial the subsequent meetings. Both Dick Ring, former superintendent of Everglades, and Dave Mihalic, former superintendent of Glacier, recalled the loss of institutional knowledge that was inherent in the movement of site managers around the park system. “The best thing about [the Santa Fe] meeting,” Mihalic said, “was the fact that all the mangers were able to get in one place, including the non-Park Service sites—the Cahokia Mounds, Monticello managers—and not just to understand things all at the same time. But it was a great way to start thinking in a bigger picture, more strategic manner.”58 “It would be enormously valuable,” Ring said, “to see some resources set aside to support the convening of the US World Heritage site managers.” These network activities, Ring added, could also reinforce the international goals of the Park Service: “It would be very easy to make sure that whenever there is a convening of US managers, that there is an invitation extended to the hemisphere or thematically to similar sites around the world to make a focus, and to invite those folks in, and help support bringing them there.”59

Concerning nomination of future World Heritage sites in the United States. Recalling the original goals of the convention, and its emphasis on outstanding universal value and conservation, the US must decide its own course, regardless of the decisions taken by other countries, concerning the composition of the List of World Heritage sites in the United States. The US should seriously consider what a potentially finite number of World Heritage sites in the US would look like. The list of natural World Heritage sites in the US seems well on its way toward fully representing natural biogeographic provinces, but what cultural heritage sites uniquely represent US history and pre-history? (If natural sites represent important biogeographic provinces, what analogous cultural themes should be represented by cultural properties?) Will it simply be a more rarified list of thousands of national historic landmarks? Or does “outstanding universal value” have a more substantive meaning? This is not a process that lends itself to volunteer, grassroots proposals. A rigorous discussion and analysis should identify defining historical themes, and only then examine how those themes might be best represented. The US already has management and legal provisions that set the country apart from the way all others manage World Heritage nominations; policies that adhere to a unified and substantive interpretation of outstanding universal value is a logical extension of those management requirements. But there is no inherent urgency to the inscription of World Heritage sites: a good candidate will always be eligible, whether its nomination comes one year, twenty years, or fifty years from now.

Endnotes

54. Recommendations 11 and 12, “Final Report of the Audit of the Global Strategy and the PACT Initiative,” (2011), UNESCO Working Document WHC-11/18.GA/INF.8.

55. Stewart L. Udall, “Nature Islands for the World,” keynote address to the First World Conference on National Parks, in First World Conference on National Parks, Alexander B. Adams, ed. (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1962), pp. 1-10.

56. National Parks Second Century Commission. Advancing the National Park Idea: Na­tional Parks Second Century Commission Report (Washington, DC: National Parks Con­servation Association, 2009), p. 24.

57. Mike Soukup interview, 27 July 2009.

58. Dave Mihalic interview, 18 February 2010.

59. Dick Ring interview, 10 July 2009.

Peter Stott was formerly (1996-2006) a staff member of the World Heritage Committee’s secretariat, the World Heritage Centre at UNESCO in Paris. Prior to his time at the Centre, between 1992 and 1995, he attended the World Heritage Committee sessions and wrote a nightly e-mail “blog” (before the term existed), as an observer affiliated with ICOMOS, He is currently a preservation planner at the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

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US World Heritage Program at Risk

By Brenda Barrett May 30, 2013

Statue of LibertyOnce upon a time the United States was a leader in establishing the World Heritage Convention for the preservation of natural and cultural heritage. The U.S. was the first signatory in 1973.  In 1978, the US hosted the first session of the World Heritage Committee at which sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List. Today, virtually all the countries of the world have signed on, making it the most universal of international legal instruments. As of May 2013, there are 936 World Heritage Sites  in 150 countries: 21 are in the U.S. Read about the history of World Heritage in a recent article in the George Wright Forum.

In October of 2011, the United States halted payment of its dues to UNESCO, following its admission of Palestine as a member state.  Under U.S. law, the government is required to withhold funding to any international body that recognizes Palestine.  This affects our country’s ability to cooperate in scientific and technological matters, and to participate in educational and cultural opportunities with other nations. One of the most visible UNESCO benefits to the U.S. is our participation in the World Heritage program.

Efforts are underway to seek a legislative remedy that will allow the U.S. to resume making contributions to UNESCO, but time is running out.  This fall the U.S. will lose its vote in UNESCO’s General Conference, the organization’s main governing body. Once that happens continued US involvement in UNESCO will be brought into question. There are concerns that if the U.S. submits World Heritage nominations, vote-less in the main body and in arrears, they may not receive fair consideration.  At this time the U.S. has nominated one site for consideration, Poverty Point , an archeological site in northeastern Louisiana built 3,500 years ago by a hunter-gatherer culture, and two for nomination: the Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright (10 of the master architects key buildings in 6 states), and the Franciscan Missions of San Antonio, including the Alamo, in Texas. See the Living Landscape Observers post Let’s Shout Out for World Heritage.

What’s at stake?  In San Antonio jobs are at the top of the list. In addition to the prestige of being recognized by the international community, the World Heritage label draws tourism and economic development to surrounding communities.  “San Antonio faces an incredible opportunity to achieve World Heritage Site designation for its beloved Missions, while significantly increasing economic benefits for the region,” said National Parks and Conservation Association Texas Regional Director Suzanne Dixon. “Unfortunately, that opportunity is in jeopardy as the United States is currently withholding payment of its UNESCO dues. We absolutely cannot let politics derail this for the city and our country as a whole. This designation means over 1,000 additional jobs and over $100 million in additional economic activity – a legislative remedy must be sought.”

In most parts of the world, an inscription on the World Heritage List is viewed as akin to winning an Olympic Medal or the Nobel Prize. It is in our national and economic interests to have our sites in the running and one cannot compete sitting on the sidelines.

(The author would like to thank the National Park Service and Susan Dixon from NPCA for contributing information to this article)

 

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UNESCO adds 26 new World Heritage Sites

By Eleanor Mahoney August 15, 2012
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Let’s Give a Shout Out to World Heritage

By Brenda Barrett June 27, 2012

Mission San Jose in San Antonio TexasIn most countries inscription on the World Heritage list is highly prized. Designation is seen as bringing honor, recognition, and tourists to a nation’s most outstanding historic and scenic sites.  For this reason, many countries vie to increase the numbers of properties that are imprinted with the World Heritage brand.   This has not been the case in the United States – quick – name three US properties on the world heritage list: Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Monticello, yes, Mount Vernon actually no. To see a list of the 21 World Heritage sites in the US go here.

But perhaps the American perception of the value of World Heritage designation is changing.  Let me tell you what happened earlier in June at the usually staid US/ICOMOS annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas.  US/ICOMOS is one of over 100 National Committees with a formal role in the nomination and protection of World Heritage Sites and as a national committee provides technical advice to UNESCO’s on World Heritage issues.  The purpose of this year’s US/ICOMOS conference was to consider the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention featuring multiple scholarly presentations and behind the scene tours with the curators of the region’s heritage sites.

However, the US/ICOMOS conference dinner in celebration the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention had a different vibe. Keynote speaker, US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, brought a Texas crowd to it feet hooting and hollering when he announced his support for designating the San Antonio Missions as a World Heritage sites.  While this might have been a little disconcerting to conference attendees and to the other candidates for World Heritage status also attending the meeting, this extra enthusiastic response might be a sign of the rising cachet of World Heritage designation in this country. Read the press release here.

According to a recent article  in the George Wright Forum, from 1960 through its ratification in 1972, the United States played a leadership role in developing the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the “World Heritage Convention”). Today this document has become one of the most widely recognized international environmental agreements in history and has been ratified by almost every nation on the globe. In the United States, however, the World Heritage Convention has come under increasing attack. During the Reagan Administration, the U.S. withdrew its support from UNESCO, the larger entity that oversees World Heritage designations. Congress also passed legislation requiring 100% owner consent to any world heritage listing, which rules out the designation of large cultural landscapes. And right now, the U.S. has again withdrawn financial support to UNESCO because of the organization’s vote to grant membership to Palestine.

Given this history, it is very heartening to see such a ground swell of interest in the idea of World Heritage and in Texas to boot! Supporters of the designation for the San Antonio Missions report that 80% of the local community is in favor of the nomination. The elected officials, the San Antonio River Authority, and most importantly the venerable San Antonio Conservation Society are all on board with idea. The Spanish ICOMOS National Committee also has offered to help with documentation requirements. Okay, so the number of fans for designating the San Antonio Missions as a World Heritage Site wouldn’t fill Long Horn Stadium, but it is a start.

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