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The U.S. Biosphere Reserve Program: Can the challenges of the past contribute to the resiliency of the future?

By Guest Observer October 25, 2015


Big Bend National Park: A Biosphere Reserve

Big Bend National Park: A Biosphere Reserve

It is easy to acknowledge our current state in UNESCO’s international Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program, but neglect to see how we got to this point. As one of the innovators in large landscape conservation, biosphere reserves paved the path for many future landscape-scale efforts over the past several decades. Yet, most people in the United States are unfamiliar with the term, biosphere reserve, or assume the program has dissolved because of its long period of inactivity. While many countries’ biosphere programs have grown around the world, the United States’ relationship with the MAB program has been quite tumultuous. Serving as a role model in the international program in the 80s and 90s, the U.S. program’s reputation was quickly transformed by the skepticism of a few vocal groups worried about land sovereignty and any program associated with the United Nations among other challenges. While this contributed to the downfall of the U.S. program, it is important to look at the evolution of the program instead of just a snapshot in time. For example, there were many factors that contributed and inhibited the success of the program at the beginning and these differed from challenges faced decades later.

Big Bend National Park: A Biospehere Reserve

Big Bend National Park: A Biospehere Reserve

While the biosphere program now coexists among many newer large landscape initiatives, their significance continues to serve as a foundation for other efforts. The long history and evolution of the biosphere reserve program can offer lessons learned for many of these new initiatives such as identifying obstacles to anticipate and offering strategies to overcome these governance challenges. In addition, biosphere reserves’ long history has created an invaluable network of relationships that have strengthened over the past several decades, which serve as a key benefit for newly emerging collaborative efforts.

In a recent attempt to revive the U.S. biosphere reserve program over the past year, there is a renewed enthusiasm for the U.S. to reengage with the international network. However, with a decade of inactivity the U.S. has a long road ahead to rebuild the image of the biosphere reserve concept and gain the necessary support at the local, regional, and national levels. Some of the recent activities have included reestablishing the U.S. National MAB Committee, individual units submitting reviews to UNESCO to maintain their biosphere reserve designation, and engaging in international meetings with MAB constituents. Additionally, Biosphere Associates has emerged as an organization this past spring as a forum for professionals to collaborate on biosphere reserve efforts. Some of these efforts include creating an information-sharing platform, gaining a better understanding of the needs and perceptions of the individual biosphere reserve units, strengthening international partnerships, and supporting the efforts of the National Committee.

It is through these voluntary efforts and support that maintains the momentum for the U.S. to once again become an active participant in the international MAB network. For the program to reach its full potential, the U.S. program needs to learn from its history and also from other large landscape conservation efforts. Quoting from George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” For the success of the U.S. biosphere reserve program and new large landscape initiatives, let us learn from the past to anticipate and actively respond to challenges in order to create a more resilient future.

The author Jennifer Thomsen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Society and Conservation at the University of Montana. She has done research that involved biosphere reserve units in the U.S., serves on the U.S. National MAB Committee, and is leading the working groups in Biosphere Associates. Her research interests focus on large landscape conservation and stakeholder collaboration. To get involved in biosphere reserve efforts or if you have any questions, contact Jennifer at jennifer.thomsen@umontana.


Invisible Landscapes: Why Historic Site Interpretation is Needed for Today’s Narrative

By Guest Observer October 20, 2015
Mulberry Row Slave Quarter at  Monticello  Credit: Sehba Imtiaz

Mulberry Row Slave Quarter at Monticello
Credit: Sehba Imtiaz

In August 2015, the Washington Post posted an article comparing Monticello to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, except that the author argued that the Holocaust Museum encourages its visitors and provides them an opportunity for reflection and contemplation. The Holocaust Museum places an emotional demand on its visitors, which is something I can certainly agree with. The atmosphere at the Holocaust Museum acknowledges the horrors of captivity, and the loss of people and humanity. The author argues that at Monticello however, visitors are not given that opportunity of reflection, and, in fact, allows people to skip over its related slave sites.

So while I can agree with the author that the atmosphere at both places is quite distinct, and that visitors do have the opportunity to skip over these sites, the interpretation of these sites has vastly changed over the past 20 years. Having visited both Monticello and Mount Vernon quite recently, there was a distinct difference in the atmosphere between the slave memorial and Washington’s tomb at Mount Vernon, and at Mulberry Row at Monticello. At Monticello, the slave tour I participated in was full of visitors of all ages, most of whom were engaged and intently listening and learning about the enslaved community. Mulberry Row is distinctly visible from various areas of the house, and makes its presence known, despite having only a single building remaining. While Mulberry Row might not force its visitors to engage the horrors of slavery head on, the slave tour subtly reminds the visitors that Jefferson was in fact not perfect, and very much a part of the system that encouraged slavery. The tour was educational, personal, and encouraged visitors to understand the resilience of the enslaved community by making note of their cultural traditions and institutions that assisted them.

Mount Vernon Slave Cemetery Credit: Sehba Imtiaz

Mount Vernon Slave Cemetery Credit: Sehba Imtiaz

At Mount Vernon, while the slave cemetery is in fact quite appropriately designed and does provide a space for contemplation, it was quite isolated with very few visitors, while just a few short steps away, visitors were surrounding both Washington’s tomb and the main house. The slave cabins are further isolated from the main house and cemetery, and while adequately reinterpreted to provide information on the lifestyle of the enslaved community, it lacks the personal connection created at Monticello. However, Mount Vernon has one of the oldest memorials dedicated to the enslaved community, dating back to 1929. In fact, Mount Vernon also holds a remembrance ceremony on an annual basis in October, where the public and descendants are invited to participate and honor their ancestors.

The question begs, what role does historic preservation and thus site interpretation play in creating a discussion on the current narrative of race and inequality. The slave trade was a period of history which has consequences many descendants are still suffering from, and a part of historic preservation is to make known aspects of intangible heritage. Interpretation at historic sites needs to change, with wider views being taken into consideration to understand the interactions between diverse groups. Mount Vernon is working towards an exhibit on slavery, due to open in 2016, and the staff states that it was long overdue. Slavery has always been an aspect of Mount Vernon, and in presenting the material culture of the permanent exhibit, the people who interacted with that material on a daily basis should not have been excluded. However, this is not the first instance of exclusion in site interpretation. One can look towards the beginnings of any major historic site as an example. Both Mount Vernon and Monticello can take their interpretation a step forward by asking visitors to question and engage in the legacy of slavery.

Mount Vernon Slave Cemetery Credit: Sehba Imtiaz

Mount Vernon Slave Cemetery
Credit: Sehba Imtiaz

Slavery and the slave trade are significant aspects of the cultural landscape, both a product of the past landscape and has shaped the current landscape. With the face of historic preservation changing from house museums with a specific perspective on society, it is important that we address those changes by countering it through the narrative of the other. Diversity in the field of historic preservation is something that we as a field are just beginning to deal with, and by understanding the role of diverse people and communities in our past for what it was, we can encourage people to recognize themselves in today’s continued narrative. Telling these diverse stories and sharing these diverse practices is part of a broader context of what makes America today and connects people to various communities around the globe. By sharing these stories and traditions through the lens of historic sites, new views can be offered on engaging people on discussions of race and history to understand present day cultures, such as that of the Gullah Geechee community. Cultural landscapes are continuously evolving and often are not visible immediately. These landscapes have the potential to be representative of all people in way few other things can, if they are not forgotten.


The author Sehba Imtiaz is currently pursuing her Masters’ in Historic Preservation at the University of Maryland. She has an Honors BA in Architectural Design and Art History from the University of Toronto. Her thesis is focused on how interpretation at historic sites can be used to engage the community and public on creating a dialogue on today’s narrative and social justice issues. She started working at US/ICOMOS (United States Directorate of International Council on Monuments and Sites) in June 2015, assisting in planning a convening to be held in 2016 to discuss ways to expand US participation in the UNESCO Slave Route project, which seeks to understand the global nature of slavery and the African diaspora by linking together heritage sites across the globe that touch elements of those stories.



Anthropogenic Landscapes: The Idea of PLACES

By Guest Observer September 30, 2015

The authors of the following article live along the banks of the Nanticoke River near Seaford, Delaware. After working for forty years in field archaeology, they have turned their attention to analyzing existing landscape features, such as clusters of specific plants and animals, found at or near archaeological habitation sites. In the following article they theorize that by arranging these features into anthropogenic landscapes, ancestral Native Americans had developed new types of economic systems. Through managing nut groves, fruit orchards, and berry patches, utility and medicinal gardens for examples, close to their home-base residences, Native Americans were able to successfully and sustainably manipulate their environments, ensuring predictable yield, while decreasing effort and distance traveled to desired resources


Anthropogenic Landscapes and the idea of PLACES

Chinquapin  Credit: Glen Mellin

Credit: Glen Mellin

Why do we continue to struggle with the abrupt division between Hunter/Gatherer and Horticulture/Agriculture Native American economic programs? Antediluvian definitions ascribed to the catch-as-catch-can Hunter/Gatherer economic program and the genetically modified domesticates Horticulture/Agriculture economic program may provide reason enough to discourage the progressive thinking needed to explore concepts like Cultural Landscapes, and more recently, Anthropogenic Landscapes.

Unfortunately, our national narratives, often written into history and law, describe unoccupied natural landscapes; expanses of forest, unbroken plains and waters, as virtually free for the taking. There is little wonder why jingoistic eyes fail to see how Native Americans altered and improved their living environments by employing creative cultural solutions that sustainably transformed few into many. This essay illustrates a sampling of the many ancestral Native American landscapes that were established between the Hunter/Gatherer and Horticulture/Agriculture economic programs.

Making this essay easier for pragmatists to support, we elected not to tinker with the accepted “third rail” definitions of the Hunter/Gatherer and Horticulture/Agriculture economic programs at all—we simply pried those two programs apart and inserted our concept of Public Landscaping—Agroforestry—and Creating Economic Strategies, or PLACES, in the following manner:

Hunter/Gatherer  – PLACES  – Horticulture/Agriculture

Let’s take a look inside PLACES and see how our model identifies and organizes cultural solutions to environmental deficiencies in the following three categories.

1) Public Landscaping—involves the organized manipulation of environmental settings (upland, wetland, tidal, and seascapes) to encourage and maintain desired species of plants and animals and discourage undesired species.

2) Agroforestry—involves selective burning, ringing, and bark stripping to reduce specific species profiles, while planting and transplanting native species and acquiring adventive species that increased desirable species profiles. These manufactured groupings, or clusters of beneficial plants and animals developed local landscapes into an array of concentrated and efficiently retrievable stores. Through the arrangement of nut, fruit, berry, grape, and vegetables as edible gardens; the arrangement of bark, twine fiber, and basket making materials as utility gardens; and the arrangement of wellbeing species like cohosh, jimson weed, and prickly pear as medicinal gardens for examples, these and other prepared landscapes were likely developed as visionary templates of ancestral Native American world views.

3) Creating Economic Strategies—involves the conception and manufacture of sustainable beneficial anthropogenic landscapes as economic programs. Briefly, lets differentiate between the “active agency” (designed for prosperity) and the “idea agency” (designed for posterity). Active agency involves the organized construction and maintenance of groves, orchards, and gardens within woods, meadows, and seascapes that promoted the growth and accumulation of beneficial resource where and when they were desired. Idea agency involves kincentric responsibilities, or the “consequences” of achievement. Inheritance, trade and exchange, feasting, and mortuary practices are some examples of the ideaology of excess, or the consumption of affluence and the symbolic storage of wealth. Together, these agencies seem to greatly intensify local mobility through accumulation, while offering periodic extensive mobility through trade and exchange.

Publically available surveys found verify that ancestral Native American cultural landscapes, or PLACES, are typically found within one to seven miles’ radius from the core areas of larger basecamps and villages. Any detailed Ethnoecological survey encompassing fifty square miles surrounding these large base camps and villages should be sufficient to identify the types, characters, and locations of whatever cultural landscapes had been manufactured and maintained in the distant past. However, we need to be aware that development, agriculture, erosion, the proliferation of non-native species, and diseases are the principal destroyers of these PLACES.

The results of our recent Ethnoecological surveys (2013—2015) here in Delaware are very consistent with the information provided above. Thus far, our largest identified botanical cluster is a six-mile wide American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) circular nut-grove encompassing Kuskarawack Towne, a Native village documented by Captain John Smith (ca. 1608), along the banks of the upper Nanticoke River. After all these years, many of those planted Chestnut trees are still alive. We documented as many individual remaining trees as we could find using GPS readings (Mellin and Truitt, 2015).

We now know that many PLACES remain as significant cultural resources because we have found evidence that can only be described as cultural in origin. Recently, a number of other researchers have corroborated our interpretations. For example, Tulowiecki and Larsen (2015) described Ethnobotanical data for an entire county in western New York. Using sophisticated statistical analysis, they demonstrated meaningful differences in proportion for beneficial tree species in association with known Iroquois villages. How did they do that? They found that late eighteenth and early nineteenth century geographic grid system land surveys had itemized tree species along lines and axis points in Chautauqua County, NY. When the authors plotted these species, they found significant differences in proportion between beneficial (edible) species and non-beneficial (non-edible) species out to 10 to 15 km from Iroquois village sites. The authors attributed this phenomenon to pre-settlement “forest compositional modification” through persistent large-scale landscape burning (2015:3). Additionally, their analysis stipulates that Walnut and Butternut groves were found close to the villages and American Chestnut, Hickory, and Oak groves clustered further afield. We find it difficult to understand how their assumption of landscape burning could create and maintain groves of specific species without additional forms of cultural selection having been in play. Addressing their data within our model of PLACES provides opportunities for more thorough and more meaningful interpretations of both the anthropogenic landscapes and the world views of the people who created them.

Anthropogenic landscapes, like the ones Tulowiecki and Larsen found, continued on through the Colonial Period. Many of them are observable today, at least the ones that have not been erased by modern processes. For example, we found a distressed two-acre Chinquapin (Castanea pumila) tree cluster that contained about two hundred coppiced trees (coppicing is the result of an Asian bark fungus). We found Native ceramic shards and clamshell within that tree cluster, which indicates a ancestry or age of origin approximately 1,500 BP. Castanea roots are known to live for 1,600 years, so, together with any original (Native planted) trees and their descendant offspring (still growing in the very definable oval cluster), this cluster epitomizes what a small, relict Native American Chinquapin nut grove would look like today (Mellin and Truitt, 2013c). Since we (the authors) subsequently rescued that Chinquapin cluster (we bought it and restored it), we have become actors in our own archaeological narrative by rescuing and restoring the trees and subsequently eating the nuts. Essentially, this Chinquapin cluster exhibits continuity—it has quite remarkably retained its sustainability. But sadly, its original Native meaning has been lost, or at least temporarily misplaced.

This is by no means a unique story. For example, we documented the fifteen-acre ancestral Native American Pawpaw fruit orchard cluster in Alapocos State Park near Wilmington, Delaware (Mellin and Truitt 2013b). In addition to the popular hiking trails, the principal program at the park is the yearly Pawpaw festival where participants may compete by baking edible deserts. Here too, the State of Delaware as well as the park’s participants are actors in our archaeological investigation and narrative.

Where few original trees remain, Dendrochronology is usually not a dating option. However, determining the ancestry of these PLACES may be estimated using various forms of archaeological association. The age of carbon, animal bone, and shellfish remains found in or on candidate landscapes can be estimated using either carbon dating, direct association, or strata sequencing. These dating procedures can be applied to some of the found specimens in the first two of our three artifact categories (Mellin and Truitt, 2013a): (1) Archaeobotanical evidence consisting mainly of carbonized wood and seeds, and pollen, and phytoliths, and recently, starch grain identification shows promise, and (2) Traditional Plant Artifact evidence is usually preserved in either saturated or dehydrated environments. The above dating methods may be used to estimate the antiquity of each specimen tested, and by relationship, or association, offer an estimated ancestry of nearby PLACES. But, how can we address the ancestry of living artifact plants? (3) Living Artifact Plants are the actual plants, or the descendants of plants that were originally arranged in PLACES. We typically find these plants arranged in clusters within definable or candidate cultural or anthropogenic landscapes.

These plants may include native plant species whose original location or quantity have been altered (citing high bush blueberry as an example) and all of the adventive species that arrived in Delaware during the Holocene (citing jimson weed as an example). In Delaware, we suspect there are even now a couple of dozen plant species assumed to be native that probably are actually adventive (citing prickly pear as an example).

While it has been thought that the ancestry or age of things like plant and animal clusters are un-dateable, thus, the origin of cultural processes like PLACES are un-dateable. Nevertheless, viewing evidence of these PLACES in association with dateable cultural contexts may provide avenues for “relationship precocity” or “origination brackets”. Certainly, the origin of PLACES and the various elements of plant and animal arrangements, or the things that make up processes like PLACES did not occur evenly across the landscape or all at the same time.

Culturally Modified Soils (CMS) are a result of conditioning through previous cultural activities. Where found, CMS may have profound implications, especially at locations where no subsurface artifacts are located. These forms of soils may contain elevated amounts of carbon and organic material, reduced acidity, altered profile depths, as well as increased archaeoecological remains both within soil pit features and scattered throughout various layers of the local ancestral landscapes. For example, an area of culturally modified soil may exhibit use as a hickory nut grove during the Later Archaic Period, as well as exhibiting use as a chestnut grove or blueberry patch during the Late Woodland Period.

Where datable artifacts are present, we have telltale signs of ancestry. But that doesn’t necessarily make our job easier. Any evidence of anthropogenic landscapes created in the distant past has probably been modified by the efforts of successive landscape modifications and by natural processes through time. At this point in time, we see no reliable association between the formation of PLACES and the Bifurcated tool tradition. We do see associations between PLACES and the technological development of the “Broadpoint” tool type, or as some have referred to these bifacial tool types as “pocket chainsaws”, or the “Swiss Army Knife” of the era. We think the ideological invention and use of these tool types was centered on Agroforestry. With the ringing of trees, the stripping of bark, and the processing of forest products, these tools, along with large cores and axes were likely the quintessential Agroforestry toolkit. The presence of these tools likely indicates economic activities such as landscape burning and the construction of browse lots, monoculture woodlots, gardens, groves, and orchards. Within this timeframe, we also see larger and more durable activity areas with large pits dug into the ground. Collectively, we see in these fragments of people’s worldviews from the distant past that these folks had developed a durable sense of place supported through the construction of desired environmental landscapes, or PLACES, close to home.

The reality of PLACES may produce contradictions—but not necessarily conflicts, within our long-held professional principles. Examples of ancestral Native American sustainable anthropogenic landscapes, or PLACES, are all around us. They still exist as living artifacts, artifacts with DNA, they still function as parts and parcels within our contemporary landscapes. These remaining objects (the individual plants and animals) grouped together as remaining things (the clusters and gardens) fit together into larger processes (the traditional land and management areas) are built into systems (economic programs). We walk through these PLACES on a daily basis—they are here, now! We are adding our footprints to footprints laid down in the distant past—along similar paths, solving similar problems.

Works Cited:

Mellin, Glen, and Lenny Truitt.

2015 February. “Ethnoecological Survey of Kuskarawack Towne on the Nanticoke River, Delaware.” Mellin and Truitt. Keywords: Native American, Captain John Smith, American Beech, American Chestnut, Arrow Arum, Bald Cypress, Box Huckleberry, Christmas Fern, Crowsfoot, Highbush Blueberry, Pecan, Prickly Pear Cactus, Seaside Alder, Shadbush, Yucca, Castanea Circle. Available on request at:

2014 December. “The Clam Gardens on Pot Hook Creek (South of Cape Henlopen, Delaware).” Mellin and Truitt. Keywords: Native American, Jimson Weed, Japanese Wineberry, Skunk Cabbage, Clam Quahog. Available on request at:

2013a November. Transformation of Native American and Historic Botanicals. Mellin and Truitt. Keywords: Native American, Natural, Naturalized, and Adventive Plants, Archaeobotanical, Traditional, and Living Artifacts. Available on request at:

2013b October. “Pawpaw Clusters Evaluated in Alapocas Run and Brandywine Creek State Parks.” Mellin and Truitt. Keywords: Native American, American Wild Crabapple, Black Walnut, Elderberry, Mountain Laurel, Pawpaw, Sycamore, Yellow Poplar. Available on request at: See also

2013c January. “Box Huckleberry and Chinquapin Clusters: Ancestral Native Plantations?” Mellin and Truitt. Keywords: Native American, Box Huckleberry, Chinquapin, American Chestnut. Available on request at:

Tulowiecki, S. J., and C. P. S. Larsen.

  1. “Native American Impacts on Past Forest Composition Inferred From Species Distribution Models, Chautauqua County, NY.” Department of Geography, University of Buffalo, Wilkerson Quadrangle, Buffalo, NY 14261. Preprint, Ecological Society of America.

By Glen Mellin & Lenny Truitt



Keweenaw National Historical Park: Just where is the Park?

By Guest Observer September 28, 2015
Quincy Mine Keweenaw Heritage Site

Quincy Mine Keweenaw Heritage Site


By Scott F. See

Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is an 800,000-acre land mass that extends out from Lake Superior’s southern shore. For over 7000 years, people have come to the peninsula to extract pure copper trapped in its ancient volcanic rock formations. Between the 1840s and the 1960s, the demand for copper – combined with advances in mining technology – resulted in the removal of over 11 billion pounds of copper from the area. Michigan’s copper industry served a growing county’s needs, provided employment for thousands of immigrants, and produced amazing wealth for a number of dominant investors. Mining’s decline and demise, however, left a landscape littered with industrial, commercial, and residential resources too numerous to be cared for by the population that remained.

In 1986, several local residents began talking about the creation of a national park dedicated to the nationally significant resources of the peninsula. They learned about the creation of Lowell National Historical Park, and reasoned that if Lowell could celebrate its textile industry, then the Keweenaw Peninsula could celebrate its copper industry. Over the next six years, the residents created a national park committee, lobbied their federal legislators, worked with the National Park Service (NPS), and rallied public support. Finally, on October 27, 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed Public Law 102-543 that created Keweenaw National Historical Park.

As a creative approach in how to manage the thousands of resources spread across the peninsula, the park’s legislation established a unit of the national park system, as well as a permanent, seven-member Advisory Commission to advise and assist the NPS in the operation of the park. The legislation focused the efforts of the NPS within two small park units, and gave the Commission the authority and the operational powers to conduct activities across the entire peninsula. Although the word “partnership” never appears in the legislation, the structure and authorities of the management model made it clear that collaborating with local partners would be an essential part of preserving and interpreting the copper story.

Credit Scott SeeOccasionally, someone asks whether a national heritage area model would have better served the resources on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Like many heritage areas, the Keweenaw is a lived-in landscape that is not conducive to the creation of a park where the NPS owns all or most of the land within the park boundaries. In addition, numerous former industrial sites contain environmental or safety concerns that make NPS ownership difficult. Unlike many heritage areas, however, the Keweenaw Peninsula is a large region with scare economic resources and a low population density. It would be extremely difficult to generate the cash and in-kind contributions necessary to support the 50% non-federal match requirement of the heritage area model.

Instead, the partnership model laid out in the park’s legislation encompasses some of the best of both worlds. The community benefits from a stable NPS presence; a portion of the copper story will be told regardless of the health or existence of the partner organizations. The Commission can receive federal funds, raise non-federal funds, and operate on a larger landscape providing the flexibility required to maintain important partnership relationships. Finally, the participation by the Heritage Sites and other partner organizations allows for the creation of an even richer visitor experience. Although the model sometimes causes confusion for the visitors – some still ask, “Where is the park?” – the NPS and Commission are able to promote and share a wider story without having to own and operate every important historic resource. This public/private partnership engages the community, leverages federal investment, benefits the visitor, and ensures that future generations will have the opportunity to learn about the story of Michigan’s copper.

Scott F. See, PhD Executive Director

Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission








How is Restoration Relevant to Stewardship?

By Guest Observer August 27, 2015

Peter Bridgewater   Centre for Museum and Heritage Studies, Australian National University.

Groundle Glen Australia Credit: Peter Bridgewater

Groundle Glen Australia
Credit: Peter Bridgewater

Can Landscape Stewardship really include restoration? Even more the concept of novel systems and their management? The upcoming workshops on the implementation of the European Landscape Convention in October have the sub-title “the landscape knows no boundaries”. That is true, but it is as true in time as it is in space, and that’s where restoration, and management of novelty, become important….

At the turn of the century Jessica Brown and Brent Mitchell (2000) described Landscape Stewardship as “usually thought about in terms of the essential role individuals and communities play in the careful management of our common natural and cultural wealth, both now and for future generations”. This was more contemporaneously expressed by Jianguo Wu (2013) as a “place-based, use-inspired science of understanding and improving the dynamic relationship between ecosystem services and human well-being in changing landscapes”. Both of these views strongly emphasis the role of people in landscapes, as key elements of their stewardship. Wu’s quote also embraces the ecosystem service paradigm more familiar in the second decade of the century, whereas the earlier quote emphasises natural and cultural wealth. But all seems linked to the maintenance of landscapes as they are, although Wu does use the word dynamic.

So what’s the relevance of restoration in stewardship? Simply put; we are no longer able to just “preserve” landscapes (or biodiversity at finer scales) as if they were Jams and Marmalades, as Gary Larson (1989) once wickedly suggested!

Landscapes which are degraded do have enormous potential for restoration, but it is often thought that intervention in landscapes now dramatically altered from their “natural” state needs to take into account both their current status and the potential effectiveness of traditional conservation or restoration measures (Richard Hobbs and colleagues, most recently 2014). In this context we should be broadly aware that:

  • Biodiversity can enhance the resilience of landscapes to environmental changes;
  • Biodiversity is changing across many different taxonomic groups and biomes as a result of recent environmental change;
  • Effective sustainable management requires understanding of the ecological, cultural and social dimensions and requires coherent policies at all levels of government;
  • Policy options include community-based projects, carefully designed restoration projects, and/or appropriate management of novel ecosystems, economic incentives combined with public participation, and effective monitoring and enforcement.

Restoration is often viewed as returning a landscape or ecosystem to a previously functioning “natural” state. Yet more and more this is impossible, as landscapes are increasingly a matrix of ecosystems or “biodiversity patches” modified in various ways from an observed, or frequently presumed, original state. This landscape matrix, although it may be ecologically sub-optimal, can, and does, deliver a range of ecosystem goods and services; for people, but also for adjacent landscapes/ecosystems.  It should also be recognised that landscapes which have been changed can either “self-restore” or move to a new state, depending on the prevailing ecological conditions. Management challenges and opportunities presented by these landscape matrices encompass how the degree of modification affects broader-scale processes e.g. eco-hydrological activity, gene flows, cultural perceptions and interactions, animal movements between adjacent or far-distant landscapes etc.

Some landscapes which look (and are appreciated) as natural today are in fact restored or reconstituted. The Isle of Man has many National Glens, which are well forested, and most visitors and many locals see them as natural. Yet most have been deliberately restored to wooded valleys during the early part of the C19th, to attract tourists. A minor consequence has been that such afforestation (often with species that may have been present, or maybe not), has allowed the rich bryophyte and lichen flora to flourish. The photograph (© Peter Bridgewater) is from Groundle Glen, showing the dense understorey – and a surprise component in Cordyline australis- widely grown in gardens across the island, but here established, apparently adventively.

All this means any stewardship plan for such landscapes must include inclusive development of conservation, restoration and management strategies that comprehend rapid spatial and temporal change, and reflect the complexity of the current landscape patterning. Which brings us back to the definition of landscape stewardship quoted at the outset – stewardship is very much about management, recognising that change is inevitable, and embracing and managing for change where that seems preferable to simply leaving things as they are. Above all using restoration as part of landscape stewardship is also about being prepared for surprises and adapting to the new, while valuing the old, where it is still sustainable so to do.


Jessica Brown and Brent Mitchell. 2000. The Stewardship Approach and its Relevance for Protected Landscapes. The George Wright Forum. 17. 70-79.

Richard J. Hobbs et al. 2014. Managing the whole landscape: historical, hybrid and novel ecosystems. Front Ecol Environ 12. 557-564.

Larson, G. 1989. Wildlife Preserves; Far Side collection 10. Andrews and McMeel, Kansa City, Mo, USA.

Wu, J.G., 2013. Landscape sustainability science: ecosystem services and human well-being in changing landscapes. Landscape Ecology. 28. 999-1023.

This blog contribution is used with the permission of  Hercules a project to empower private and public actors to protect and sustainably manage cultural landscapes. It is part of a series on the science and practice of landscape stewardship and will be further elaborated in the course of a book chapter. We are looking for real-world cases of good practices that exemplify the principles of landscape stewardship and that serve as a model to inspire implementation in other landscapes. Please share examples or thoughts by adding a comment!



Find Your Chesapeake

By Guest Observer July 29, 2015
Concord Point Lighthouse

Concord Point Light in Havre de Grace, Maryland, overlooking the point where the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

The National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office just launched a new partnership website. “Find Your Chesapeake” is tourism-focused and helps residents and visitors explore over 350 special places around the Chesapeake region. By connecting people with the special places and landscapes of the watershed, the site helps support collaborative large landscape conservation efforts for these places.

The website’s moniker deliberately echoes the National Park Service Centennial “Find Your Park” campaign on a regional scale. Find Your Chesapeake includes local and state parks, national parks, historic boats, refuges, museums, downtown communities, wildlife refuges, and more. Blog content highlights specific places, activities, people, and first-hand experiences. So go to:


The Great Accomplishments and Uncertain Future of the Land & Water Conservation Fund

By Guest Observer July 29, 2015

T. Destry JarvisLand and Water Conservation Fund

Authorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (LWCF) will expire on September 30, 2015 unless Congress takes action to extend the legislation. Enacted to create a source of federal funds for the purchase of private lands for outdoor recreation and conservation purposes, the LWCF funds two different accounts one for federal land agencies and the other for the States, Tribes, and territories. LWCF is itself funded from a portion of federal oil and gas leasing royalty payments, derived from leasing of submerged lands owned by all of us on the outer continental shelf (OCS) for off-shore drilling. The rationale for the LWCF is that as one finite public resource is permanently depleted (oil & gas), a percentage of the money derived from selling off what we all own should be allocated to buying land to serve as a permanent conservation legacy.

Funds from the federal side of LWCF have been used to conserve some of the most iconic and well-recognized sites in America. Funds from the state-side of LWCF granted annually to each State and territory, have acquired lands and built recreation facilities in all 50 States, the District, and five territories, including projects in some 98% of all Counties, and over 40,000 individual projects. But all of this could come to a halt unless The 1965 LWCF Act is extended. While there is bipartisan support in Congress for simple re-authorization (extend the sunset date), there is also strong opposition from key leaders in Congress. The Western public land states, which include the Chairs of the key Committees, oppose any more federal land acquisition.

Protected by the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Credit: Bureau of Land management

Protected by the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Credit: Bureau of Land management

A real irony of the current re-authorization debate is that when the sunset date passes on September 30, the only program that disappears is the state-grant program, since its entire authorization is contained in the 1965 Act, while each of the federal land management agencies has land acquisition authority fully independent of the LWCF Act.

A closer look at the political debate on LWCF
Congressional opponents of LWCF re-authorization argue that there is already too much federal land and that funds should be spent on maintenance of existing land and facilities rather than buying more land. In the alternative other members (depending on their geography) believe OCS royalties should go to coastal states to mitigate impacts of OCS drilling or that OCS receipts should pay for Payments-in-Lieu- of-Taxes in states with significant public lands.

Supporters defend the value of conserving land and increasing public recreational access. They also note that most federal acquisitions do not occur in Western States, but in east and central states, where federal ownership only averages 4% of the land in a State. On the maintenance question they note that new acquisitions are often for land that lack facilities and do not add to any future backlog. For federal lands most acquisitions are for lands inside of special management area boundaries that have already been approved by Congress for acquisition.

Another vulnerability of the LWCF Act is that it is not a true “trust fund, like the Highway Trust Fund (which relies on motor fuel taxes for its revenues) the funds for which cannot be diverted to other purposes. As a consequence, Congress has regularly diverted LWCF funds from their intended purposes.
For the past five years Congress had taken no action on the Administration’s request to full funding for LWCF at $900 million gradually move LWCF funds from the “Discretionary” budget to the “Mandatory” budget – to make a “trust” fund.

So what are the Next Steps?
The simplest solution would be to amend the sunset date, for some period, say 25 years. That can be done as a simple floor amendment to some other bill that is moving in the Congress, including the FY 2016 Appropriations bill, or some other “must pass” measure, such as the likely “Continuing Resolution” that Congress will need to enact when it does not pass the appropriations bills by September 30 of this year.

Next, but perhaps toughest to do in this budget climate, would be to make LWCF a “permanent appropriation” like the highway trust fund, so that the full amount authorized – currently $900 million annually – would be available for use every year.

Even a simple reauthorization has challenges. 1) Advocates for the Stateside of LWCF are adamant that the “no less than 40%” for the federal side be deleted from the law, and would prefer a 50-50% split between federal and state accounts. 2) Advocates for city parks, including some 50 big city Mayors for Parks, who rightly assert that city parks, which serve most Americans, have been systematically under-funded seek a 30-30-30% split – federal-state-local, with 10% being awarded to special joint projects.

Western State Members of Congress want to move PILT or the Safe Rural Schools program into LWCF so its funds would also be mandatory appropriation. Others have proposed that for the 11 Western States, any new federal acquisition could only be funded with funds generated through sale of surplus federal lands in those states.

It should be apparent that resolving the future of LWCF will take time, patience, and legislative skill, traits that have not been seen in abundance on the Hill even with the clock ticking away.

T. Destry Jarvis is the President of Outdoor Recreation & Park Services LLC


Who is Responsible for Landscape Stewardship on Farm Land

By Guest Observer July 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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


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


Preserved and Enlarged Forever

By Guest Observer July 1, 2015

by Rolf Diamant

This article originally appeared in The George Wright Forum, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 13–17 (2015). It is part of a wide-ranging series of pieces, “Letters from Woodstock,” by the author.

After a rather somnolent period of growth during first decade of the 21st century, the national park system in the United States is showing distinct signs of new life. In the waning days of 2014, Congress authorized seven new national parks: Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, Valles Caldera National Preserve, World War I Memorial, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Coltsville National Historical Park, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Manhattan Project National Historical Park. For his part, President Obama quickly made two more additions to the system in early 2015, using the Antiquities Act to proclaim Pullman and Honouliuli national monuments. So in less than three months, the total number of parks added to the national park system during the Obama Administration nearly doubled; and it is likely that more additions, thanks to the Antiquities Act, may be in the wings.

This Letter from Woodstock is the second in a three-part series focused on what it means to be part of a system of parks and protected areas. In part one of the series, which appeared in the last issue of The George Wright Forum, I explored the inherent advantages derived from collaboration and shared identity. In this tenth Letter from Woodstock, I will focus on the past, present, and future growth of the US national park system and make a few observations about the seemingly never-ending debate over the system’s expansion. I will conclude the series in the next issue of the Forum revisiting a handful of proposed national parks that were tantalizingly close calls, but for one reason or another never quite made the cut. While it is always intriguing to speculate about an alternative reality—the “what if ” scenarios—perhaps we can learn from failure as much as from success about a society’s aspirations and limitations when it comes to creating a national system of parks.

The new parks that were established last December reflect the ever-increasing diversity of the US national system. Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is a paleontological park in the Nevada desert. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in New York and Maryland interprets the prodigious work of this remarkable African-American abolitionist. I have written about Manhattan Project National Historical Park in a previous Letter From Woodstock (1) suggesting that this opportunity for an atomic-era national park shouldn’t be passed up, as it might not come around again.

The addition of these new parks was welcomed by many conservation organizations including the National Parks Conservation Association, Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and National Trust for Historic Preservation. There were a few people, including supporters of national parks, who dissented. One was Harry Butowsky, a former NPS histo- rian, who wrote a guest blog on the website National Parks Traveler. Butowsky, upset that the new parks had been included in a defense authorization bill rather than stand-alone park legislation, argued for these parks to be established “in a rational manner … not through large and unfunded omnibus bills.” (2)

I am more than a little surprised to hear this coming from a person who has spent as much of his career in Washington as Harry Butowsky has. One has to be an awfully patient person, waiting for Congress to conduct business “in a rational manner.” Any close reading of the history of national parks underscores how much their creation, if not survival, depends on politics—the dedication and unflagging perseverance of park advocates, careful coalition building, and a good nose for opportunity. In other words, the ability to engage in the workings of a democracy. There is also, in my opinion, something to be said for a park-making process that is not exclusively controlled by either the legislative or executive branch, mired in bureaucracy, or wholly the domain of a privy council of like-minded “experts.” Our system, however imperfect as it may be, has somehow managed to allow enough political space for new parks to emerge from the bottom up, to occasionally test new models and ideas, and to provide just enough flexibility to adapt to changing times and changing values.

In his commentary entitled “Traveler’s View: Senate Should Either Fund New Parks In Defense Bill, Or Strip Them Out,” National Parks Traveler Editor-in-Chief Kurt Repanshek, echoing Butowsky, argued that adding these parks “will not enhance, but rather degrade the overall system,” and contended that the new parks were unaffordable. (3) On the issue of affordability, I think you could ask the question: When in its 100-year history has the National Park Service ever been sufficiently funded for all its responsibilities? In his National Park Service Centennial Essay on George Melendez Wright, writer and filmmaker Dayton Duncan points out that “the single-most recurring refrain in our narrative is a reluctant Congress finally be- ing persuaded, after years of struggle on the grassroots level, to create a new park—and then not appropriating adequate money for its management and protection.”(4) Duncan reminds us that the “habit of inadequate funding began in 1872 with the creation of the world’s first national park at Yellowstone, with no provisions whatsoever for taking care of it.”

Rather than hunker down and patiently wait for appropriations to appear, the National Park Service for most of its history has realized that a larger of portfolio of parks would not only protect more of the nation’s irreplaceable heritage and serve more of its people, but would also strengthen the agency’s public constituencies and build essential political support. The agency has also understood that occasionally stretching itself to be more broadly “useful” to the nation, whether through partnering with the Department of Education and schools across the country or demonstrating sustainable design and climate resiliency, might be a wise investment from many perspectives. This has indeed been the case; as the national park system has grown, so have the agency’s visitation, visibility, and budget.

As for Repanshek’s concern that the new parks will degrade the system, this argument has been heard many times before. Adding historic sites; running the Civilian Conservation Corps; building parkways, recreation areas, and long-distance trails; creating seashores, lake- shores, urban national parks, and national heritage areas—assuming all of these additional responsibilities and many more on behalf of the nation has always had its share of critics who predicted the changes would result in inevitable degradation, erosion of standards, and “thinning the blood.”

Dire warnings about the expansion of the national park system are about as old as the National Park Service itself. In the 1920s, Robert Sterling Yard, a former national park publicist and subsequent founder of the National Park Association, alarmed by the prospect of a Shenandoah National Park, warned against “the fatal belief that different standards can be maintained in the same system without the destruction of all standards.” In the later part of the 20th century, former NPS Director Jim Ridenour, who, quite fond of metaphors, repeatedly referred to “thinning the blood” and “blurring the lines,” in his memoir The National Parks Compromised. (5) By contrast, Dayton Duncan describes how George Melendez Wright, as far back as the 1930s, intrinsically understood how essential it was for the national park system never to become finite or static:

At a moment in history when some of the park idea’s biggest supporters were opposing an expansion of the system, on the grounds that too many proposed additions were not up to ‘national park standards,’ Wright saw the danger of doing nothing. Adding a ‘substandard area … would not be calamitous,’ he warned. ‘The failure to save Mount Olympus’ forests, the Kings River Canyon … and a host of others just as valuable would be the real calamity…. The logical answer is more not less park area.’

I’ve always found the expression “thinning the blood,” besides being rather ghoulish, to be an arbitrary way of dismissing and devaluing ideas that are new or unfamiliar. In a George Wright Forum article almost 15 years ago, I wrote on the “making and re-making” of the national park system, I agreed that the system needed its gatekeepers, but gatekeepers with imagination and an open mind. Standards were also useful but require frequent reassessment. “The challenge now, as it always has been,” I concluded, “is to take the national park system in new directions relevant and responsive to our social and environmental condition and, in doing so, build ever-greater support and appreciation for the system as a whole.” (6)

I remember when I had joined the fledgling staff of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the mid-1970s, a senior Department of Interior official came out to San Francisco and announced in a speech that the national park system had been finally and for all time “rounded out”—or in other words completed! In retrospect, I’m sure this had less to do with any comprehensive system planning or analysis than with a burst of budget-cutting zeal in Washington. My colleagues and I were in the process of setting up Golden Gate and we believed we were on the cusp of an exciting new era of urban national parks that would bring the many benefits of the national park system directly to city populations. Several of us were also looking forward to working on proposed new parks in Alaska—so you can imagine how dumbfounded we were by this sudden announcement that the national park system had add- ed its last park. Of course this was not to be—not by a long shot. Far from being “rounded out,” since that day in San Francsico almost 40 years ago, by my rough count, there have been more than 100 additions to national park system. Included in this great expansion were the magnificent protected lands of Alaska that doubled the size of national park and refuge systems and tripled the amount of land previously designated as wilderness. During the breadth of my NPS career, first as a park planner, later as a superintendent, I would work with many of these additions to the system: Santa Monica Mountains, Frederick Law Olmsted, Boston African American, Lowell, Blackstone, Weir Farm, and Marsh–Billings–Rockefeller.

Describing New Mexico’s Valles Caldera, one of the newly authorized national parks, Roger Kennedy, former NPS director, wrote that “the centerpiece of the Jemez Massif, is worthy of national park status for its astonishing natural beau- ty, for its geological and archaeological wonders, for its wildlife, for the history that was played out upon it or near it, and for the military and geopolitical saga inherent in its title deeds.” (7) He went on to urge that Valles Caldera “be revalued as a national asset, which, like all national parks, cannot be expected to pay for itself. The Preserve can be as ‘self-supporting’ as Independence Hall or Yellowstone Park, with their money costs balanced by their educational benefits.” That is indeed the cost/benefit calculation at the heart of the social compact the American people struck when they began, almost 150 years ago, building themselves a system of national parks—that “their money costs” are “balanced by their educational benefits.”

My father, Lincoln Diamant, a stamp collector in his youth and historian in his later years, wrote a series of short essays paired with notable American postage stamps for the book Stamping Our History: The Story of the United States Portrayed on its Postage Stamps. (8) He concluded his essay on America’s national park system, with the simple but prescient words: “May it be preserved and enlarged forever.”

1. Rolf Diamant, “Letter From Woodstock: Keeping on the Path,” The George Wright Forum, vol. 29, no. 2, 2012, pp. 201–203.
2. Harry Butowsky, “The National Park System: Some Thoughts in 2015,” National Parks Traveler, January 5, 2015. Online at
3. Kurt Repanshek, “Traveler’s View: Senate Should Either Fund New Parks in Defense Bill, or Strip Them Out,” National Parks Traveler, December 9, 2014. Online at www.
4. Dayton Duncan, “George Melendez Wright and the National Park Idea,” The George Wright Forum, vol. 26, no. 1, 2009, pp. 4–13.
5. James Ridenour, The National Parks Compromised: Pork Barrel Politics and America’s Treasures (Merrillville, IN: ICS Books, 1994).
6. Rolf Diamant, “Management to Stewardship: The Making and Remaking of the U.S. National Park System,” The George Wright Forum, vol. 17, no. 2, 2000, pp. 31–45.
7. Roger Kennedy, “Towards a Valles Caldera National Park as a Landscape for Learning,” unpublished memorandum, 2009.
8. Charles Davidson and Lincoln Diamant, Stamping Our History: The Story of the United States Portrayed on its Postage Stamps (New York, NY: Carol Publishing Group, 1990), p. 2.


New York State Parks: Funding Heritage Innovation

By Guest Observer May 25, 2015

By Paul M. Bray

"Letchworth State Park Upper Falls 2002" by Andreas F. Borchert. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons -

Letchworth State Park Upper Falls 2002 by Andreas F. Borchert. Licensed under Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

New York State has the oldest State Park System in the USA. The System dates back to 1924 and now has 179 state parks. Many of the State Parks are first class like Niagara Falls State Park, Letchworth State Park (known as the Grand Canyon of the East), Thatcher Park near Albany and Saratoga Spa State Park and Jones Beach on Long Island, to name a few. Many are world-class natural sites while some are more known for their golf courses, campsites, swimming pools and beaches.

The State also has vast ecologically rich parks like the 6 million acre Adirondack Park with the only constitutionally protected wild forest land in the nation. The environmental parks like the Adirondack and Catskill Parks are managed by the State’s environmental agency while the more conventional state parks (some of which do have ecologically sensitive resources) are managed by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (ORRHP). OPRHP also has 37 historic sites and its Commissioner is the State Historic Preservation Officer.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas. Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

In 1977 the State Legislature enacted a law directing OPRHP to do a plan for a statewide system of urban cultural parks (UCP) and another law designating the whole area of the 6 historic neighboring communities at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers as the Hudson Mohawk Urban Cultural Park. The UCP name was dropped in the 1990s when regional areas were added to the program and replaced by calling the parks “heritage areas.”

The then OPRHP Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation told a group of state legislators that the proposed UCPs represented the ideal for historic preservation. But concluded that “there is no way” the agency could implement a UCP law. The state legislature, however, saw it as a beneficial partnership that integrated program for conservation, education, recreation and sustainable development and by enacting a law directed the program to move forward. Commissioner of OPRHP, Orin Lehman hired the planning firm of Lane and Frenchman who had at worked on the plan for the Lowell National Historical Park to prepare a statewide plan to implement the UCPs.

Communities that wanted to be UCPs had to prepare feasibility studies to be considered for designation. By 1982 thirteen communities from New York City to Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario were selected for designation as part of the legislation establishing the UCP system.

In 1981, Commissioner Lehman sent the legislature a letter saying, “I am pleased to submit to the Legislature this Plan for the New York Urban Cultural Park System. The plan recommends the creation of an innovative state program, which will help communities to make better use of resources they already have. These resources often lie within declining historic buildings and districts in the heart of our cities. Through the framework of the Urban Cultural Park System, these areas can serve to interpret the heritage of New York State, while becoming regional centers for economic and cultural development through a well-defined and realistic revitalization process.” He also noted that the plan for the development of New York State’s Urban Cultural Park Program received the American Planning Association’s 1981 national “Outstanding Planning Program Award.”
The State Heritage program grew to have 20 state heritage areas and the first 13 state heritage areas benefited from an environmental bond act with $20 million for visitor centers. A mix of state agency programs also helped the state heritage areas support planning and projects.

In September 1991 the National Park Service, the New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission and the National Parks and Conservation Association held a Partnerships in Parks & Preservation Conference in Albany. New York’s urban cultural park/heritage areas were recognized as “partnership parks.”

Mario Cuomo, New York’s Governor and father of Andrew Cuomo who is New York’s current Governor said in his introductory speech that, “The New York Urban Cultural Parks Program has used the partnership of State and local governments and the private sector to preserve some of New York’s most important and impressive downtowns. The State provides technical assistance, grant money, and marketing. The local community provides interpretive staff, capital improvements, and sponsors special events and street festivals. And the private-sector puts the buildings to work as shops, offices, museums and cultural centers.” He went on to say, “We fulfill our own needs for the growth and development of the community, and at the same time fulfill our responsibility to preserve a crucial link between past, present and future generations.”

Cutbacks in Federal program support and state recessions over resent decades ultimately led to a billion dollar backlog in maintenance needs for the traditional state parks. Budgetary issues set the stage for the undoing of the New York heritage areas. Under the administration of Governor Paterson, the small heritage area program was zeroed out although the state provided $100,000 million a year to address the maintenance issues for the traditional state parks.
To this day the State Heritage Area Law remains on the books and OPRHP has reviewed and approved a couple of additional State Heritage Area management plans as it is required to do under State Law. However, no state parks staff or funding has gone directly to State Heritage Areas.

Two years ago when current Governor Andrew Cuomo sponsored a conference on heritage tourism, representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation led the program and said New York State is fortunate to have a State Heritage Program. At the OPRHP table outside the meeting room, when asked for information on the State Heritage Areas, a representative said “we don’t do that program any more”. Technically by law that was not true, but in effect that is how the State Parks Agency has acted and the new era of parks in NYS, state heritage areas, has been abandoned by the very agency that created the award winning plan for state heritage areas.

What is happening in NYS is contrary to an enduring heritage of parks like Olmsted’s Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City, great traditional state parks and urban parks that the State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has protected through the public trust doctrine. It is very regrettable that the highest stewards of NYS parks, the Governor (the son of the former Governor who oversaw the creation of heritage areas) and the State Parks Commissioner, may have found a way to stifle State Heritage Areas that embody the great heritage of their State.

Paul Bray’s email is secsunday at

Addendum: The financial woes of the New York State Heritage Area program are not unique. The Pennsylvania Heritage Parks (renamed heritage areas) program that drew its inspiration from the New York Urban Cultural Parks also faces hard budgetary times. A direct appropriation for the program was zeroed out in the Governor’s 2009 budget and it has survived on a mixture of legislative largesse and state agency accommodation ever since. Recently elected Governor Wolf has again proposed to eliminate funding for the program. And the campaign to restore funding is in full swing. See an editorial in the commonwealth’s Lackawanna Valley paper calling to Fully Fund Heritage Areas.

Finally, there is the ongoing saga of funding for the National Heritage Area program with its 49 National Heritage Areas, which has been a tug of war between the Department of Interior’s budget recommendation to cut funding for the program in half and Congress’s druthers, which is to put the money back. So far Congress has had the last word, but it takes up a lot of time and effort that could be spent conserving our nation’s heritage.

Brenda Barrett
Editor, Living Landscape Observer


Can Parks Organizations Continue to Ignore Social Values in Landscape Stewardship?

By Guest Observer May 25, 2015

By Paulette Wallace

Credit: Paulette Wallace

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. Credit: Paulette Wallace

‘Social value’ is not a term that national park organizations in the United States, Canada and New Zealand have tended to use. In fact, when park organizations have ventured into the challenging territory of recognizing the values of people―it has generally been to consider the values of ‘traditional peoples and practices’ of a distant bygone era, or to subsume the social into the consideration of historic significance.

I use social value here, to denote social connections, networks, place attachments—not necessarily related to historic significance, which can include various stakeholders, interest and ethnic groups, and can involve individuals and/or collectives. It is at this point where some might argue that national park organizations have the primary purpose of preserving nature and national identity—therefore, any consideration of social values which might destabilize this mission, or confuse its fixed and constant agenda, has no place within the remit of a national park organization.

My response to this—is that an impression of this kind is exceedingly outdated, and it has been proven to be outmoded by the parks organizations themselves. For example, the US National Park Service is currently establishing an ‘urban agenda’ in time for its 2016 centenary, to address how the organization might better engage with its communities; and Parks Canada have been developing the ‘national urban park’ to embrace a less ‘pristine’ park environment in a populous Toronto area. These recent initiatives underline how park organizations recognize the need to evolve, and they demonstrate a growing interest in establishing closer relationships with the people who engage with their parks. Yet the initiative adopted by park organizations that I wish to discuss in more detail here, is the use of cultural landscapes as a tool for heritage management.

Cultural landscapes are commonly described as being a bridge between nature and culture—they are places where natural and cultural heritage values collide, and for the last 20-30 years, the US National Park Service and Parks Canada have been leading the way in identifying and managing cultural landscapes as part of their cultural resource management programs. While in New Zealand, the Department of Conservation (DOC) holds the prestige of being the manager of the first cultural landscape inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1993.

Credit: Paulette Wallace

Elders of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa tribe with the Author. Credit: Paulette Wallace

Nevertheless, while the embrace of cultural landscapes demonstrates the park organizations’ commitment to keeping up with changing perceptions of natural and cultural heritage, the way that cultural landscapes have been applied are heavily informed by static, entrenched policies of the past. These policies essentially negate the potential of cultural landscapes to promote new approaches to park management that recognize the way that people actively engage with their surroundings.

For instance, the cultural landscapes management policies developed by the US National Park Service focus on how to manage the physical form of an assembly of cultural resources, and they organize cultural landscapes into ‘landscape characteristics’ that recognize mainly visible tangible aspects. Parks Canada follows a similar approach, where its cultural landscapes are made up of ‘character-defining elements’, and while it does also promote the notion of ‘aboriginal cultural landscapes’ as not so determined by the tangible, Parks Canada applies this independently from the ‘character-defining elements’ used in its non-indigenous cultural landscapes program.

Credit: Creative Commons

Tongariro National Park New Zealand

Then in New Zealand, DOC might be described as paying lip service to the social values of Tongariro National Park in its identification of it as a cultural landscape, while failing to recognize these values in the day-to-day management of the park. DOC supported the inscription of Tongariro National Park on the World Heritage list recognizing the associative values of the iwi (tribe) of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and their relationship to Mount Tongariro―which added to the park’s existing inscription for its natural values. Yet a recent Treaty of Waitangi report has found among other things, that the New Zealand government has disregarded the cultural and social values of Māori in carrying out the management of the park, and it recommends that the park be taken out of DOC control and managed in the future by a statutory authority made up of representatives from the government and Māori.

Therefore, as we settle into the twenty-first century and prepare to welcome 100 years of the US National Park Service, there is a need for park organizations to include the public who represent their various park communities, in decision making so that there might be a new generation of joint ambassadors recognizing the social values of people in the landscape stewardship of the future.

For further discussion on how American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand park organizations have been employing cultural landscapes as a tool for heritage management, see:
Wallace, P 2015, ‘Approaching cultural landscapes in post-settler societies: ideas, policies, practices’, submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

Paulette Wallace is the recently named Executive Officer for the Australian Convict Sites, a serial World Heritage property made up of 11 sites around Australia.


Building Partnerships for Landscape Stewardship

By Guest Observer April 28, 2015

by Sara J. Scherr, Louise E. Buck (orginally appeared on the Project Hercules cultural landscapes blog)

A defining feature of integrated landscape management is long-term multi-stakeholder partnership among different groups of land managers and resource users. Agreeing on and sustaining good landscape stewardship at scale builds on effective partnerships at multiple levels. These ideas are not new, and thousands of landscape initiatives are underway today around the world based on multi-stakeholder partnership models. Methods and tools have been developed to support partners who come from very different perspectives to collaboratively assess their landscapes, negotiate priority objectives, design strategies and interventions, sustain partnership processes and monitor for adaptive management. Policymakers at national and international levels are beginning to recognize the value of landscape partnerships, with their focus on local development, social, environmental and cultural priorities, for shaping high-level strategies to achieve national goals and ensure we live within planetary ecosystem boundaries.

The broad principles of landscape partnerships are fairly well developed and widely agreed (Sayer, et al; Scherr et al, 2014; Kozar et al., 2014). The state of landscape multi-stakeholder partnerships today is that partners are involved primarily because they view partnerships as necessary to realizing their own goals, in the context of multiple legitimate claims on land and resources by different stakeholders. But they are not particularly good at it. More than 80 different communities of practices have arisen to implement integrated landscape management from different entry points and with different philosophies, and there is much ‘reinventing the wheel’. Most trainings and tools are still stakeholder-specific, rather than designed explicitly to engage different stakeholder perspectives. Professional education remains focused on specific disciplines. There are few pathways for professional development as landscape partnership facilitators. Even the most seemingly successful landscape initiatives self-identify major weaknesses in their capacities for collaborative decision-making, monitoring and impact assessment, cross-stakeholder communications and other specific skills.

If the rapid growth in landscape stewardship is to bear the fruit of its potential, we must become more serious about ensuring quality partnerships. It is important to find ways to streamline learning in the core competencies of individuals and institutions to participate in and lead landscape initiatives. Professional education and trainings need to be reoriented to include roles in cross-stakeholder facilitation. To enable the full effectiveness and scaling up of landscape initiatives, new types of organizations operating beyond the landscape must learn to partner with landscape stewardship platforms, such as financial institutions and national-level public agencies. To address this exploding need for improved capacities for ILM, partners in the international Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative are setting up national ‘learning networks’ for landscape leaders in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Brazil and other countries; developing a ‘Landscape Academy’ (without walls) in Africa, and working with universities to strengthen curricula for ILM. National, regional and international cooperation in the development of such landscape partnership programs could greatly enhance landscape stewardship worldwide.

This blog contribution is part of a series on the science and practice of landscape stewardship and will be further elaborated in the course of a book chapter.
 We are looking for real-world cases of good practices that exemplify the principles of landscape stewardship and that serve as a model to inspire implementation in other landscapes. Please share examples or thoughts by adding a comment!

Kozar, R., Buck, L.E., Barrow, E.G., Sunderland, T.C.H., Catacutan, D.E., Planicka, C., Hart, A.K., and L. Willemen (2014). Toward viable landscape governance systems: What works? Washington, DC: EcoAgriculture Partners on behalf of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative.

Sayer, J, T Sunderland, J Ghazoul, J Pfund, D Sheil, E Meijaard, M Venter, AK Boedhihartono, M Day, C Garcia, C van Oosten, and LE Buck (2013). Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses. PNAS 110(21): 8349-8356.

Scherr, S.J., Buck, L.E., Willemen. L. and Milder, J.C. (2014). “Ecoagriculture: Integrated landscape management for people, food and nature.” Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, 3, 1-17.


Letter from Woodstock: Urban Parks Agenda for Everyone

By Guest Observer April 27, 2015

by Rolf Diamant

This article originally appeared in The George Wright Forum, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 107–111 (2014). It is part of a wide-ranging series of pieces, “Letters from Woodstock,” by the author.

I begin my eighth Letter from Woodstock by expanding upon a previous one (“Stewards of Our Heritage,” March 2013) that referenced preparations for the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service (NPS). In that Letter I suggested “broadening the emphasis beyond the parks themselves—to also highlight the many ways national parks and programs ‘preserve and support’ the well-being and aspirations of communities and people who use them.” I intentionally used the word broadening because an essential challenge facing NPS and almost all park and protected area systems is how to deliver high-quality public services and consistent stewardship but also be adaptable enough to remain relevant and responsive to the urgent needs and concerns of contemporary life. There is also a subtle shift in perspective: broadening a conversation that is often centered on what is best for the future of parks to a conversation that is expanded to include what is best for a larger set of social and environmental objectives and ways that parks, in collaboration with other institutions, can help achieve those objectives.

Former NPS Director Roger Kennedy spoke of the “usefulness” of national parks in the context, for example, of how they played an outsized role in emergency conservation, employment, and recreation projects during the Great Depression. The national park system also represented a popular national institution in a time of profound social demoralization. I would suggest that NPS continues to play a unifying role today in a country that seems pulled so in many different directions. The 2009 National Parks Second Century Commission Report described the national parks “as community builders, creating an enlightened society committed to a sustainable world.” The current National Park System Advisory Board, building on the National Parks Second Century Commission, articulates this higher purpose for NPS: “actively working to advance national goals for education, the economy, and public health, as well as conservation.”

I don’t take for granted (though I certainly won’t be around to see) that there will be a national park system to celebrate a third century in 2116. Though I am not inclined to either pessimistic or dystopian thinking, I have come to believe that nothing can be taken for granted; good work that has been done can also be undone. (As I write this, the Australian government, only a few months before the World Parks Congress convenes in Sydney, is repealing landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.). NPS, like many other public institutions, will continue to be subject to a variety of stress tests, evaluating things like resiliency and adaptability, purpose and meaningfulness, ecosystem and cultural services, collaborative relationships, and their overall relevancy to what people care deeply about. That is why the work being undertaken by the advisory board and by a number of national parks and partner organizations to broaden the usefulness and relevancy of the national park system is so vitally important. Here are a few examples.

NPS, New York City, and a consortium of research institutions are using the Jamaica Bay unit of Gateway National Recreation Area as a living laboratory for testing new approaches for building climate change resiliency in urban coastal ecosystems. This is not the only place in the national park system where there is new thinking and research about climate resiliency, but given the devastation that Hurricane Sandy inflicted on the densely populated barrier islands of the metropolitan New York/New Jersey area, there is a particular sense of urgency to the Jamaica Bay project.

I have described in a previous Letter how the partnership between the Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is breaking new ground on integrating sustainable city living, historic preservation, and park design at the Presidio of San Francis- co, including the first national historic landmark property to be certified by the US Green Building Council as “LEED for Neighborhood Development” for “smart growth, urbanism and green building.” This ambitious re-purposing of vast military holdings for public benefit and use is only part of the story. Concurrent with this great transformation, an extraordinary bond is being forged between these national parks and people and communities of the San Francisco Bay Area, drawing the attention of park and protected area managers from all over the world.

On a very different scale, there is the interesting example of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park’s Youth Ambassador Program (YAP!), a partnership project between NPS and Third Eye Youth Empowerment, a nonprofit dedicated to “building community and national pride through a series of learning experiences, skill development and real proj- ects … to improve the community, centered on the principles of economic and social equality.” The mission of the Youth Ambassadors is to “unite young people, utilizing Hip Hop, a common cultural art form and voice for the people, to engage and empower youth to positively change themselves and their community.” Working with New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Youth Ambassadors are producing a series of music videos, including their powerful hip-hop video “54,” about the 54th Massachusetts, the African-American regiment recruited by Frederick Douglass during the Civil War. The young performers infuse the narrative with their own distinct voice and message using an evocative, if unorthodox, interpretive format, making this compelling “Civil War to Civil Rights” story accessible to their friends and peers.

NPS is embarking on a landmark systemwide effort to develop what is being called an “urban agenda.” This urban agenda, is in part, an outgrowth of the 2012 conference titled “Greater & Greener: Re-Imagining Parks for 21st Century Cities,” organized by the City Parks Alliance in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. An “affinity caucus” of NPS conference attendees, mostly from urban national parks, joined NPS Director Jon Jarvis to initiate an ongoing participatory process for identifying policy changes that will enable NPS urban parks and programs to “step into their power” with the intent of becoming a larger, more relevant part of urban life in America.

The scale of current NPS urban activities may come as a surprise to many people. Beginning in the early 1930s, Congress has gradually expanded the urban footprint of the National Park Service, establishing new units of the national park system in 40 of the country’s 50 most-populated metropolitan areas. Today, these national parks make up nearly one-third of the entire park system and draw approximately 40% of all national park users. The NPS National Capital Region and its 34 national parks in and around Washington, DC, for example, serve an urban population of more than five million people. Congress has also authorized more than two dozen different NPS programs providing urban communities with a wide range of services, including historic preservation tax credits, recreation grants, and conservation technical assistance.

Throughout this process of developing the urban agenda, the NPS Stewardship Institute (formerly the Conservation Study Institute) has been coordinating and documenting a series of webinar conversations with “communities of practice”—self-selecting groups of urban park practitioners—focusing on specific subjects such as urban innovation, economic revitalization, connecting youth to nature, and urban parks as portals for diversity. Attention tended to focus on what I might call “nuts and bolts” problems: how to streamline the use of legal authorities for leasing and cooperative agreements and how to align NPS funding and program priorities to concentrate available resources for greater impact. Lessons learned are shared for a variety of relatively new NPS-sponsored, community-based programs dealing with public transportation, safe routes to school, urban gardening, and partnerships with health providers. There is also an imperative to build a stronger “culture of collaboration” in which NPS operates as one partner among many. Underpinning all these discussions is the implicit vision of NPS as a “catalyst for civic renewal” consistent with the overall direction of Second Century Commission, the NPS director’s Call to Action, and the work of the National Park System Advisory Board.

The urban agenda is still very much a work in progress that will have to surmount competing interests and priorities, political jockeying, and bureaucratic inertia. There is also a danger that 2016 NPS centennial activities and a looming national election may, in effect, swamp it. There may also be internal resistance. Some may choose to interpret relevancy primarily in terms of making a fixed set of traditional park experiences more widely accessible rather than exploring ways to expand those experiences in order to engage a broader cross-section of the public (think “54”). Nearly 40 years ago, while I was working on the startup of the Golden Gate national parks, I clipped a Sierra Club Bulletin commentary by Jonathan Ela hammering NPS and other administraton officials for reversing previous support for urban national parks and testifying against making Cuyahoga Valley, located between the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, part of the national park system.

Drawing by Steven M. Johnson.

Drawing by Steven M. Johnson.

Contending that NPS personnel appeared at that time more comfortable with park users that looked and acted just like they did, Ela illustrated his article with this drawing by Steven M. Johnson (reproduced with permission of the artist).

Decades later, Bill Gwaltney (formerly with NPS—now with the Smithsonian), while working on diversifying the NPS workforce, would remind his colleagues that “people feel better [using parks] when they think their reality, their experiences, their culture, their expectations are on some levels mirrored in their national parks.”

National parks may also come to over-rely on their social media and marketing as substitutes for personal engagement and the patient hard work and risk-taking that builds trust and meaningful long-term relationships between parks and communities. Protecting parklands within clearly defined boundaries has always been a core function of the agency and it will no doubt be a challenge getting people to see an investment in “civic renewal,” particularly as budgets contract, as a central strategy for the long-term survival of national parks.

Even under the most favorable circumstances, moving an urban agenda forward will be difficult. There is a recurring concern that any reform, however desirable, might set a precedent that unintentionally provides an opening for parties with interests inimical to na- tional parks to do harm. Such concerns deserve careful consideration, and risk-taking must be judicious, yet the alternative of always playing it safe and resisting change has significant downstream dangers.

Let us hope that the newly established Urban Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board may be able to advance an NPS urban agenda, and, in the face of these obstacles, help sustain its momentum. Those working on the urban agenda understand that a system of national parks and programs that is perceived as being accessible, engaged, and resourceful will be a system that is ultimately valued, supported, and strengthened over time. This is what an earlier Advisory Board report, Rethinking National Parks in the 21st Century, envisioned when it advocated that parks reach “broader segments of society in ways that make them more meaningful in the life of the nation” and help build “a citizenry that is committed to conserving its heritage and its home on earth.”
A 21st-century agenda for urban national parks is, in many fundamental ways, an agenda for all national parks.

Rolf Diamant retired from the National Park Service in 2011, following a 37-year career with the agency. During that time, he developed new partnership models for national parks and conservation strategies for wild and scenic rivers and national heritage areas. He was the founding superintendent of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, in Woodstock, Vermont, as well as superintendent of Fairsted, the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Vermont 


The Future of Administrative Histories

By Guest Observer April 27, 2015

By Angela Sirna

The National Council on Public History held its annual meeting last week in Nashville, Tennessee, bringing together over 800 members dedicated to encouraging collaboration among historians and their public. I participated in one particular working group that focused on National Park Service administrative histories. The NPS uses these documents to understand the agency’s involvement in a particular park, office, region, or program, and help with future management decisions.

In the months leading to the conference, members of the working group contributed thoughts to a Google Doc about how the NPS might revisit its guidelines, last written in 2004, and think “beyond the administrative history.” In other words, how can we make these documents more usable? I was happy with the group’s diversity and impressed by the participants’ credentials. Everyone present had extensive experience with writing, reviewing, or using these documents. There were consultants, park historians, regional historians, and scholars. Okay, I guess I still count as a graduate student, but I’m trying to move beyond that label. We discussed three questions and I’ll share some of our thoughts that stick out in my memory (I didn’t take notes).

  • What makes an administrative history useful?

Administrative histories tell the park’s story; every manager should know hers/his park’s story. An administrative history should show where the “land mines” are buried, where the past and potential controversies lie. These histories should help with compliance, but also tie to larger historical narratives. I also argued that an administrative history, when done right, can be a road map for civic engagement, especially when it shows how the NPS marginalized or excluded certain groups.

  • What do we do with administrative histories when they are done?

A common and legitimate complaint is that once completed, many administrative histories are doomed to languish on a shelf or in a box. We discussed (as many have over the years) of having a searchable database for this literature group with special tags. We also considered several different “add ons” that might be included in contracts or funded later through ONPS CR funds marked for “Transfer of Knowledge.” These additions can include workshops and training for personnel about the document, a place for admin history authors at the table for concurrent or future park planning initiatives, videos for the web, or other interpretive content. We didn’t get into who owns the research, but I think it is important to talk up front about the possibility of publishing in academic journals or with university or trade presses. These all require a good deal of foresight. I also encouraged the group to think beyond the traditional monograph as the final product for these studies. Can we possibly do digital projects (such as this one on the Blue Ridge Parkway), videos, or something else instead?

  • What are the future directions with administrative histories?

Looking at the agenda, my memory of this part of the conversation is less clear. However, my major point from reading the discussions on the Google Doc is that park managers need to recognize that administrative histories are a process, not a one-and-done product. There are things parks can do while they wait for an administrative history project to be funded. I think this is where graduate students can be a big help. They can examine bits and pieces of a park’s history through research papers, theses, and dissertations. However, for this to be successful for both the agency and the student, the NPS needs to provide some measure of support and treat these studies as legitimate agency literature and scholarship. I’ve noticed an attitude within the agency that if they did not spend a bunch of money on a project, it somehow doesn’t “count.” That is a disservice to the student, the park resources, and the public the agency serves. A good partnership can mean that a contractor will have less ground to cover if they can build upon accumulating literature.

Moving forward from our meeting in Nashville, the NPS will hopefully incorporate our ideas into its guidelines for administrative histories, which it is currently reviewing and revising. Group facilitators will also summarize our discussions in a History at Work post. Finally, an upcoming edition of The Public Historian will focus on NPS biographies.

Are administrative histories important to your work? How do you use them? How might the NPS make them better?

Ed note: Interested in reviewing some NPS administrative histories? has a good list here.

Angela Sirna received her PhD in Public History from Middle Tennessee State University in April 2015 and is currently working on an administrative history of Stones River National Battlefield. Her dissertation traced the development of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park from the New Deal through the Great Society. Angela also served as the Public Historian in Residence at Catoctin Mountain Park in 2013-2014 and completed a Special Resource Study on human conservation programs at the park throughout the twentieth century.


The Next Generation: Making the Link between Historic Preservation and Sustainability

By Guest Observer March 27, 2015

by Katie Rispoli

Credit: Preservation Action

Katie Rispoli, Founder of the nonpfoit We Are the Next and 2015 Preservation Advocacy Scholar

As a graduate student in Heritage Conservation at the University of Southern California, I was fortunate to be selected as a Preservation Advocacy Scholar and attend the Preservation Action Conference in Washington, D.C. this March. My visit to DC allowed me to understand the greater dynamic of historic preservation funding and policy, and to make connections with my local representatives. Through these connections I was able to share my work at We Are the Next, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2014 and continue to operate full-time. The organization serves Los Angeles County.

We Are the Next embodies what I believe to be the future of historic preservation. The organization was founded to broaden the understanding that our historic built environment is one of many non-renewable resources. Our goal is to educate youth about the environmental benefit that lies in historic resources and build an identity with those resources so that when they mature and become developers, city employees, real estate agents, and even homeowners, they consider reusing the resources that confront them as opposed to jumping to demolition as a first and only option.

I have seen that we are too often ‘preaching to the choir’ in preservation. Our advocacy groups hold mixers for preservation circles and even their workshops can be intimidating to the layman. Preservation in my region has not been relatable for our youngest residents, and that is what I want to change.

In reality, the foundation for our work has already been laid. Public schools, private schools, and households teach children about recycling and environmental conservation. And just as there is environmental conservation, we know there is heritage conservation. In my experience, children who have been taught about recycling are able to understand that just as you can recycle bottles, you can recycle buildings through adaptive reuse – and that is how we are hoping to change the future of historic preservation.

The notion that historic resources contain embodied energy is irrefutable, but it can also be difficult to understand and complicated to explain to children. As a consequence, one of the most convincing arguments for conserving our heritage has been left out of the discussion with our youngest residents. Bringing the environmental benefit, a key concern in today’s (and tomorrow’s) society, to the forefront of cultural heritage with youth can regenerate the conversation on a grander scale.

‘The Next’ aims to work with kids across Los Angeles County to teach them about the cultural and environmental benefits that lie within their own neighborhoods. We are preparing to conduct workshops in the form of after-school, weekend, and summer programming in partnership with other community and historic preservation partners.

Credit: Katie Rispoli

The first Taco Bell in Downey, CA as it looked in the 1970s. We Are the Next is coordinating the relocation and reuse of the building. Credit: Katie Rispoli

In an effort to ensure the children we work with do not forget our message, we are also working with the cities they live in to continue the legacy of their historic resources. All across Los Angeles County, cities with high-minority and low-income populations have been losing their heritage. These cities, which have a high proportion of vernacular architecture, have been losing neighborhoods and main streets to big-box shopping centers and spreading gentrification. These cities are lower in population than some of their neighbors and operate on much smaller budgets. Very few of these cities are Certified Local Governments or have any landmarks in their jurisdiction at the local, state, or national levels. Because these cities operate with less financial resources, the concept of developing a Historic Preservation or Adaptive Reuse Ordinance and maintaining a planning staff with preservation credentials seems daunting.


Credit: Katie Rispoli

The first ever Taco Bell in Downey, CA awaiting relocation and adaptively reuse a We Are  the Next project. Credit: Katie Rispoli

We Are the Next is operating as a consultant in order to provide these cities with a feasible resource. We are working with cities to help them find affordability in historic preservation performing construction management, forming community development and strategic plans, writing ordinances, and providing historic preservation planning services so that these smaller cities can afford to bring both historic landmarks and the corresponding environmental sustainability to their residents.

In Washington, I was able to discuss these ideas with preservation advocates and professionals from across the country with resounding support. While in DC, I visited Capitol Hill where I was able to secure a meeting with a staffer to one of the Congressman who represents a significant portion of Los Angeles County, and was given high support for our organization’s activities. Though the Congressman whose office I visited has not expressed consistent support for historic preservation, he is an advocate of environmental health and sustainability. I was able to share with his adviser the connection between these two interests as well as demonstrations of some of our recent projects. She was very interested and appeared convinced that historic preservation should be an interest of the Congressman since it is parallel to environmental health.

Our focus on youth, relatability, and environment has brought abundant support for the organization. Since we were founded nine months ago I have sought out potential partners and we have been approached to develop additional alliances with like-minded groups across the county. We are beginning programming with local schools and educational organizations, and have been contracted by cities for construction management services. Though we are still very small, this organization has been able to see some success in its first year and I am honored to say it is showing promise moving forward.

We Are the Next – “And So Are You.”

Learn more – | | @next_nonprofit
Katie Rispoli is a current graduate student in the Master of Heritage Conservation program in the University of Southern California School of Architecture, and will graduate in May of 2015. She is passionate about environmental health, cultural heritage, and youth education through preservation. Katie works in Preservation in South Los Angeles County as the Director of We Are the Next, a nonprofit organization. When not working or in school, Katie enjoys splitting her time between exploring both the city and the great outdoors.


Coal Seam Gas and the Hidden Destruction of Public Lands and Resources

By Guest Observer January 29, 2015

by Jane Lennon

In eastern Australia where coal seam gas [CSG] has become a new industry in the last 10 years, the land is the battleground: grazing country, cropping country, state forest, water catchment areas, rural residential blocks and even urban areas. Gas miners through development approvals have the rights to the mineral resources underground, all government- owned in this country, and prevail over the rights of landowners on the surface.

Credit: Jane Lennon

Darling Downs south east of Dalby –rich black soils underlain by coal seam gas. Photo: June 2014 by J. Lennon]

As conventional oil and gas fields decline and prices rise, and the nuclear renaissance has been dimmed by the Fukushima meltdown, coal seam gas is booming along with oil shales, and tar sands. Commercial CSG was first produced in Australia in 1996 when degassing the Moura coal mine after the explosion that killed 11 men in 1994.

CSG, which is mainly methane like natural gas, is trapped in tiny cracks and while colourless and odourless, is toxic and explosive. In high quality CSG deposits the cleats or fractures in the coal bed are permeable enough to allow gas and water to flow freely through them and the fracking process to release gas is not required. Seams producing CSG economically are from 200 to 1000 m below the surface. It flows at lower pressure than conventional gas and extraction relies on drilling thousands of small diameter, slower producing wells in close proximity, about 750 m apart. After the hole is drilled to the required depth, steel casing is installed and cement pumped to fill the space between the casing and the well bore. When the cement hardens it provides a barrier between the extraction bore and the surrounding earth beds. Each well must be connected via a twin pipeline network, one carrying gas to a processing facility for distribution, and the other carrying ‘produced’ water, which is saline to a reverse osmosis treatment facility

Access roads link the wells in straight-line corridors creating a pin-cushion effect on the landscape and carving huge swathes through forests. About 3,200 active CSG wells have been drilled in Queensland since 2002 mainly for the domestic market as CSG now supplies about 90% of the State’s gas, but the industry will be turbo-charged by the LNG [liquid natural gas] boom with 20,000 wells already approved and another 14,500 applied for. These wells are all needed to feed by pipeline the three massive LNG plants now being constructed hundreds of kilometres away from the gas fields on Curtis Island in the port of Gladstone, on the edge of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Credit: Jane Lennon

Ruby -153 well, Braemar State Forest [June 2014, J. Lennon]

In 2010-11, Australia sold approximately 20 million tonnes of LNG worth $10 billion, making it our seventh largest export. It is expected to quadruple by 2017 and Australia will be the world’s leading supplier. Most of Australia’s gas is exported along with most of the earnings as 83% of the resources industry is foreign-owned,. The big four CSG producers are: British Gas’s QCLNG, Shell/Petrochina’s Arrow LNG, Santos’s Gladstone LNG, and Origin’s APLNG (Manning, 2013:21-7).

The CSG-LNG projects will deliver a huge windfall in taxes and royalties to the Queensland and Commonwealth governments. Queensland royalties are forecast to rise from $120 million in 2014-15 to $985 million in 2031-32. For cash strapped governments it’s a revenue boon, but the downside is doubling domestic prices to reach ‘export parity’, fly-in-fly-out or drive- in-drive-out workforce, and a two speed economy which is socially divisive. Companies with a highly paid workforce, paying tax and undertaking construction risks are sensitive to regulatory burdens and all governments facilitate their projects and do not enforce detailed prescriptions. Despite all the speed and volume of gas projects, there is a shortage of gas as difficulties getting access to farmers’ land slows down drilling and costs are high in comparison with Qatar, Mozambique, Canada and the USA (Manning, 2013:28-31).

As Australia’s latest resources boom gathered pace at the end of the last decade, ‘farm versus mine’ conflicts were erupting. Farmers and rural residents were successful in getting the attention of urban dwellers and these conflicts were reported regularly in rural papers like The Land in NSW and made daily reading in major newspapers from 2009.

Environmentalists, the Greens and farmers formed an alliance of direct action –the Lock the Gate movement. They engaged in broad civil disobedience such as protests outside company offices and road blockades at well sites in 2011, and thousands of property owners put their distinctive yellow triangular signs on their gates and vehicles thus ensuring high visibility for the protest message. Investigations for television documentaries like ‘Four Corners’ and ’60 Minutes’ as well as radio shows like ‘Landline’ broadcast the issues nationally. US documentaries Gasland and Split Estate were widely viewed.

However, these were drought times still after a long dry decade and not all farmers objected. They were grateful for the annual rent for wells drilled on their land. In 2010 new Queensland legislation ensured farmers were compensated for any impact on their water bores and in 2011 strategic cropping lands were protected by new legislation. However, the three major CSG-LNG projects approved in 2010 proceeded despite the Coordinator General highlighting weaknesses in the environmental impact statements including failure to adequately address cumulative impacts, greenhouse gas emissions, and impacts on underground water. He pointed out that poor water management had the potential to result in widespread, irreversible harm with long term problems for soil, waters, vegetation, ecosystems, crops and future land use (Courier Mail, 8 September 2010). He resigned soon after. Paul Cleary in his 2012 book Mine-Field noted (p.78) that senior public servants had ‘been put in humanly impossible situations in working on CSG approvals.’

With a unicameral parliament in Queensland and no Greens MPs, review of major developments is almost impossible along with the rush for royalties before aus_1regulation. The Newman government established a Gasfields Commission in 2012 but it was compromised from its first appointment. The Department of Environment and Resource management in its 2011 compliance report noted that no unscheduled audits of fracking had taken place that year due to occupational health and safety difficulties but these audits are the cornerstone of effective regulation. Poaching of scientists and skilled people to the better paid CSG industry also meant that government lacked the skills and people to effectively assess and regulate the industry (Manning, 2013:127-131). Meanwhile government staff in rural areas are trying to protect the people’s forests, public land originally reserved on the Darling Downs as State Forests for timber production [outlined in red at above].

Arrow Energy has wells in and adjacent to Braemar SF which lies roughly between the Dalby-Kogan and Dalby-Tara roads, to the west of the rich farmlands along the Condamine River.

The photographs below show the extent of development of wells, pipelines, access roads, reverse osmosis water treatment plants, brine ponds and gas processing plants from 2005 (left ) to 2012 (right).

aus_2There are separate ponds of 840ML and 960ML respectively for produced and treated water. The dots are pads for the wells ‘70m by 70m with a 15 year life expectancy depending on the depth of the coal strata’. A reverse osmosis facility [top right corner of photos] treats the water and pumps it to a farm experimenting with central pivot irrigated corn and cotton with salts ranging from 25 to 7000 ppm and the salts treated to brine might be used as fertilizer (Arrow Energy, pers. comm., 21 June 2014). There is a redesign of the well distribution, which was five wells on a dice pattern, now with 12 wells on a single pad three kilometres apart along the Condamine flats and the pad can be in paddock corner rather than in the centre.
These production wells target the confined Walloon Coal Measures below the Condamine alluvium. Some wells may be as shallow as 150m. The Condamine alluvium is already depleted and highly regulated with farmers only allowed to take 46 GL/per year from the aquifer for irrigation, which is half the historical level. Unfortunately about 40% of Arrow’s gas lies in the Horrane Trough right beneath the floodplain which on any assessment is strategic cropping land producing $5000 per hectare annually for cotton (Manning, 2013:141- 4). Farmers fear this land could be contaminated if production water gets into the aquifer.

New road Braemar State Forest [June 2014, J Lennon]

New road Braemar State Forest [June 2014, J Lennon]

The South East Queensland Regional Forest Agreement in the late 1990s meant the end of native forest logging which was to be phased out by 2025 and 1.2 million ha locked up. The Newman government in 2010 opened all State Forests for logging and increased mining tenements, although 400, 000 ha was transferred to National Parks without tenements and Native Title ILUAs (Indigenous Land Use Agreements). Braemar State Forest (SF4) was established in the 1930s for western hardwood extraction and contained forestry barracks and an arboretum. Currently it yields royalties of $200 ha for 15 years of localised cutting then it will cease. Forest Products Branch currently receives more revenue from selling rocks from their quarries than from trees (T. Beetson, pers. comm., 21 June 2014).

In the forest, gazetted roads were cleared by the Shire and Arrow Energy pays for this. They have 3 months for salvage of timber but Forest Products staff need 12 months to cover the rate and extent of clearing so the compensation clause of $2000 ha comes into action. They have to chip all the cleared vegetation from the well pad sites as a carbon offset. Pipes have been laid at shallow depth despite permit conditions and this makes forest harvesting difficult. The high pressure lines are steel but the feeders are polypipe. Habitat fragmentation (above photographs) is the result of all this construction and clearing, despite the EIS agreeing to ‘retention of corridors’ and permits granted to clear 2-3% of the tree cover. There are three huge parallel pipelines cutting through the forest taking gas for export to Gladstone and shipping terminals.

Condamine State Forest (SF181) is severely impacted by CSG. Cypress trees take 200 years to reach commercial size and apiary sites are worth only $150 annually in rental but miners do not want log landings on cleared areas for pipelines and are suspicious of any visitors to their sites in forest areas.
Monitoring of conditions is also problematic with multiple agencies having different levels of authority. The Department of Mines monitors mine safety; the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection sets out the environmental controls following consideration of company submitted EIS reports and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry monitors clearing and collects royalties for cleared vegetation. Arrow Energy staff said they monitor conditions (for example, fugitive emissions) and employ contractors to monitor against the conditions of the permits to operate.


Extent of CSG development in Condamine State Forest, 2014

Extent of CSG development in Condamine State Forest, 2014

Braemar power stations nos 1 and 2 (photograph below) operate adjacent to the Kogan Creek Power Station and its Queensland to NSW high voltage transmission interconnector and the Power Link substation forming a big hub in the forest. They use CSG fired turbines and production water, not steam, and so are almost invisible in the forest landscape until one arrives at their fenced off compounds.

These highly efficient power stations supply electricity to Brisbane but the explosion in CSG wells is to provide gas for export to foreign markets. Governments receive large royalties now and a few towns are buzzing with spinoff commercial activity as they supply the network of private contractor villages that have sprung up across the gas fields. While some farmers are happy to receive annual rentals for wells on their properties most are concerned about long term impacts on their underground water and the rehabilitation costs [25, 000 wells of varying depth] for their land surface. The Darling Downs as part of Australia’s prime food bowl should be protected from resource extraction industries and gas mining companies should be subject to the same regulatory regime as farmers for water use.

The gas industry has been given rushed approval to transform some of Australia’s most productive agricultural country on a previously unimaginable, region-wide scale, without a rigorous scientific understanding of the impacts and without a community or social license to operate. In another 25 years who will pay to clean up the mess across the landscape and underground and will there be water for farming?

Jane Lennon is a founding member of Australia ICOMOS, a former ICCROM council member and Australian Heritage Councillor. She is an expert member of the ICOMOS/IFLA Cultural Landscape Committee She holds a PhD from Deakin University and she is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Melbourne.

ABC North Coast [] Institute of Foresters, Qld, Field trip, Dalby, 21-22 June 2014
Cleary, Paul, 2012. Mine-field: The dark side of Australia’s resources rush, Black Inc, Melbourne
Courier Mail, Brisbane, 8 September 2010
Manning Paddy, 2013. What the Frack?: everything you need to know about coal seam gas, NewSouth QuickEs book, Sydney


Recognize Adirondack Park as National Heritage

By Guest Observer January 29, 2015

By Paul Bray

I’ve been to the Rockies, and clearly, a visitor can’t help but be awestruck by their height and views. Yet the Adirondack Park is where I prefer to go.

Adirondack Museum at Blue Mt. Lake

Adirondack Museum at Blue Mt. Lake. Photo by Paul Bray.

I’ve had decades of pleasurable visits to the Adirondack Park to hike, climb, ski, canoe, enjoy the scenery and go to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Whether my visit is to recreate or debate park management policy, I’m drawn to the region’s history and ongoing politics as well as its lakes, ponds and rivers.

What brings this to mind is the emerging awareness and appreciation of the Adirondacks’ heritage — something Congress ought to take note of, too.

Last year, author Marty Podskoch offered an idea for experiencing the park in his book, “Adirondack 102 Club, Your Passport to the North Country.” His idea was for a club to encourage travelers to visit all the towns and villages of the Adirondack Park.

“Since 2001, I traveled to all of the 102 towns and villages in the Adirondacks gathering stories for my five books on the Adirondack fire towers, the Civilian Conservation Corps camps, and Adirondack lore,” he writes. “In my travels people have taken me in for the night and shared their home, food and stories. I have met so many wonderful people and seen so many interesting places that I want to share my experience.”

Like the Adirondack 46ers — the designation for those who have climbed all 46 Adirondack peaks 4,000 feet or higher — there are now the “102ers” or “Vagabond” members who have visited all 102 Adirondack towns and villages. “Vagabonds” is the term Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs used to describe themselves on their automobile camping trips in the Adirondacks and other sojourns throughout the nation.

I knew the Adirondack activist, Barbara McMartin, who wrote 25 guide books and histories of the Adirondacks before she died in 2005. She was engaged with and passionate about the policies of managing the many issues associated with a park with constitutionally protected areas, sustainable forestry, and civic recreational areas like Lake George.

Baxter Mountain n the Adirondacks. Credit: Adirondack Counci

Baxter Mountain in the Adirondacks. Credit: Adirondack Council

One of her last books was “Perspectives on the Adirondacks: A Thirty-year Struggle by People Protecting Their Treasure.” I was active in the Sierra Club during those 30 years, and worked with her on Adirondack Park Centennial committee. We coined the name “A Park of Nature and People”.

Philip Terrie, who also has written a number of books about the Adirondacks and is a passionate supporter of the forest preserve, declared the park is a “cultural landscape,” an acknowledgment of the human and cultural heritage of the park, which I value along with the wild forest.

Now that New York state has five National Heritage Areas — including the cultural landscapes of the Hudson River with its renowned 19th-century art school; the Erie Canal that opened the way to the West; and Niagara Falls, one of the nation’s best known natural icons — it is time for Congress to designate the Adirondack Park a National Heritage Area, too. This designation does not call for land use regulation or other restrictions. It is a means to foster recognition of heritage and education of this great American landscape

This article originally appeared in the Albany Times-Union


Cultural Landscapes Conference at the University of Massachusetts

By Guest Observer December 30, 2014

This timely conference, Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values: Embracing Change in the Management of Place, will emphasize the need to acknowledge and engage change in the successful interpretation, conservation, and management of landscapes; the often unproductive dichotomy of “natural” and “cultural” resources; the factors of social and economic inequality inherent in the designation and management of living landscapes; and other critical issues in heritage studies today that are raised and provoked by cultural landscape research and conservation.

Plenary speakers include Graham Fairclough, Newcastle University and Jane Lennon Deakin University.

Abstracts are due January 15, 2015. The Conference is May 13-15, 2015.


The Year’s Top Stories

By Guest Observer December 23, 2014

New York State’s Recreational Areas Deserve Spotlight

By Guest Observer November 30, 2014

By Paul M. Bray

Photograph Courtesy of the National Park Service

View of Central Park in New York City. Photo Courtesy: National Park Service

As a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, I’ve met park managers and activists from all parts of the world. I have seen how America’s National Parks are well known internationally. The National Park System is called the best idea America has ever had. The National Park Service is renowned for its skill in managing parks from Yellowstone, known as the mecca of parks, to portions of Lowell, Mass., an old industrial city.

But New York state has not gotten such national and international attention for its great parks and protected areas.

Consider the state’s protection of wilderness areas.

One of the nation’s most important environmental laws turned 50 this year: the Wilderness Act. New York played an important role in its establishment. The state passed a constitutional amendment in 1894 declaring the public land within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks shall remain “forever wild.” This is the only constitutionally protected wild land in the nation, a large portion of which is being managed as “wilderness.”

Howard Zahniser, former leader of the Wilderness Society, was instrumental in the creation of the Wilderness Law. Zahniser had a cabin in the Adirondack Park near a cabin owned by Paul Schaefer, a leading advocate for protecting New York’s forest preserve. Zahniser was impressed by the forest preserve and spent many hours talking with Schaefer about New York’s experience with the forest preserve.

Like our National Park System, New York has a wide range of top notch parks and protected areas. Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City are renowned as urban pastoral gardens. Olmsted also selected the location of Albany’s Washington Park. Regrettably, Albany’s city fathers rejected Olmsted’s insistence on designing a coordinated system of parks and parkways, and he moved on to Buffalo, where he went on to do just that, the first such system of its kind in the country.

In 1892, the state established the vast Adirondack Park, which is now 6 million acres in size. It was followed in the early 20th century by the Catskill Park. Both parks are a matrix of wild forest lands and inhabited areas.
Robert Moses led New York to establish the nation’s first state park system, now composed of 179 state parks and 37 historic sites. The system includes Niagara Falls, the oldest state park in the nation, Letchworth State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the East, and the vast Jones Beach on Long Island.

In 1982 the state enacted the nation’s first Urban Cultural Park System. It is now called the Heritage Area System. It has 20 State Heritage Areas ranging from Harbor Park in New York City, portions of cities like Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, villages like Seneca Falls and Sackets Harbor, and regional heritage areas like the Concord Grape Heritage Area.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas. Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Heritage Areas have been called “partnership” parks because successful management depends upon partnership between the state, localities and the private sector. Sadly, they have been limping along because the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has not wanted to uphold its share of the partnership. Notwithstanding the troubles some of the Heritage Areas have had with the state, the first of the 49 National Heritage Areas which followed in New York’s footsteps is having a 30th anniversary this year. New York again led the nation.

Our state also has established greenways like the Hudson River Greenway, stretching from New York City to Saratoga and Washington counties, and preserves like the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, which was recently designated by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark, and the Long Island Central Pine Barrens.

We should be proud of our parks and protected areas in New York state. Many of us enjoy, are inspired by and make good recreational use of one or more of our parks and protected areas, but I don’t think we have proudly proclaimed how world class our parks, protected and heritage areas are. We need to show our pride if we are to be known as a desirable place to live.

This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on October 12, 2014


Apply Now for Advocacy Scholars – Deadline Oct. 31

By Guest Observer August 27, 2014
Members of the the North Carolina Delegation from University of North Carolina Greensboro during Advocacy Week 2013, pictured here with Representative Richard Hudson. Photo: Preservation Action

Members of the the North Carolina Delegation from University of North Carolina Greensboro during Advocacy Week 2013, pictured here with Representative Richard Hudson. Photo: Preservation Action

Deadline October 31!

Historic Preservation Advocacy Week is an annual event bringing over 250 preservationists to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to advocate for stronger federal preservation policies. This year, the Preservation Action Foundation will be offering a limited number of scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students to attend the important event. The award includes complimentary registration to Advocacy Week in March 2015 and a $500 stipend.

The Advocacy Scholars Program is open to undergraduate and graduate students in Public Policy, Historic Preservation, History, Law, Planning, Architecture or related programs. Submissions must be emailed by October 31st. Note Advocacy Scholar in subject line.

Selected Advocacy Scholars will be notified by January 5, 2015.

Submissions must include:

1. A cover letter stating your interest, any previous legislative or advocacy experience and how participating in the program will contribute to your academic and professional goals.

2. A 1,500 word essay on either of the following topics:

National Heritage Areas@30: In 2014 Congress considered multiple requests to designate new National Heritage Areas, even though the program faces continued financial and legislative challenges. Why is this large landscape program so compelling and what is its future? Give us your thoughts.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established policy to protect our nation’s cultural resources. Preservation Action was founded by advocates to make historic preservation policies a national legislative priority. How do people who value preservation continue to take a stand? How to engage the next generation of historic preservationists and advocates?

3. Proof of academic enrollment.

For more information, www. or contact Trisha Logan, Vice Chair of Development for Preservation Action at


Cultural Landscape Foundation Features Duncan Hilchey Interview

By Guest Observer August 26, 2014
Credit: Duncan Hilchey

Grape Belt Heritage Area, New York State. Credit: Duncan Hilchey

The Cultural Landscape Foundation recently featured an interview with Duncan Hilchey. It highlights his work on agricultural landscapes, including the wild blueberry barrens of Maine and the cranberry bog region of southeastern Massachusetts, both recently included as featured landscapes, as well as the Concord Grape Belt in New York State. Read the whole interview here.


Help NY State Heritage Areas

By Guest Observer August 26, 2014

by Paul Bray

A few years ago a delegation of environmentalists and officials from the Adirondack Park visited Lake Baikal in Russia. Lake Baikal is so large that it is often mistaken for a sea. It is the deepest and largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world, and thought to be the world’s oldest as well. Famous for its crystal clear waters and unique wildlife, the lake is under threat by pollution, poaching and development.

An Adirondack lawyer on the trip told me that they had a boat ride with a group of Russians. One of the Russians said to him “Why are we wasting our time with Americans? Russia has a culture that produced great writers like Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and Chekhov, great musicians like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov and great dancers like Baryshnikov, Nureyev, and Nijinsky. What has America contributed to the world?” The American lawyer responded bluntly saying that America has contributed “the rule of law.”
Credit: New York State Government

While Russian culture has much to admire, it is rule of law that makes America special. As a drafter of laws for 30 years at the state Legislature and as an engaged citizen, I respect our state laws. It is troubling to me when, for example, a law like the state heritage area law is ignored and intentionally is not funded or not supported with staff, as is happening in the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic preservation law under the Cuomo administration.

The New York State Heritage Area System Act of the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law enacted in 1982 represents the first and most comprehensive attempt at creating a statutory framework for the designation and management of urban and regional heritage settings.

Today, the system has 20 heritage areas, like the Albany Heritage Area, designated by the state Legislature. The 1982 New York law creating a system of 13 state heritage areas is the forerunner of the 49 National Heritage Areas, which include the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Hudson River National Heritage area. The first National Heritage Area, The Illinois-Michigan National Heritage Corridor, was created 30 years in 1984 ago by Congress.

We should think of the state’s heritage as the Europeans think of their cultural heritage. Europeans consider it their “common wealth — our inheritance from previous generations of Europeans and our legacy for those to come,” as the European Commission puts it in a report this year on an integrated approach to the cultural heritage of Europe. “It is an irreplaceable repository of knowledge and a valuable resource for economic growth, employment and social cohesion.”
The report goes on to recognize that “cultural heritage is a shared resource, and a common good. Like other such public goods it can be vulnerable to over-exploitation and under-funding, which can result in neglect, decay and, in some cases, oblivion. Looking after our heritage is, therefore, our common responsibility.”

New York’s heritage areas are “partnership parks” encompassing public and private interests as well as partnership between state and local government. The award-winning state plan for the state heritage area system declared “the principal state agency responsible for establishing the System will be the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.”
But our state parks agency abandoned the state heritage areas and their law, leaving the responsibility to local governments.

Some heritage areas have had success; others have failed for lack of state partnership support. This abandonment of the state heritage area law, which remains in the state law books, is a sad example of the failure of the rule of law by the state of New York.

* This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on August 11, 2014
Paul Bray’s email is


How to Write Off Traditional Cultural Properties: the Gladesmen Report

By Guest Observer July 31, 2014

by Tom King

Note: This article was first posted as an entry on the weblog Tom King’s CRM Plus on July 8, 2014.

Credit: National Park Service

Historic image of Gladesmen using Dune Buggies in the Everglades. Credit: NPS

I recently reviewed a report prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by New South Associates, entitled You Just Can’t Live Without it: Ethnographic Study and Evaluation of Traditional Cultural Properties of the Modern Gladesmen Culture. I hoped that the report would describe a good traditional cultural properties (TCP) study that focused on places of concern to groups of people other than Native Americans or Native Hawai’ians.  Such studies are rare; although National Register Bulletin 38 on the identification and documentation of TCPs makes it clear that diverse groups of people can value such places, there is a tendency to limit the context in which the TCP concept is applied.

I was deeply disappointed by the Gladesmen report, and feel obligated to say why.

Who Are the Gladesmen?

The Gladesmen are mostly Euro-american (especially Scots-Irish) rural residents of Florida’s Everglades. They’re broadly characterized as a subdivision of the American South’s “Cracker” culture of self-sufficient rural subsistence farming, fishing, hunting, gathering and very small-scale industry. Gladesmen comprise the families that have for generations lived in and around the Everglades, more or less making their livings by hunting alligators and other game, fishing, plume gathering, moonshining, and small-scale agriculture (See Simmons & Ogden 2010, Ogden 2011).

The Study

The ethnographic study of Gladesmen TCPs was commissioned by the Corps of Engineers in connection with a Master Recreation Plan being developed as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Apparently the possibility of National Register eligible TCPs was raised during public meetings on the CERP, and the Corps contracted with New South to determine whether any existed. New South undertook a program of background research and ethnographic interviews to reach conclusions about whether any Gladesmen TCPs were present. Having identified thirteen candidate sites, they went through them and concluded that only two were in fact TCPs eligible for the Register – though they hedge their bets by calling for some to be analyzed further if some future action threatens them.


So why did I find the Gladesmen study so disappointing? Let me try to explain:

What Was Evaluated?

It is not clear to me how the thirteen sites studied were selected, or indeed why specific sites were selected at all. Comments on the draft report by Palm Beach County Archaeologist Christian Davenport identified a number of other seemingly relevant locations that should have been considered, as well as additional informants. New South breezily dismisses Davenport’s comments as “outside the scope of this preliminary study.” Exactly what the study is “preliminary” to is unclear. What particularly puzzles me is why the authors felt compelled to focus on specific locations. One clear feature of Gladesmen culture is the mobility of its participants; they traveled and still travel all over the Glades. Why wasn’t the overall landscape evaluated? By focusing on specific locations (albeit including some linear properties like roads and streams), it seems to me that the study atomizes the environment that Gladesmen value, making it easy to devalue its specific parts.

Which is what the report proceeds to do.

(Mis)understanding TCPs

Although the authors of the report have apparently at least looked at National Register Bulletin 38, there is little evidence that they’ve tried very hard to understand it. Instead, it appears that they have cherry-picked concepts, and in some cases made them up, to support their conclusions.

In Chapter II, for example, on page 10, we are told that:

“(a)n identified historic property usually must be 50 years old to be considered a TCP.”

This implies that a place must first be “identified” as an historic property and then considered for TCP status if it is 50 years old. This of course stands the evaluation process on its head. A place is a TCP if it is regarded by people as important in sustaining their traditional cultural values; having recognized that it has this value, then one applies the National Register criteria and criteria considerations to see if it is Register-eligible. And of course, “50 years old” is a deeply simplistic gloss on the actual “Fifty-year rule” laid out in the Register’s criteria considerations.

The same paragraph characterizes the “integrity” of a TCP as referring to “a sustained, integral relationship to traditional cultural or beliefs” and a condition that is “sufficient to convey significance.” This may be a clumsy gloss on the Bulletin’s discussion of a TCP’s two kinds of integrity – integrity of association and integrity of condition – but if so it is a clumsy one indeed. The reference to a “sustained…relationship,” for example, is made up out of whole cloth, but neatly sets the authors up for their subsequent dismissal of eleven of the sites. The allusion to “convey(ing) significance” – another notion not derived from Bulletin 38 – helps the authors dismiss the significance of the sites based on their own perceptions (i.e. the perceptions of those to whom the sites do or do not convey things) – never mind those of the Gladesmen.

“Continuity” Claptrap

On the same page, we are told that:

“the most critical element in whether or not a property represents a TCP is its role in long term and continuous maintenance of a given culture” (emphasis added).

“Continuity” is a notion that has no basis whatever in Bulletin 38. The Bulletin succinctly says, on page 18, that “(t)he fact that a property may have gone unused for a lengthy period of time … does not make the property ineligible for the (National) Register.” Let alone ineligible to be a TCP. Continuity as a “critical element” – or indeed any kind of element – is something that has been made up to justify dismissing the significance of places from whose use people have been lately excluded. As many Indian tribes can testify, the fact that one has been made unable to maintain the traditional use of a place – through relocation, forcible exclusion, genocide, or other historical circumstance – by no means renders the place insignificant. Yet the authors of the Gladesmen study elevate their whole-cloth invention to the status of “most critical element” in determining whether a place is a TCP. They go on to explain:

“Because continuity in use plays such an important role in defining TCPs, changes in a property’s use or association through time can change the eligibility status of that property. If extensive changes or discontinuity in use occur through time, a site that has integrity may still be eligible for recording as a historic property…. But it would not maintain the necessary level of significance for recording as a TCP.”

This “important role” that the authors assign to “continuity in use” forms the basis for the rest of the study’s dismissive “analysis.” But it is a status assigned by the authors based on no stated authority, and it is directly inconsistent with the plain language of Bulletin 38.

Inflating Misstatements

Perhaps following the maxim that if you tell a big enough lie often enough it becomes the truth, the authors repeatedly reframe and elaborate on their misstatements. On page 103, Chapter VII, for instance, as they set about “identifying Gladesmen TCPs,” they say that:

“(i)t is important to restate here that many properties associated with Gladesmen Culture may warrant recording as ‘historic properties’… but not all of these will meet the criteria for recording them (sic) as TCPs. The NRHP guidelines distinguish a TCP as a property that not only meets existing criteria as a historic property … but is also one that represents a continuing association with the (Gladesmen) culture whose primary importance is its role in maintaining cultural identity and practice.”

So now a Gladesmen TCP must not only be eligible for the Register and “represent a continuing association” (whatever that means), but must have “maintaining cultural identity and practice” as its “primary importance.” How in the world is anyone supposed to ascertain whether a place meets all these new and inventive standards? Who, for instance, is supposed to decide whether a place’s role in “maintaining cultural identify and practice” is “primary?” As opposed to secondary, tertiary, or quaternary?

Note, too, the reference to “NRHP guidelines.” What guidelines are these? Certainly not Bulletin 38. The bibliography also refers to National Register Bulletin 15; if that bulletin provides advice upon which the authors base their assumptions, it would have been helpful for them to have provided a specific citation. But no, we are simply assured that New South’s case is grounded on “NRHP guidelines.”

The mysterious “guidelines” are referred to again on page 124, where we are told that:

“NRHP guidelines distinguish a TCP as a property that not only meets existing (as opposed, one imagines, to nonexistent) criteria as a historic property … but is also one that represents a continuing association whose primary importance is its role in maintaining cultural identity and practice.”

The authors go on to warn us that:

“(p)roperties will not meet TCP criteria if the continuity of their use has significantly changed over time, if they do not retain sufficient integrity, and, most importantly, if they do not contribute to maintaining Gladesmen Culture as a whole.”

Again, as far as I can tell, New South has made up these standards on the spot, out of thin air.

Who Sez?

But let’s assume just for a moment that there really is some National Register guideline that makes all those preposterous statements. How would one operationalize it? Notably, who is to determine whether the use of a place has “significantly changed?” Or whether it retains “sufficient” integrity? “Sufficient” relative to what? And who decides whether a place contributes to maintaining Gladesmen Culture, particularly “as a whole?”

New South never tells us, but it becomes abundantly clear that the invariable answer to the question of “who says” is: you guessed it, New South. Despite Bulletin 38’s repeated calls for evaluating the significance and integrity of places with reference to the views and beliefs of those who value them, the Gladesmen report authors never miss a beat in skipping from describing properties to evaluating them, with never a reference that I could find to the views of Gladesmen themselves. Chapter IX presents the study’s “results,” which the authors unblushingly identify on page 131 as “New South Associates’ findings.”

The Bottom Line

And what are these findings? That eleven of the thirteen properties described just haven’t been “demonstrated” (by whom?) to be TCPs, or lack “sufficient” information to permit evaluation. Two properties – a duck camp and the site of an airboat association (already identified by the Corps as eligible for the Register) are identified as honest-to-gosh TCPs.

Here’s one typical example of how New South writes off possible TCPs. It happens to be Duck Camp #2, but it could be any of the others.

“Oral history suggests that this campsite has been in use by modern Gladesmen since the late 1950s, as well as during earlier times. However, use of the camp by regional Gladesmen changed with its ownership by Governor Kirk, and the current camp cabin was not built until the 1970s. While the location has a known Gladesmen association that qualifies it as an historic property, New South does not recommend Duck Camp #2 to the NRHP as a TCP.”

Just like that. The site is associated through oral history with Gladesmen use since sometime before the late 1950s but New South in its Olympian wisdom “does not recommend” it as a TCP.

Why? Well, we’re not told, but maybe it has something to do with that 1970s house. But we’re talking about a site here, are we not? Which in NRHP lingo means a piece of real property regardless of any buildings or structures on it. Or maybe it’s something in the oral history – maybe people say “naah, we don’t care about that place.” If that’s what they say, it might have been nice of the authors to mention it. But New South apparently feels no need to justify its judgments with data; it is sufficient that it “does not recommend” the place.

The statement does go on:

“The camp appears to be typical of a mid-century Everglades backcountry camp that is used by an individual or a small number of people.”

Is this some sort of implicit standard? Must the camp be atypical? Used by more than a “small” (sic) number of people? We are not told. We are told, however – in another unsubstantiated statement of imperious opinion, that:

“Duck Camp #2 does not exhibit a continuing association with modern Gladesmen Culture as a whole and therefore is not recommended as a TCP.”

Excuse me? Have the authors not just asserted that Duck Camp #2 has a Gladesmen association extending back to before the 1950s? Is this somehow not “continuing?” Did Governor Kirk’s ownership sever that relationship? If so, how? Or is the failure somehow to reflect association with Gladesman culture “as a whole” what dooms the camp? The (somewhat) detailed data on Duck Camp #2 found on pages 156-60 does not clarify.

The rest of the evaluations are similar. Each briefly summarizes descriptive data on the site and then states a conclusion, substantiated by nothing other than New South’s self-assumed authority


What are we to make of this report? It’s certainly not an example I intend to cite – except perhaps as an indicator of how not to evaluate TCPs. But why in the world is it as it is? Does it give the Corps of Engineers anything it can really use in designing and carrying out the CERP? Does it give Gladesmen any help in preserving these places that, as the report’s title implies, they “just can’t live without?” Did preparing it accomplish anything other than to support some New South employees for a while and bring New South some overhead?

I don’t know, but I do know that the report butchers the very notion of traditional cultural properties, wildly misinterpreting Bulletin 38. I suspect, too, that it has given the Corps an ostensibly authoritative basis for writing off the traditional cultural significance of Gladesmen sites – and perhaps more importantly, of Gladesmen cultural landscapes – as it moves forward with implementing the CERP.


Ogden, Laura A.
2011 Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press

Parker, Patricia L. and Thomas F. King

1990 Guidelines for the Evaluation and Documentation of Traditional Cultural Properties. National Register Bulletin 38. Washington DC, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.

Simmons, Glenn, and Laura Ogden
2010 Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers. Gainesville, University Press of Florida.

Addendum: After this review appeared on my weblog, I received a note from a source that I regard as entirely reliable, advising me that the Gladesmen report had been modified significantly after its author turned it in, without her knowledge or consent, essentially reversing her conclusions. If this is true — and I have no reason to think it is not, it absolves her of responsibility for the report, but does nothing to resolve the larger issues. Sadly, I think the kind of thing the published Gladesmen report represents is pretty typical of standard “professional” practice these days in cultural resource management and environmental impact assessment.

Thomas F. (Tom) King is the author, co-author, or editor of ten books on aspects of cultural heritage, and the co-author of National Register Bulletin 38 on the identification and documentation of traditional cultural places. He is a consultant based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and can be contacted at tomking106 at


New Report: Climate Change Threatens United States’ most cherished historic sites

By Guest Observer July 30, 2014

A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists documents the consequences of climate change that are putting many of the country’s most iconic and historic sites at risk. From Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California’s César Chávez National Monument, these sites face a perilous and uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increased flooding, and other damaging effects of climate change.
Read the full report: National Landmarks at Risk