Our Mission

To provide observations and information on the emerging fields of landscape scale conservation, heritage preservation, and sustainable community development.

About Us
the observer


Stay up-to-date with the latest nature, culture and community news.


We won’t spam you or share your information. Newsletters are sent approximately 10 times a year. Unsubscribe at any time.

Popular Posts
Get Involved

December 2013

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives create National Council
A National Council of interagency, tribal and non-governmental representatives has been named to provide national-level coordination and support for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC). Serving as the national voice for the LCC network, the Council will seek to support actions that can be taken at the national level to facilitate the work of the cooperatives.

Articles Sought on Climate Change and Cultural Landscapes Change Over Time  is a semiannual journal publishing original articles on the history, theory, and praxis of conservation and the built environment. Each issue is dedicated to a particular theme as a method to promote critical discourse on contemporary conservation issues from multiple perspectives both within the field and across disciplines. Currently, the journal is seeking articles on the impact of climate change on significant cultural landscapes for an upcoming issue. The deadline for the articles is September 1, 2014. Questions and submissions should be sent to Meredith Keller cot@design.upenn.edu.

Abandoned Building and Industrial Landscapes
recent piece from the Huffington Post on the debate over abandoned buildings and their potential for exploitation by sight seers and others.

November 2013
Secretary Jewell highlights Collaborative Landscape Level Work to Preserve Longleaf Habitat in Southeastern USDuring a recent visit to the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell highlighted locally-led efforts to conserve nearly 4,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat. Jewell called the effort a “model of public-private partnerships aimed at collaborative, landscape level conservation” and also cited it as a reason for Congress to pass full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Learn more here.

New Director at National Parks Conservation Association
In November, the National Parks Conservation Association announced it had hired former Discovery Channel executive Clark Bunting as its new president. Bunting will replace former NPCA President Tom Kiernan, who left the group in April to lead the American Wind Energy Association.

New Tool for Mapping Urban Landscapes
Mapping software and some creative thinking demonstrate new ways to look at the built environment in cities by visually representing the age of all the buildings.

Landscape-scale Mitigation Directive
Interior Sec. Sally Jewell recently issued a directive calling for a “landscape-scale” approach to mitigating the environmental impacts of major highway, water, energy and other infrastructure development projects. Read more.

October 2013

Senator Coburn (R-OK) Issues Report on State of the National Park Service
Read the report and check out commentary on the National Parks Traveler website

September 2013

Pullman Moves Closer to Becoming National Park
In the early 1880’s, George Pullman set out to build his vision of a model community in the prairie outside Chicago. Here in the town of Pullman, workers employed by his Palace Car Company would enjoy a high standard of living and, Pullman hoped, reject membership in the region’s growing labor movement. Within a decade of construction however, workers organized with the American Railway Union, striking in 1894 as part of a national wave of labor militancy. The town and its residents also played significant roles in African American labor history and in the history of planning and urban design. Read more about efforts to gain designation.

Nation’s First Urban Wildlife Partnership in Baltimore
Masonville Cove, a stretch of industrial waterfront, is now the nation’s first “urban wildlife refuge partnership.” The cooperative initiative is part the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to reach out to new and diverse communities. Read more.

The Impact of the Impending Government Shutdown on National Parks and Surrounding Communities
National parks could see a loss of more than 750,000 daily visitors and an economic loss to gateway communities of as much as $30 million for each day the parks are closed. Read more.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Living Legacy Tree Planting Project
The Legacy Tree Planing Project commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War.Through this program, one tree will be planted for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died during the conflict. Upon completion, the Living Legacy Project will create the first 180-mile landscaped allée in the world and the only allée dedicated to memorializing the American Civil War. Phase One kicked off in November 2012, with trees being planted at Oatlands Historic Home. 

Industrial Heritage Sessions Planned at the National Trust Meeting in Indianapolis October 29-November 2, 2013

Classroom and field sessions will help you make the right choices about preserving these diverse sites that tell the story of American industry.

Listed below are the industrial heritage sessions. Click here for session details.

• Industrial Heritage Preservation an Advanced Primer

• Industrial Restoration: Making the Impossible Possible

• Policy and Preservation: Solving Unintended Consequences of Regulation and Incentives

• Preserving Product and Process: Living Cultural Landscapes within the Policy Framework

• Nuts & Bolts of Industrial Reuse

• Carroll County: Bridges to the Past

• Indiana’s Limestone Industry: Contemporary Operations and Historic Sites

New Series Feature National Heritage Areas (NHAs) – There are currently 49 NHAs spanning hundreds of thousands of acres in 32 states, and representing diverse communities and cultures. The National Parks and Conservation Association is profiling NHAs across the country build awareness of this program. Check out all of the stories and subscribe to the Park Advocate to learn more.

August 2013

New World Heritage Website – Preservation Action, the nation’s grassroots advocacy organization for historic preservation, has launched a New Online Resource focused on UNESCO and World Heritage. The site provides information on the latest advocacy efforts in Congress, including a one-page briefing paper. It features an interactive map of U.S. World Heritage Sites and links to two sites on the U.S. tentative list for World Heritage designation: Poverty Point in Louisiana and the San Antonio Missions in Texas.

North Dakota Proposal Dedicate Oil Money to Conservation – Conservation advocates are resurrecting a proposed ballot initiative that would set aside a bigger slice of North Dakota’s mushrooming oil revenues for an outdoor heritage fund. Advocates say the landscape in North Dakota is under unprecedented pressure from oil and gas development and a loss of land dedicated to wildlife habitat because of high market prices that are encouraging more crop production. Read more.

Carrie Furnaces Photo Exhibit – A new exhibit captures various perspectives of Carrie Furnaces, two rare pre-World War II blast furnaces that produced iron for the Homestead Steel Works in Pennsylvania. See some of the images here.

New Interview with Secretary Jewell – On a trip to the Pacific Northwest, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell reflects on some positives and negatives of her position.

National Trust for Historic Preservation 11 Most Endangered Places – In case you missed it last month, the NTHP’s list of most endangered places includes the James River in Virginia, the third oldest African American meeting house in the nation in Maine and historic rural schools in Montana.

July 2013

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA included a provision in the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill to pay the U.S.’s World Heritage Fund dues. The bill with this amendment cleared the Appropriations Committee on Thursday July 25. This action could help clear the path for the Poverty Point Archeological Site in Louisiana to become inscribed as a World Heritage Site.

The conservation of two significant Scottish landscapes and efforts to encourage more people to find their place in them are being supported by grants of more than £3 million.

NOAA has published a special issue of its magazine Sanctuaries focused on the relationship between Marine Protected Areas and Tribal and Indigenous people

China’s People Daily Online has been running a series of World Heritage sites, read about the West Lake Cultural landscape of Hangzhou below:

The Arts on Fire Festival brings the historic Iron Furnaces in Scranton Pennsylvania to life casting iron and making art. A collaborative project that includes Keystone College, the Anthracite Heritage Museum as well as arts organizations and programs for at risk youth. Many thanks to Natalie Gelb at the Lackawanna Valley Heritage Authority (a National and State heritage Area) for sharing this video!

June 2013

The Mount Etna volcano and Italy’s Medici Villas were among 19 sites that have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list of places of “outstanding universal value”. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) The World Heritage Committee, meeting in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for its 37th annual session, added five natural sites and 14 cultural ones on Sunday to its list of global treasures.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell paddled in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor last month.

Even from far across the completely revamped space that was once the Chesapeake Bay gallery, a series of unusually large landscape views by famed photographer Ansel Adams grabs your attention with three riveting river channels that swoop and curve. Learn more about the exhibit.

In Australia, the Greens will introduce legislation to protect national parks from state government-backed grazing and logging in the Senate on Monday. The party will move to list national parks as areas of national environmental significance, giving them the same protection as threatened species and World Heritage Areas.

May 2013

Update on the Gullah Geechee National Cultural Heritage Corridor – On May 6, 2013 the  corridor reached an important milestone when  the Secretary of the Interior approved the management plan including expanded boundaries that stretch down to St. Augustine Florida.

Also good new and well deserved was the recognition of Michael Allen, the corridor’s National Park Service liaison, with the 2013 South Carolina Historic Preservation Governor’s Award.  Governor Nikki R. Haley will present the award on June 11.

Landscape Saved by Song– Catskill Cultural Center Saved, and Renewed, Thanks to a Fiddler’s Tune from the New York Times

 Mountain to Sound Greenway  -Bipartisan bill introduced to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust as a National Heritage Area from the Issaquah Press

Land Conservation

Company developing nation’s largest conservancy in central Wyoming Read more in the Billings Gazette

Return of a Sacred Site: Taos Land Trust New Mexico from the Land Trust Alliance

April 2013

Engaging Independent Perspectives for a 21st-Century National Park System The approaching centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 presents an opportunity to connect all Americans with the National Park System places and programs. Start reading the latest report of the National Park System Advisory Board…more to come in the May issue of the Living landscape Observer.

Sally Jewell Sworn in as Secretary of the Interior Jewell was officially sworn in on Friday, April 12 at the Supreme Court of the United States. Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor administered the oath of office. O’Connor and Jewell worked together on the National Parks Second Century Commission, an independent commission charged with developing a twenty-first century vision for the National Park Service.

Maya Lin’s New Memorial is a City in the New York Times – Lin’s latest show focuses on Manhattan and its surrounding landscape, environmental history and waterways. Her work is always inspiring work. Be sure to visit the installation on her web site.

Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission to meet in Conway – The four-state Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission will hold its second quarterly meeting at 9 a.m. May 17 at Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 504 Church St. in Conway. The public is invited.

March 2013

The Gullah Geechee Commission is now accepting nominations for Commissioners from the Moultrie News

A new economic impact study indicates National Heritage Areas (NHAs) contribute $12.9 billion annually to the national economy. The economic benefits of NHAs are realized primarily through tourism and visitation. Each NHA coordinating entity serves as a catalyst for economic development within the regions they operate. Read the full report for information on the six case study NHAs here.

A free-market path to land conservation in the West? Learn more in a recent New York Times article.

How a program to fund parks in Washington State with a visitor pass fell short in filling the gaps caused by dramatic cuts in state support from the Seattle Times

February 2013

The imminent budget sequestration will likely have significant impacts on a variety of programs related to living landscapes. Here are a few places to learn more about what could happen –

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) on how the sequester could hurt local economies in and around NPS units.

An article on cuts to the National Parks from the Washington Post

Story on Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, picked by President Obama as nominee for secretary of the Interior from the Huffington Post

December 2012

Some impacts going over the “fiscal cliff” could have on natural resource conservation from High Country News

Historic Preservation funds included as key part of Sandy rebuilding efforts from Preservation Action

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area Seeks to Extend Lease of 2 State Parks from the Yuma Sun