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Mesa Verde National Park: Reinterpreting a Landscape

By Brenda Barrett October 31, 2019
Ranger tour of Cliff Palace Mesa Verde National Park

The word landscape jumps out at you on many of the interpretative signs at Mesa Verde National Park and the real thing is before you at every overlook.  The park established in 1906, ten years before the creation of the National Park Service, was later designated as the first World Heritage cultural site in the United States (1978). The original motive for creating the park came out of a growing interest in the archaeology of the Southwest that also lead to the creation of national monuments such as Chaco Canyon, Bandelier, Hovenweep and Aztec Ruins.  What made Mesa Verde standout to the early settlers and explorers were the extensive ‘cliff houses and ancient ruins’. In 1892 the writer Frederick Chapin visited one of the larger sites and described it as “occupying a great oval space under a grand cliff wonderful to behold, appearing like an immense ruined castle with dismantled towers.” 

Mesa Verde National Park’s World Heritage Plaque prominently displayed at the entrance to the park’s Chapin Museum

 In part it was this cross-cultural comparison of the structures to European building types that focused attention on Mesa Verde as something special in North America – a place that needed to be preserved. This was not to say the that the artifacts associated with the site were not seen as important. In fact, the designation was made more urgent by the continued threat of pothunting and vandalism of the sites in the cliffs and on the mesa tops.

For years Mesa Verde National Park was described as a place shrouded in mystery. The people who lived there were portrayed as having suddenly abandoned the cliff dwelling and just disappeared. The builders were labeled the Anasazi a term derived from the Navajo word meaning ‘ancient ones’ or alternatively ‘ancient enemies’, which added to the confusion. Now we know that these people did not disappear, but migrated south to become the ancestors of the modern-day pueblo and Hopi people.  Today park interpretation refers to the cliff dwellers as Ancestral Puebloans who like so many people around the globe migrated to other places for other opportunities. 

Just as importantly, current research places the people of Mesa Verde in a much larger regional context. Settlements that date from between 350 BC and AD 1300, the span of settlement on Mesa Verde, are found throughout southwestern Colorado and in the Four Corners region. Current research also links the people of Mesa Verde to one of the centers of Puebloan culture Chaco Cultural National Historical Park  another World Heritage site (1987).  As our ranger said on a recent tour of Cliff Palace, by the 1200s the region had a larger population than live here today. He told us that if we could have looked out from the tops of the mesas at night, we would see the fires from towns and villages that spread to the horizon. This image helps visualize the peopling of the region at a landscape scale. 

Burned landscape on Wetherill Mesa

The newer interpretation gives visitors a better understanding of the past population of Mesa Verde, but does not answer the question of why did they leave the region after 1300s? Possibly for some the same threats that hover over the Mesa Verde today – changes in the environment and changes in climate. The park has not shied away from this topic. A recent study has shown that today’s hot and dry conditions in Mesa Verde have exceeded climates fluxes in the past.  A park resource manager noted that nearly 70% of the landscape in the 52,485-acre park has been altered in just the last few decades for reasons that tie directly back to climate change. Namely, drought-driven fires.h

This has had a severe impact on the mesa top landscape fires have been able to take hold that have burned off acres and acres of the pinon-juniper forests. While periodic droughts were common to the region in the past, the current level is unprecedented. A 2016 UNESCO report on World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate hspecifically identified the park as facing serious risks rising temperatures and declining rainfall. A combination could cause increased wildfires that might irreversibly damage the park. 

Banner at the entrance to the Park Museum

How is the park telling these newer stories? First, by recognizing the ancestral Puebloan roots of the people of Mesa Verde in park waysides and in ranger talks and programs,  and  also by offering  forthright statements on climate change. A prominent banner in the Chapin Museum states that while climate change has always been with us “Today the rate of change is greater than in any other time in the earth’s history.”

Mesa Verde National Park has relatively lower visitation (563,000 in 2018) compared to some other parks on the Colorado Plateau with over 1.5 million visors a year. However, it is no backwater when it comes to sharing the latest findings in history and science. 

Congratulations to all! 

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Landscape Management: More than just Words

By Brenda Barrett September 25, 2019


Working on a landscape scale has numerous benefits. For example, it can aide in planning for climate change resilience, wild life corridor management, and cultural connectivity. However, one recent effort to facilitate landscape scale conservation has raised more questions than it answers. In 2018, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the Department of the Interior (DOI) would now be managed  as 12 Unified Regions , superceding the existing approaches used by each individual bureau within the agency. The stated goal of the change? To enable entities like the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct business more effectively and efficiently. 

More recently, in 2019, under a new Secretary David Bernhardt, the Department has adopted a revised vocabulary and a new version of the map.  The exact same 12 Unified Regions have been given a nice geographic gloss with names based roughly on watershed boundaries. The regions are now described as being “Rooted in the best science and focused on watersheds and ecosystems, the Interior Regions simplify how the Department is organized.”    However, in actual fact, nothing but the names have changed.  

Looking at budget documents is always instructive and this is where the gloves come off. No more nice talk about the best science here.  For example, in the Department of Interior 2020 Budget Request for the National Park Service, the new unified regions are justified as “making it easier for the public to do business with Interior.” And it is pretty obvious which members of the public are to be favored, as the document goes on to say: “As part of the reorganization reforms, Interior will relocate some bureau headquarters functions out West where the preponderance of Interior’s assets and acres are located.” The National Park Service (NPS), an agency that  has a portfolio of sites and programs that serve all 50 states and our territories, is specifically directed to assess what headquarters functions could be delivered more effectively “out West” and to identify staff and functions to be moved there.  Some regions, i.e. the West, are clearly more favored than others and science has nothing to do with it.

What is wrong with this picture? 

Well for one thing it costs money. Funding of $17.5 million was appropriated in Department of Interior FY19 Budget for Reorganization.  And more money is proposed in the 2020 Budget. This is not that much in Federal budget terms, but for chronically underfunded agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service it adds up. 

Loss of talent and expertise.  We do not have to guess what will happen to experienced staff in these reorganizations. A recent relocation of the science programs in the Department of Agriculture from Washington DC to Kansas City has already caused two thirds of the staff to leave. The research arm of the department is now in shambles.  The Department of Interior has ordered the relocation of over 200 Washington based Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to western locations such as Grand Junction CO. In recent testimony, William Perry Pendley, Acting Director of BLM, opined that ‘only’ 25% of the employees would reign or retire.  This hemorrhaging of professional staff caused Mick Mulvaney the Administration’s Director Office of Management and Budget to quip this a great way to streamline government. See our recent article on the uncertain future of the BLM’s conservation mission.  

Serving which Public Interest?  Working on a landscape level is a good thing. After all it was less than a decade ago that the Department of Interior launched the Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network   with goal of building connections to tackle large scale and long-term conservation challenges.  However, that program is now history and the new ‘regionalization’ seems to have a different outcome in mind. As was recently reported BLM  will now be sharing an office building in Grand Junction with Chevron corporate office, Colorado Oil and Gas Association and an independent natural gas exploration company. The legislative, budget and national program staff from BLM, who had worked closely with Congress, will now be based in town without even a direct airline connection to DC, but just down the hall from ‘interests in the West’.

And it is not just BLM. Remember there is a directive and money in the FY 2020 Federal budget for the NPS to focus on what functions can be delivered ‘out West’. It is hard to see how this is approach is rooted in the best science and it is certainly not based on most effective governance to conserve the landscapes that the American people treasure.  

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‘Memorial Park’ Carlisle PA

By Brenda Barrett April 28, 2019
Small Plaque commemoration some of the burials in ‘Memorial Park’

Memorial Park in the peaceful central Pennsylvania town of Carlisle is just one example of the tragic fate of many African American burial grounds. The site of this park was once the Lincoln Cemetery. It was used by the African American community between 1840 and the early 1900s. While the number of burials is not known, they probably numbered in the hundreds including 35 former United States Colored Troops (USCT) veterans.

In 1971, the Lincoln Cemetery had fallen into disuse and was seemingly abandoned. The Borough of Carlisle, under pressure to provide more recreational opportunities for under-served neighborhoods, proposed to create a recreational park on the site.  The Borough applied to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for grant assistance and received two grants from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund – one for planning and another for construction of a park. Despite some controversy, the grant project went forward. The headstones were removed by the Borough, and their whereabouts are still unknown. None of the burials were moved and remain in the ground underneath the park. The final park design moved the playground to the edge of the site and today features some landscaping, a sitting area, and walking path.  All that marks the site’s former status as a cemetery is a memorial plaque and one headstone whose family fought to maintain it on the site.

But the memory of what was once there still remained as a point of concern in the primarily African American neighborhoods that surrounds the park. Recently, the Cumberland County Historical Society located in Carlisle, with financial assistance from the Heart and Soul Project, announced that they will try and identify the names of the people buried at the site.  They are also looking at ways to reinterpret the park as hallowed ground that respects the dead and not just as a recreational site.

‘Memorial Park’ is just one of many examples of why the proposed African American Burial Grounds Network legislation is so needed.  While it is to be hoped that today, no local, state or federal grant administrator would have proceeded with this project, it does illustrate powerful lessons.  As citizens and heritage professionals, we need to carefully read the landscape and be aware of the special challenges in conserving African American sites and cemeteries. This also demonstrates how critical it is to engage in a deep and respectful way with the affected community. Building awareness and witnessing to past events is the first step.

Bonus Material

There is a powerful video created by a Dickinson College student that narrates the story of one USCT veteran who was buried in the Lincoln Cemetery.

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The Crying Need to Establish an African American Burial Grounds Network

By Brenda Barrett April 28, 2019


Historic Lincoln Cemtery Mechanicsburg Pennsylvania (Carilse Sentinel)

Across the nation the same story pops up every month or so – developers clearing ground for a housing project, a big box store, or a parking garage, take your pick, uncover a formerly unidentified burial ground. Everything stops. Archeologists, city planners and historian weigh in and, in my experience, the majority of the time the burials are found to be associated with a former African American community.  This phenomenon is so common that the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), whose members are often at the center of the storm after discovery, even prepared a series of best practices to deal with the situation.

However, this after-the-fact approach, while better than nothing, is not ideal. For this reason, the Society in partnership with many in the African American community looked for a more comprehensive solution. As J.W. Joseph, PhD, RPA and the SHA’s Past President noted, “West African traditions place a strong emphasis on the connection between the living and the dead and the need for the living to maintain and respect the burial places of their ancestors.  There are too few African American spaces on our nation’s landscape – in this time of racial tension we hope Congress will pass this Act and provide descendant communities with the resources needed to maintain and restore the places that are important to them.”

Working with Congress and the National Park Service, innovative legislation was drafted to establish the African American Burial Grounds Network. The bill was introduced by dedicated sponsors Representatives Alma S. Adams (NC-12) and A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) who recognized the issues as important to both their districts and the nation.  The legislation seeks to coordinate national, state, and local efforts to conserve African American burial sites by developing a voluntary, nationwide database of historic burial grounds and providing technical assistance and educational materials to governmental agencies and the caretaking community. It also proposes a grant program for local groups to research, survey, identify and help preserve theses sites. The bill was introduced in February 2019 as The African American Burial Ground Network (HR 1179)and already has 13 cosponsors on both sides of the aisle. 

This national initiative will also benefit the many state and local cemetery conservation efforts. In my home state, the Pennsylvania Hallowed Ground Project has been convening African American cemetery caretakers for many years to build a stronger community and share best practices. According to Barbara Barksdale, the leader this effort “This bill is vital to saving and preserving our ancestor’s burial sites.” She then gave an example of the need for the legislation in her historic cemetery where in the past the township and an adjoining neighbor had paved over an area that contained burial lots.

While the proposed legislation is an important step in building awareness and developing a network of on-the -ground cemetery caretakers, it is not a panacea. In Pennsylvania, the Hallowed Ground project has identified land ownership as one of the pressing challenges in conserving African American cemeteries. A survey of 42 cemeteries in the Commonwealth with United States Colored Troop burials revealed not only a landscape of segregation and marginalized locations, but, for socio-economic reasons, a tangled web of ownership issues. In one case a farmer granted the African American community a small plot to be used as a burial ground. However, generations later without a written record of the transaction, the current owners cut off access to the site. Only recently has the local VFW negotiated access to let caretakers return for a clean-up and commemoration. In other cases, the original cemetery association or associated church is no longer extant and the site has been abandoned or left in limbo. There are endless variations on this theme. 

The challenging issue of land ownership may make the bill’s condition that property owners must consent to be included in a national cemetery data base a bit problematic. In Pennsylvania at least, the State Historic Preservation Office has committed to include African American cemeteries identified by the Hallowed Ground Project in their statewide GIS data base, which will provide some protection. 

Overall there is a crying need for this legislation to draw awareness to the preservation of these burial grounds that have such strong spiritual and patriotic as well as historic association for members of the African American community. This legislation will help provide information and resources to  cemetery caretakers across the nation so they can focus on the pressing problems of acquiring clear title to their property, repairing broken headstones and sunken vaults, and engaging additional partners in the unending maintenance needs of these hallowed grounds. 

One more thing, for this bill to become law more awareness is needed on the topic and more cosponsors are needed for the bill. Reach out to your member of Congress and ask them to sign on to HR 1179 The African American Burial Ground Network.

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Proposed National Register rule threatens Historic & Cultural Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett March 27, 2019


It is not news that the current administration is unfriendly to landscape scale conservation (see The Living Landscape – Observer Outsized threats to Large Landscapes)  So it is no surprise that a proposed Department of Interior (DOI) rule-making has taken another step to discourage landscape conservation. This time by making it more difficult for the public to nominate historic properties and in particular cultural landscapes to the National Register of Historic Places.

The reason for this proposed change in the regulations is not hard to find. Recognition of the cultural value of landscapes is seen as an impediment to the administration’s allies who have interests in resource extraction and energy development projects.   One high profile example is the potential listing of the Chu’it’nu region in Alaska, as a living traditional cultural landscape.  This set off alarm bells in government and industry circles. In particular because it might stop a proposed surface coal mine touted as being among the largest open-pit coal mines in the United States.

Ch’u’itnu Traditional Cultural Landscape Alaska. Photograph by Alan Boraas

As part of the permitting for the mine, the Corp of Engineers, required a cultural resource assessment, but only for the footprint of the proposed mine. And a subsequent survey only identified archaeological sites as significant. The fact that the descendants of the people who left those sites still lived in the larger landscape was ignored. So too was the fact that they had carried on uninterruptedly from pre-contact times to the present subsistence practices centered on the keystone species of wild salmon. Also ignored was the vital social and spiritual aspects of the indigenous community based on their traditional subsistence based life way. The native community argued that the whole drainage was eligible for the NRHP as a cultural landscape. And further argued that the proposed mine would adversely affect the watershed and most critically the salmon on which their culture depended for survival. Read the determination of eligibility here.

Today both the mine and the national register nomination are on hold. However, the alarm bells are still ringing. This is only one example. Many more could be cited such as the designation of Oak Flats in Arizona as a traditional cultural property. See the article Designation of mining site provokes law makers anger.  lIn addition, let’s not forget the underlying rationale for reducing the size of Bears Ears National Monument and other national monuments.

These cases are one reason the DOI fired back with a series of proposed changes to slow down national register nominations at a landscape scale, particularly those that include a mix of federal and other land ownership and owners of large tracts of land.

This rulemaking is complex. Along with problematic sections, it contains technical fixes that are unexceptional. However, for a taste of the problem areas, see a simplified summary of the two most devastating provisions below:

The Deep Freeze– One change states that if federal property is included in a nomination proposed by a State Historic Preservation Office, the federal agency would be able to put the nomination on hold and keep it from even being considered for listing. The change is based on a wrongheaded interpretation of provisions in the Centennial Act (2016), which were supposed to provide more options for nomination not less. Under this new rule, faceless bureaucrats, or more likely their political masters, would decide what gets recognized by listing in the National Register of Historic Places – our nation’s list of what is significant for the American people. Inconvenient nominations, to quote Preservation Action, would now be sent into “regulatory purgatory” or as noted above placed in the deep freeze. Nominations supported by local governments, tribes, community groups, main street managers, or property developers could all be held hostage by this action.

Size Matters– Even more egregious is the proposed changes to the owner objection provisions. Currently when considering a historic property with multiple owners for inclusion on the national register, property owners are to be notified and if a majority of private property owners object then the property is not listed. Under the proposed rule, owner objection provisions would also be based on the size of the property.  The mind boggles at the implementation difficulties – does the opinion of an owner of a hundred-acre estate trump the views of 95 neighbors with one acre lots? What about complex ownership in urban areas – does my 800-foot condo have more sway than your 650? But we do not need to reach this level of absurdity, because the whole premise of this part of the proposed regulation is without any statutory authority. At the annual meeting of Preservation Action (March 2019) an official from the Department of the Interior answered questions about this provision by saying “we just thought it was a good idea.”

Remember regulations are supposed to carry out the intent of legislation enacted by Congress. The tactic of placing national register nominations in the Deep Freeze is problematic as it is based on a misinterpretation of the Centennial Act, but the Size Matters tactic is based on nothing at all! 

This post highlights the impact on landscape scale nominations, but the proposed rules will have cascading adverse impacts on nominations from across the country. For the full text of the rule-making and information on how to comment go to this link National Register of Historic Places.

Comments are due April 30, 2019.

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New National Heritage Areas: The Time has Come

By Brenda Barrett March 4, 2019
Santa Cruz National Heritage Photo: Daniel Stern

For a time, the proliferation of new National Heritage Areas seemed unstoppable. What had been 3 in 1987 became 17 by 2000 and 49 by 2010, but then the designations came to a full stop. Concerns over financial costs, property rights, and the ability of the National Park Service to absorb growing partnership responsibilities stemmed the tide.  Bills for new heritage areas were introduced year after year, but nothing came of them. That is until this year when, with surprising speed and overwhelming majorities, the Senate and House passed a large packet of public land measures – the Natural Resources Management Act. This bill is already being celebrated and rightly so for permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund,creating three new national monuments, expanding park boundaries and so on. What has been less discussed in the over 600 pages of legislation is the designation of 6 new National Heritage Areas.

Many of these areas have been waiting in the wings for over a decade. Many have been acting like heritage areas and now will receive the seal of approval.  What is also of significance  is that four of the six new areas are from the west. This helps re-balance a program that traditionally has tilted toward the east coast. 

In addition to the new designations, the bill extended the funding authorization or increased the funding authorization for nine of the older areas. This issue has been a point of contention for years. Unlike national park units, national scenic rivers, or national trails, national heritage areas were only authorized to receive a set amount of funding for set period of time.  This has led to struggles similar to those experienced by the Land and Water Conservation Act and the National Historic Preservation Act whereby funding or program authorization reached an expiration point requiring much time and effort to ensure re-authorization. The extensions for the nine areas is not a long term solution, but it does keep the nine existing areas in business to fight again another day. In the long run what is needed is program legislation that will resolve these issues for ever and a day. Such legislation has been introduced in Congress after Congress, including this one, but has yet to make it to the finish line. See the 2014 article in the Living Landscape Observer Why do we need Program Legislation for National Heritage Areas?.    Sadly, it is still relevant today. 

But back to the good news. As Allyson Brooks, Washington State Historic Preservation Officer/Executive Director Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, noted:

Maritime Washington National Heritage Area
Credit; Washington DAHP

After advocating for more than ten years, Washington State is very proud to become the first national heritage area devoted solely to maritime history. The Washington National Maritime Heritage Area will honor the state’s history from the canoe cultures, to maritime exploration and trade, the early Mosquito fleet ferry system, boat building, lighthouses and more.

Let’s meet all six of the new areas.

Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (West Virginia and Maryland)

Maritime Washington National Heritage Area (Washington)

Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area (Washington)

Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area (California)

 Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area (Arizona)

 Susquehanna National Heritage Area (Pennsylvania)

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Outsized Threats to Large Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett January 27, 2019

Boundaries of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.  Credit Department of Interior

It should be no surprise to readers of the Living Landscape Observer that conserving large landscapes in the current political climate is challenging. While the inevitable negative impacts of the recent shutdown (December 22, 2018 – January 25, 2019) represent the most immediate threats to the management of public lands and federal programs that conserve our cultural and natural resources, the bigger issue is the underlying erosion of landscape scale work throughout our national government.

The 2015 American Academy of Science report “An Evaluation of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives”, identified the need for a landscape approach to resource conservation. The report noted that geographic scale and the complex web of management responsibility for natural and cultural resources demand a collaborative approach to conservation and that this is especially true in times of scarce resources. Only through this approach can the nation address such systemic challenges as conserving wildlife habitat, combating invasive species, protecting cultural landscapes, and planning for climate change.  The Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) were designed to provide a framework for federal agencies to meet these challenges. And of course, they were one of the first programs to be dismantled

National Marine Sanctuaires
Courtesey NOAA

Another set of actions that has had an outsize impact on large landscape conservation is the ongoing reduction in public land protections. In 2017, for example, the Trump administration launched a review of 21 national monuments. The most publicized outcome of this process has (thus far)  been the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument. Within the borders of this monument alone, the potential losses are tremendous – decreased protection for an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites as well sites with significance for paleontology and geology. Even more important, the landscapes of the monument have tremendous ongoing cultural importance for many Indigenous peoples in the region. Shrinking Bears Ears is a lost opportunity to manage part of the country’s heritage on a landscape scale and to do so in partnership with the Native nations that have lived upon and cared for these lands for generations untold. Read more here.

Bears Ears National Monument as well as another Utah national monument, Grand Staircase Escalante, were not the only places that have suffered reduced protection. Protection for marine reserves have also been reduced. Overshadowed by the controversy over shrinking the size of national monuments that protect large swaths of the United States’ western landscapes, is a parallel effort to change the protected status of the nation’s marine resources. While all eyes have been focused on Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce has prepared its own report to review the size and protection offered to six national marine sanctuary expansions and five marine national monuments. Read More here.

Greater Sage Grouse
Courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Less reported on – but also a real calamity – is the dismantling of the multi state effort to save the Greater Sage Grouse. Spurred to action by strong interest in preserving the bird and its habitat and concern about a possible endangered species listing many agencies and organizations came together to protect the species over a large landscape. These efforts to conserve greater sage-grouse habitat were not limited to state and federal agencies. Industry and private landowners also developed means of conserving greater sage-grouse.  The Sage Grouse Initiative  has worked with more than 1,129 ranches to conserve more than 6,000 square miles of sage-grouse habitat in 11 western states. Although hailed as a conservation success, in 2018 the Department of the Interior decided to revise this broadly backed and science-based approach. The proposed changes could have significant and far-reaching effects on sage-grouse in America—specifically by weakening protections on the landscapes the species calls home. Read More here.

Across the board the budgets for large landscape programs have been slashed whether it is the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives or the National Heritage Areas. And that does not even begin to touch on what is happening to climate change research. However, as we start 2019, we do have a few bright spots. Private organizations are stepping up.  The new Network for Landscape Conservation  has dedicated a lot of energy to the effort to bring conservation to scale. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has launched a comprehensive landscape scale initiative

States are also continuing to support landscape scale conservation. North American fish and wildlife agencies have recommitted themselves to coordinated conservation strategies on a national and international scale. See Association of Fish and Wildlife Organization’s Strategic Plan Goals 3. States like Pennsylvania are expanding  support for innovative Conservation Landscape efforts.  Virginia has adopted  a new Conservation Vision  to guide development on a landscape scale.

 All these efforts are praiseworthy, but we still need federal agencies at the table. A couple of  points to consider:

  • Because of the pattern of land ownership in the United States, large landscape work west of the Mississippi must engage Federal partners. If those essential partners are not engaged in these efforts, the work becomes immensely more problematic. For example, the reduced size of both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments eliminated protected status for more than 2 million acres of land in Utah alone.

 

  • Federal partners bring more than just land ownership. Until recently they brought a powerful voice for a landscape ethic, partnership programs like the Landscape Conservation Collaboratives and landscape programs in the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and even the Department of Defense have played a critical role in making the landscape approach work.

 

  • In addition to  other actions the administration has delayed re-appointments to friends groups and Advisory boards. They might as well post a big sign “Not Open for Partnership Business.” Well not completely, the federal government is open for other business such as the business of extractive industries as demonstrated by, increase in drilling permits alone. And these interests have no reason to embrace landscape conservation. Under the current administration there is hardly even a nod to the landscape benefits to the recreational industry or to gateways communities. Issues were on the table during the last republican administration of George W Bush.

Of course, all this makes total  sense, if as the National Academy report states, landscape scale work is powered by the need to address issues like unregulated development, energy extraction, and  climate change.  Seen through this lens, the idea of landscape scale conservation is in clear opposition to the current administration’s agenda.

So, what can we do?

Many groups are tackling pieces of the puzzle by pushing back with activism on specific issues  and if needed law suits– see the work of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. Other are working harder to be successful in their own bailiwick such as the Network for Landscape Conservation. But there is also a need to call out this dismantling of critical Federal programs and  partnerships as what it is – a systemic challenge to landscape scale thinking. Perhaps we need a more unified platform, a bigger vessel in which to track the risks to this important work. We need to merge the agendas of nature and culture conservation not just around protected lands, but in advocating  approaches  that engages all partners and incorporate our lived in landscapes toward achieving conservation goals at scale.

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The Nature Culture Journey continues: The Presidio in San Francisco

By Brenda Barrett December 10, 2018

Presidio San Francisco Courtesy of Recreation.gov

It is not news that we need a global conversation on how to integrate the conservation of cultural and natural values on the landscape. This has been an on-going discussion for decades. However, in the last couple of years the dialogue has gained momentum. At the IUCN-sponsored World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i (September 2016) a purposeful Nature/Culture Journey   was launched to bring together the best ideas on the topic. This dialogue was then continued with a more explicitly cultural focus at the ICOMOS General Assembly in Delhi (December 2017).

In November of 2018, US ICOMOS took the next step by sponsoring the symposium Forward Together: A Culture-Nature Journey Towards More Effective Conservation in a Changing World at the Presidio in San Francisco. The gathering brought together experts from six continents and 15 countries to share a range of ideas on better integrating culture and nature on the ground. The goal was development of actionable strategies for more effective and sustainable conservation.

The Culture/Nature Journey ICOMOS General Assembly 2017 Delhi

To generate content for the gathering, a joint ICOMOS-IUCN Symposium Program Committee solicited papers from around the globe and received over 150 abstracts. These were reviewed by teams with membership in either ICOMOS, IUCN, or both. The diversity of the paper proposals was reflected in the presentations by the 45 selected speakers. Thanks to an excellent team of moderators and rapporteurs, the symposium sessions were used to both hear from the speakers and also from all participants who were challenged to identify key findings and next steps. The session presentations and the outcomes of the discussions will be available as an online publication of the papers in the new year. Preliminary cross-cutting themes and ideas have already emerged around the four conferences themes such as:

  1. The overriding importance of adopting a landscape approach for the conservation of cultural and natural resources — from urban to rural places.
  • There is increasing understanding that the concept of heritage is centered in a dynamic landscape. For this reason, it is critical that we adopt strategies that recognize and adapt to this reality.
  • The field of conservation must adopt a landscape scale approach to address the urgent issues facing our planet particularly our changing climate.
  • Challenges remain in defining and protecting cultural landscapes – in particular thos landscapes with ethnographic values.
  • A better understanding of collaboration and other soft skills are critical to landscape scale management.

2. The recognition of intangible heritage and diverse perspectives is essential to integrated conservation strategies.

  • It is essential to focus on both the cultural and spiritual meaning of nature.
  • People are at the center of this issue and only by honoring their world view and their work up can we make a difference.
  • Conservation strategies that integrate these values demonstrably improve conservation outcomes.

3. Building resilience, adaptation, and sustainability for urban and rural landscapes.

  •  Climate change is profoundly impacting both nature and culture and there may not be much time left.
  • As demonstrated at the conference, there are many locally based initiatives to create more resilient places by blending nature and culture and employing traditional practices or adapting those practices to new conditions.
  • These strategies to make the landscape more resilient need to be shared and linked to for maximum effectiveness.

4.Considering the past and future of the World Heritage List from the perspective of the United States (US)

  •  The US was once a leader in the World Heritage program and despite changes in government policies, the interest in designation has never been higher.
  • It is now understood that in the United States every World Heritage site has a cultural component.
  • A strategy to engage local communities as well as the traditional users of World Heritage Sites should be a component of every location.
  • Taking a landscape scale approach is a strategy to manage serial nominations.

The meeting opened with a distinguished plenary panel included Mechtild Rossler, by video from UNESCO in Paris, former US National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and Stephanie Meeks President of the US National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). The speakers mused about their personal awakening to the importance of understanding the unity of culture and nature.

Former NPS Director John Jarvis related his experience working in Alaska and Stephanie Meeks noted her shift in perspective coming from the Nature Conservancy to the National Trust. Also, on the panel representing ICOMOS was Kristal Buckley and representing IUCN, Tim Badman both of whom reported on the commitment to working together on this critical issue.

In listening to the presentations and the subsequent discussion, symposium attendees were struck by the work that is going on “out there” and how it has been localized and adapted to meet community needs.  The usefulness of merging the two perspectives is bubbling up from practice in the real world. However, there is a need to develop more informed policies in region of the globe and strengthen the understanding of local governments. It was noted that the fields of culture and nature are divided from the top, but not from the bottom. Taking an integrated landscape approach seems to be delivering better conservation outcomes, but there many opportunities to make the work more effective.

With only 160 attendees at the symposium, it is fair to ask who is not in the room?  There is a need to include more representation from nature conservationists. Also, a stronger commitment to social justice and equity. Another sector that might make a meaningful contribution is that representing the arts and humanities. Overall conference goers were impressed by the enthusiasm and vitality of the conservations. All agreed that the strong presence of young practitioners and students gave the event a lot of energy and a feeling tha what we are doing is very important for our shared future. Everyone looks forward to the next steps , which include a declaration of the symposium’s top level findings and publication of the papers presented at the event.

In conclusion, recognition should go to the symposium’s dedicated Program Committee. Team members included Committee Co- chairs Nora Mitchell, who serves as a trustee of US ICOMOS, and Jessica Brown who has worked with IUCN on Protected Landscapes for many years. Also, on the team were Brenda Barrett and Archer St. Claire Harvey, both trustees of US ICOMOS. Special thanks  to Amanda Shull US ICOMOS member and past participant in the organization’s International Exchange Program and of course US ICOMOS staff – Executive Director Jane Seiter, former Executive Director Bill Pencek, Membership and Communications Manager Jenny Spreitzer, and exceptional volunteer from down under Lilly Black.

Read here for additional information on the Forward Together event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Challenge of Conserving Cultural Resources on a Landscape Scale

By Brenda Barrett September 29, 2018
This paper draws from the experience and observations of a range of practitioners from the academy, the consulting community, State Historic Preservation Offices, National Park Service and a representative from an indigenous community.  I want particularly thank Robert Z. Melnick, Nora J. Mitchell and A. Elizabeth Watson who shared their perspectives and recommendations on the future of cultural landscapes in the context of larger effort to take conservation to the landscape scale.  A version of this paper was presented at the Network for Landscape Conservation’s workshop held in the Fall 0f 2017 at Shepherdstown WV. This paper is reprinted with their support.  

Chesapeake Bay Heritage Resources
Credit:  Chesapeake Conservation Partnership

There is a growing recognition that cultural resources should be viewed as part of the larger landscape. The concept that there is a unity of nature and culture has created a significant opportunity for cultural resource practitioners to contribute to the new field of landscape scale conservation. And there are compelling reasons to partner up with this emerging movement. The nature conservation field has long recognized that threats to natural resources occur at multiple and much larger spatial scales than those usually addressed in cultural resource preservation. Ecosystems are adversely affected by impacts that transcend political and disciplinary boundaries. Threats include urban expansion, air and water pollution, deforestation, agriculture intensification, mineral extraction, and of course climate change. The nation’s cultural heritage faces the same threats. Responding with a landscape or regional approach is a better match to the scope of the problem. It can also be argued that adding a cultural dimension to large landscapes enriches the heritage value of a place and engages residents and visitors in stewardship efforts.

The question remains: how can we make this partnership work?

  1. What Gets Mapped Gets Saved

The growth of technology, of what is called big data, has fueled the development of the natural conservation at a landscape scale. And as stated above there are good reasons for the field of cultural resources to jump onboard. To do so the first steps are to identify, understand and prioritize what cultural resources should be considered for conservation and to better understand the relationship of cultural heritage to natural systems. However, recent consultation with leading practitioners exposed some serious fault lines in this part of the process. Traditional historic preservation practitioners used the definition of significance derived from the National Historic Preservation Act, while indigenous communities and other local communities take a more holistic approach that includes intangible values. Conservation groups often use community-based indicators – recreation, educational facilities, and so on.

Each of these perspectives is valid, but none is sufficient unto itself. This is part of the challenge. As large landscape work increasingly depends on the power of mapping and big data for setting conservation priorities, decisions on what is mapped really matters. The nature conservation community has identified this as a barrier to working with cultural resource partners. And unfortunately, they are correct; there is no consensus in the cultural resource community in how to present this information.

Barriers/Challenges

  • The National Register of Historic Places is limited– Although widely used, this data set is seen as an imperfect tool to identify the cultural resources present in a landscape. In many states the data base of cultural resources is incomplete and inadequately evaluated. One land conservancy in Maine, disappointed in the limited National Register listings in their region, went so far as to develop a crowd sourced tool to find more historic resources in the region. Required cultural surveys for environmental review purposes often only identify properties that might be eligiblefor the National Register. For this reason, unless owners are seeking federal rehabilitation tax credits, there is little incentive to proceed to the expense of listing a property. Moreover, the limited number of National Register sites is the just the tip of the iceberg.  Other local and state historic inventories that should be the first place to consult are inadequate, incomplete and most challenging inaccessible. Funds to redress these problems are in chronically short supply. Moreover, few states have invested in state-of-the-art computerized digital access to their data.  Other states are so behind this curve it will take years to catch up.
  • What National Register data there is very particularistic – building by building or site by site – there are very few designated cultural landscapes. While landscapes as a property type can be identified using the program’s criteria, this category has seen very limited application. State historic preservation officials who administer the National Register program in partnership with the National Park Service have been wary about designating landscapes, often concerned about the level of effort and about the potential for political push-back.
  • New Blended Data Sets– Without a commonly accepted data set for cultural resources, there have been some innovative new directions to fill the gap, such as crowdsourced data bases mentioned above. A leader in the field was the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC), a Department of Interior initiative charged with regional landscape-scale planning that integrates cultural and natural resources.  The Appalachian LCC  began pilot projects to tackle this integrated approach. The project identified 11 cultural resources data sets including such tangible factors as recreation, agriculture, economics, learning, water, and wilderness as well as cultural heritage, plus such intangible information as aesthetic, visual, sense of place, etc. Work is underway to develop these data sets and metrics in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with the goal to expand into other states. While this is an example of a more expansive approach to gathering cultural and social data than traditional historic preservation techniques, the future of the LCCs and hence this initiative’s future is very uncertain. At this time there is no generally accepted model that integrates cultural and natural heritage and allows cross-region comparisons.

 Recommendations

  • Better definition of Cultural Landscapes– More aid from the National Park Service in identifying and designating cultural landscapes was a uniform recommendation from practioners in the field. The agency offers guidance on identifying landscapes such as Guidelines for Documenting and Identifying Traditional Cultural Properties(Bulletin 38) and Guidelines for Documenting and Evaluating Rural Historic Districts(Bulletin 30), but much more support and training is needed. Fortunately, the National Park Service has initiated a study of the nomination of cultural landscapes to the National Register of Historic Places as part of a new initiative to develop improved guidance for the program.
  • More effective use of other large landscapes designations– National Heritage Areas were mentioned numerous times by commentators as a promising approach that takes a holistic approach to the landscape. Long distance trails could work as well. For example, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a new large landscape initiative to recognize and preserve not just the treadway, but the lands beyond the trail. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake Bay Trail, for example, has identified a much larger viewshed. Scenic byways, scenic rivers, and long-distance greenways also offer possibilities.
  • Expand the application of the Indigenous Cultural Landscapes– This concept was developed to better understand cultural landscapes that demonstrate aspects of natural and cultural resources that supported Native American lifeways and settlements in the early 17th century in the Chesapeake Watershed.This approach demonstrates that significant places important to Native American are not confined to the sites of houses, towns, or settlements, and that their view of one’s homeland is a holistic landscape approach.
  • Other conservation initiatives– There is a real need for a dialogue about terms and definitions with the natural resource community, land conservancies, and the others. This is particularly true as cultural assessments move into the realm of social science.
  • Work with SHPOs to help them advocate for a nationwide initiative in investing and reinvesting in surveying and records management that supports these new approaches and readily available, digital public access.
  1. How to Conserve Cultural Landscapes

Of course, identifying resources in the landscape is only the first step. Practitioners offered a number of different strategies to conserve cultural landscapes. In most cases the techniques to conserve cultural landscapes are not very different from those used to conserve land for natural resource values – and natural and cultural heritage are often interlinked.  A number of experts noted the importance of public engagement not just in assessing what is significant, but also in understanding how it will be conserved to benefit the community and future generations.

 Barriers/Challenges

  • Additional Funding – Finding funds for conservation planning and of course for actually saving landscape resources is a challenge for all parties in the conservation movement. However, cultural resources feel a greater pinch, as there are not as many funding streams dedicated to conserving lands that contain cultural resources.

Recommendations

  •  Partnerships are essential– Over and over the value of saving landscapes with multiple values has been emphasized by the large landscape movement. This can bring more money to the table and more shoulders to the wheel. Partnerships to protect battlefields and conserve recreational assets were specifically mentioned. It is important to encourage land trusts and other partners to protect cultural as well as natural lands.
  • Coordinate with State Agricultural Conservation programs– One area that stands out as a conservation success are programs to preserve agricultural landscapes. While only a few states like Minnesota and Pennsylvania have both developed agriculture historic context studies and programs to preserve farmland, there is an opportunity to adapt farmland preservation programs to honor and interpret this part of our nation’s heritage. One program that has potential is recognizing owners of Century Farms.  Finally, it is important to seek out innovative examples that have stood the test of time.  The Oley Valley Rural Historic District in Pennsylvania has shown how land conservation, environmental protection and historic preservation  have been coordinated to achieve effective conservation.
  • Engage with landscape scale efforts – And of course joining the Network for Landscape Conservation and highlighting initiatives across the nation that incorporate both cultural and natural values.

Conclusion

Cultural resource and conservation practitioners have varying perspectives on how to incorporate cultural values on a large scale, and what should be the defining criteria. However, the good news is that there are positive signs that the conservation initiatives are working in some new partnerships that connect cultural and natural heritage. Projects from the Chesapeake Watershed to the Crown of the Continent are awakening to the need to include a cultural or human dimension in landscape conservation planning.

Underlying this new positive thinking, there are some serious challenges. One cultural landscape scholar noted that parts of the historic preservation community are still mired in the nature/culture split.  Going forward, it is critical that the preservation community get past the categorization of resources that denies the applicability of ’natural’ resource scholarship and tools to cultural resources, especially cultural landscapes. Another barrier is the set of traditional preservation criteria for determining ‘integrity’ of cultural resources, one that does not recognize the larger dynamic environmental context, especially in this era of climate change. To conserve resources on a landscape scale, practitioners need to think one size larger and engage in a broader level of flexibility. Today this discussion can best be characterized as a “Work in Progress”.

 

 

 

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Network for Landscape Conservation issues a new Report- Pathways Forward: Progress and Priorities in Landscape Conservation

By Brenda Barrett August 28, 2018

The rapidly growing movement to conserve large landscapes has now matured to the point that it has a dedicated organization, the Network for Landscape Conservation, with the mission to document and advance the field. A milestone in advancing this approach is the Nework’s just released report Pathways Forward: Progress and Priorities in Landscape Conservation. The purpose of report is two-fold: to capture the current state of landscape conservation practice; and to suggest what we can do together to successfully conserve our irreplaceable cultural and natural landscapes. It describes the thinking of 200 leading landscape conservation practitioners at a November 2017 National Forum on Landscape Conservation. Today the growth of the movement is measured not just by the increasing number of landscape scale projects, but more importantly by the growing understanding of what it means to  successfully sustain them. The new report tackles critical topics  such as the need for effective communication, wide ranging collaboration, and targeted investments. It also explores the role of science and the challenge of gaining the necessary support from policy makers.

Each of these topics has a chapter in the report that synthesizes the discussions at the 2017 Forum and supplements it with ‘state of the field’ information as well as illustative case studies. As an example, the first chapter on Collaboration charts the necessary elements for a large landscape effort to succeed.  It also, and this rang true to me, provided insights on how these landscape efforts might break down. A common failing is not having designated staff support or a ‘backbone organization’ to keep these complicated collaborations moving forward. Each chapter offers a wealth  lessons learned as well ground-truthed examples.  Each of the five chapters conclude with a set of five-year benchmarks that serve as targets, or can we say ‘pathways forward’, for the landscape conservation community.

Finally, as the report notes,  the stakes could not be higher with a world facing escalating habitat loss and climate change. At risk are the very values landscapes provide to society – clean air, water, and healthy outdoor recreation. Healthy landscapes also deliver such well recognized ecosystem services as reducing the impact of floods and fire, mitigating climate change, improve public health, and safeguarding both cultural heritage and ecological systems. Harder to quantify, but also important, landscapes provide that special sense of place that defines a community and region.

This is a must-read report for all practitioners in the field. It breaks new ground by fully recognizing the essential role of the human dimension in all landscape scale efforts and in appreciating that communities and their cultural values are integral to our future. Or as the report poetically states landscape scale conservation can ” reweave the natural and cultural fabric of the larger landscapes that define and sustain our character and quality of life.”

So, open up the just released Pathways Forward report and join the Network for Landscape Conservation  to stay on top of this fast moving field.

 

 

 

 

 

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The English Lake District: World Heritage Designation One Year In

By Brenda Barrett July 25, 2018

World Heritage Plaque English Lake Distict
Image: Chee-Wai Lee

It was last July 2017 that after many decades of effort  the English Lake District was finally recognized as a World Heritage cultural landscape  at the World Heritage Committee’s meeting in Krakow Poland. So how is the Lake District faring one year after designation? In many ways the inscription has not resulted in big changes. The World Heritage bid was put together by the Lake District National Park Partnership (Partnership) and it continues to play a key role in carrying out its stated mission for the Lake District as:  A place where its prosperous economy, world class visitor experiences and vibrant communities come together to sustain the spectacular landscape, its wildlife and cultural heritage.

 Established in 2006, the Partnership currently consists of 25 organizations representing the region’s public, private, community, and voluntary sectors. Its vision and the Partnership’s  Management Plan, was the foundation of the World Heritage nomination. What is most remarkable about the partnership is that it was created without statutory authority or any governmental mandate. Not only did the group prepare the most recent plan to backstop the nomination, but it also is the vehicle for carrying out the strategies to conserve resources and ensure that the site’s Outstanding Universal Values are protected.

In recent discussion with Partnership leaders responsible for implementing the Lake District management strategy, they provided several examples of the value of this partnership approach. When a controversial zip line was proposed across the Thirlmere Reservoir, the National Trust took the unusual step of opposing a project that would not directly impact a property in their ownership. They took the position that the English Lake District National Park should be looked as a unitary resource to be conserved in its totality. The fact that it was now a World Heritage site certainly reinforced this position. In the end the owners of the reservoir, United Utilities, who were also a member of the Partnership determined that the visual intrusion of the project was unacceptable.

The Partnership also has provided a flexible management structure. While the Lake District National Park Authority is the planning authority and the statutory body responsible for managing the national park and the  World Heritage site, recent cuts to National Park budget’s, up to 40% since 2008, have impacted the  Authority’s ability to  deliver services. This had led another partner, the National Trust (the major land owner in the park),  to play a more central role and  to step up its efforts to help out. One example, the Trust has led the discussion within the Partnership regarding a vision for the thirteen valley landscapes in the Lake District over the next fifty years.  This has been challenging for the partners (some of which are self-confessed single-issue lobbying groups).  The task of coordinating the questioning and working with the responses to work up something tangible has fallen to the National Trust who volunteered to co-ordinate a vision and action steps for the region by developing a plan for Sustainable Land Management. While such a visioning exercise might have fallen to the National Park Authority in the past, the Trust volunteered itself and employed additional staff for that purpose.  The approach has been worthwhile in establishing a starting point for the future conservation of these landscapes.

So, the verdict is that the Partnership is working effectively to manage and conserve the national park and the newly designated World Heritage site. However, dealing with outside forces that may impact the Lake District is much more problematic. And in the front of the line of pressing issues is Brexit.  What will it mean for the country’s agricultural policy? This particularly important for the Lake District – as it is noted in the World Heritage nomination the region is an “unrivalled example of a northern Europe upland agro-pastoral system” which is also  ”a land use that continues to today in the face of social, economic and environmental pressures.”

Brexit means leaving the well understood if not always popular rules and subsidies of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy and forging a new direction for British agriculture. Getting this new policy right is important as British farming supplies 60% of the nation’s food and uses 70% of the land area. In February 2018, Michael Grove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, rolled out an ambitious white paper Health and Harmony: The future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit  setting  forth an approach that claims to promote both environmental protection and profitable food production in service of a healthier society. The details of this over 50-page consultation document are too extensive to summarize here. However, the direction is to move away from a system of direct payment for production and reward other public goods such as environmental conservation. Of real interest to the Lake District, the document specifically recognizes the challenges of farmers in “the most remote and wild and beautiful parts of England” and calls out the environmental and cultural values of the rural landscape and the traditional way of life including the  upland environment.

There is much to like in this report starting with the title. The United States could learn a lot by studying the ideas proposed that meld food security, environmental conservation, and rural prosperity. The value placed on the cultural landscape and on such qualities as beauty never appear in any US farm policy document that I have ever seen. While recent US Farm Bills now offer some hard-fought financial support for better  wildlife and water management, proposals to offer financial support to sustain beauty, heritage, and the rural historic environment are unheard of on this side of the pond. It should be noted that this report is only the first step. There is still some time left as the government’s proposal is to maintain the current level of agricultural subsidies until 2021 and to have  a gradual transition of payments thereafter.   However, at a national level it cannot be said that Brexit negotiations are going smoothly and this will inevitably affect the agricultural sector.

Yes, the number of farmers impacted by Brexit in the Lake District is small, estimated at just a few hundred families, but sustaining their way of life is essential to maintaining the landscape’s  Outstanding Universal Value.  All eyes are on the future of farming in these unsettled times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shrinking Bears Ears National Monument: What has been Lost

By Brenda Barrett May 28, 2018
Bears Ears National Monument Photo credit Andy Laurenzi courtesy of Archaeology Southwest

Bears Ears National Monument
Photo credit Andy Laurenzi courtesy of Archaeology Southwest

Almost all readers know the outlines of the controversy surrounding the Bears Ears National Monument. How for years those supporting the monument attempted to negotiate with state and local officials in Utah to craft a compromise to protect this highly significant landscape. How when this failed President Obama, at the very end of his term, used his presidential powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate the region as a national monument. And how within less than a year the Trump administration reversed this action shrinking Bears Ears by over 85%.

While there is an understanding that the monument designation was a good thing and rolling it back was not good, there has not always been a full discussion of what has been lost by this action. At a recent program (April 13, 2018) Bears Ears National Monument and the Future of Our National Monument sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, William Doelle, President and CEO of Archeology Southwest, said it this way “Personally what I see as so important about the Antiquities Act is that it allows landscape scale, protection, preservation and planning… and in Bears Ears for the first time the impetus to use the Antiquities Act to establish a monument came from tribal voices.”

The creation of Bears Ears National Monument did not just set aside public land for enhanced management by federal agencies, it established a new management approach whereby five Native American tribes with historic associations to the place were part of the management of its future. At the recent Johns Hopkins program, Willie Gray Eyes, Chairman of Utah Diné Bikéyah, told how this monument was rooted in the idea of ancestral land and all the resources of mother earth – water, subsistence areas for hunting and gathering, as well as ceremonial and sacred sites. He noted that native people take a holistic perspective of place and for this reason traditional knowledge is as important as science to its management.

Octavius Seowtewa of the Pueblo of Zuni spoke of the grassroots effort to have the monument recognized. Five tribes came together and to form a coalition to work through challenging issues recognizing each other’s heritage and establishing boundaries for the monument. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition—an alliance of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni tribes was to be a ‘voice for the ancestors’ in the management and protection of this new national monument. This was proposed as an unprecedented level of collaborative management between tribes and the federal government for the new national monument. The Bears Ears’ lands would remain in public hands and open to all Americans. But for the first time, those lands would be managed in a way that also honors the worldview of today’s Native people and their ancestors.

The original 2016 proclamation establishing the Bears Ears monument specifically recognized the importance of tribal participation its care and management. To ensure that management decisions affecting the monument reflect tribal expertise and traditional and historical knowledge, the proclamation established Bears Ears Commission to provide guidance and recommendations on both the development of management plans and on its implementation. It further directed the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to fully consider integrating the traditional and historical knowledge and special expertise of the Commission in making management decisions. This careful and lawyerly language gave the tribes an unprecedent role in conserving these lands. You can read all this in the original presidential proclamation, which by the way is also worth reading for its stirring description of the landscape and the resources contained therein. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/28/proclamation-establishment-bears-ears-national-monument

Tommy Beaudreau, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of the Interior under President Obama, outlined the almost decade long process of negotiating the framework and boundaries for Bears Ears. He explained how the department, after extensive research, concluded that the whole landscape was a large object of scientific interest. Its significance went far beyond a collection of archeological sites on a map -the historic record covered the entire landscape. He also said that the designation was important because “At the end of the day, we wanted to establish the precedent of a different way to manage public land that included cooperative management with a role for Native American people. We wanted to have that model introduced.”

But as we know all of this was not to be. Although the monument designation moved forward on December 28, 2016, as soon as the new administration was in power, it was high on Secretary Zinke’s list to radically scale it back. And that is what happened.

In conclusion, we as a nation have lost so much with the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument. There will be less protection for an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites as well as the paleontological and geological wonders. We have missed a chance to manage part of our heritage on a landscape scale and most tragically the chance to do so in partnership with the tribes that have lived upon and cared for this land for generations untold.

Below – a video of the event.

Many thanks to Sara Chicone of The Cultural Heritage Management Graduate Program of Advanced Academic Programs, Johns Hopkins University and to all the participants on the panel on Bears Ears National Monument. For the whole story watch the  program here. 

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Network for Landscape Conservation: A Lesson in Nature and Culture

By Brenda Barrett April 30, 2018
unnamed-1The Coordinating Committee of the Network for Landscape Conservation gathered for a picture on Boneyard Beach, Bull Island in the Cape Romaine National Wildlife Reserve in South Carolina. The field trip kicked off an April retreat in Charleston South Carolina to finalize the outcomes of the recent  National Forum for Landscape Conservation and to identify strategic initiatives to advance the conservation at a landscape scale. Collaborative, cross border conservation is an emergingtrend in North America and beyond, offering a new approach to connect and protect nature, culture, and community. The Network was formed to serve as a new organizational center for practioners and to advance expertise on conservation at a landscape scale. The low country region is a great example of a conserved natural landscape with four Federal Wildlife Refuges, designation as the Carolinian-South Atlantic Biosphere Reserve, and  ACE Basin Project that manages over 100,000 of protected lands and estuaries. However, it is the cultural heritage of the region, it is one of the centers of Gullah Geechee culture, that makes the landscape of truly global  cultural and natural significance.

The Gullah Geechee people of today are descendants of enslaved Africans from various ethnic groups of west and central Africa, who were forced to work on the plantations of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The geographic isolation from outsiders and strong sense of family and community allowed the Gullah Geechee people to maintain a separate creole language and developed distinct culture patterns, which included more of the African cultural tradition than African-American populations in other parts of the United States. After the Civil War the island plantations were for the most part abandoned. The people of the region were able to maintain language, arts, crafts, religious beliefs, folklore, rituals and food preferences that are distinctly connected to their West African roots and to the natural resources of the coastal ecosystem

Former Rice Fields Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

Former Rice Fields Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

Today sprawling coastal development, changing job markets, and population shifts have impacted the natural resources of the low country and those same forces have adversely impacted many Gullah Geechee people. These changes have caused a loss of their traditional economy of farming, fishing, hunting, and small-scale marketing of subsistence products, most famously sweet grass baskets. In many cases real-estate development has led to loss of lands that had been in families for generations.  First came the northern owned hunting clubs and estates, later military bases, and then resort and second home development. This encroachment by outsiders has resulted in out-migration, economic hardship, and loss of Gullah Geechee culture.

At the April meeting the members of the Coordinating Committee were privileged to hear from two women who are working to preserve the culture of the Gullah Geechee people that is so deeply rooted in the low country region. Heather L. Hodges, the recently appointed  Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission spoke about activities to expand and preserve the body of knowledge on the culture and history of the Gullah Geechee people in the Low Country and Sea Islands. She also gave a briefing on how much the landscape we see today in Charleston region was created by enslaved Africans using knowledge from their homeland to grow rice. To learn more read The Creation of the Rice Coast: A Global Exchange.

Jennie Stephens, Executive Director of the Center for Heirs Property Preservation, explained how her organization helps prevent land loss among the traditional African American land owners, who often owned family land in common. As explained on the Center’s web site”In the Lowcountry, heirs’ property  is mostly rural land owned by African Americans who either purchased or were deeded land following Emancipation. At some point in the land’s ownership, it was passed down without a written Will – or was not legally probated within the 10 years required by SC law to make it valid – so the land became heirs’ property. Heirs’ property ownership is risky because the land can be easily lost.  Any heir can force a sale of the property in the courts – OR can sell his/her percentage of ownership to another (outside of the family) who can force a sale of the entire property in the courts.

To address this loss of cultural fabric, the Center for Heirs Property Preservation aids low wealth heirs’ property owners by helping them obtain clear title and keep their family land through legal education, legal and mediation services, community empowerment and free Wills Clinics. In addition, the Center promotes the sustainable use of such land to provide increased economic benefit to historically under-served families.

Slave Dwelling Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

Slave Dwelling
Mansfield Plantation Georgetown SC

For the Network for Landscape Conservation and all its partners, the Low Country of South Carolina is truly a powerful example of the interlinkage of nature and culture.  It is a lesson that effective landscape scale conservation must begin with an understanding of the region’s cultural and natural heritage as well as the living traditions of today’s descendants. And to fully value the significance of the resource, we need to place the story within a global context. In this case it is the transatlantic slave trade, the market in global commodities, and the vast international Atlantic exchange of indigenous knowledge that were the forces behind the creation of this landscape.Fortunately, an effort is underway, led by the  Charleston World Heritage Coalition, to nominate the iconic buildings and landscapes representative of the region’s Lowcountry plantation-driven culture as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps at last the whole story will now be told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vietnam: Looking for the American War

By Brenda Barrett March 26, 2018
Revolutionary Mural in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Revolutionary Mural in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum

 

In Vietnam, our tour guide told us, they call winter the American Season. This is when well-heeled baby boomers come to see a country that figured so large in much of their youth. Some also come to see what has happened to country that they last saw under battlefield conditions. What they find is a “communist” country in throes of entrepreneurial high spirits. Not a wealthy country by any means, but one becoming prosperous with a GDP growth rate of over 7%. The city streets are lined with small shops and choked with motor scooters. According to the Ministry of Transport, the country has 45 million motor scooters for a population of 92 million people.

Hoa Lo Prison Museum In Hanoi

Hoa Lo Prison Museum In Hanoi

But what of the war, what of the past?  In Hanoi out of country tourists crowd into the Maison Centrale, the notorious Hoa Lo Prison Museum. Today sharing  its site with a tall apartment block. Photographs of famous residents (Senator John McCain) and visitors (President Clinton) are on display.  Somber exhibits tell the history and horror of the prison built by the French during the colonial regime. Hanoi is also the place to visit the soviet style tomb of Ho Chi Minh as well as his modest residence. Located on the grounds of the former colonial government compound, the house was built in the style of a peasant’s stilt house and is Gandhi-like in its austere simplicity.

Reunification Palace in Saigon

Reunification Palace in Saigon

For most Americans though the most vivid images of Vietnam are all below the 17th parallel – China Beach, Da Nang, Hue, the Mekong Delta, and of course Saigon. Now officially called Ho Chi Minh City, but everyone still calls the bustling upscale city center by its former name. First on the list of the city’s historical sites is Independence Palace also so known as Reunification Palace. Architecturally it is an unlikely political symbol of revolution. This very modernist structure was commissioned in the 1960s by South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem on the site of the former French Governor General Residence. The original residence was destroyed in 1962 in an assassination attempt on Diem’s by his own air force. Diem then commissioned this new residence, but was actually assassinated before it was completed. And it was here in 1975 that North Vietnamese tanks pushed through the building’s gates ending the long war.

Just this short recounting of the building’s past, is a lesson in the complex history that is Vietnam. Today the building has been carefully preserved with each of the official rooms telling a different story of foreign and in particular American involvement in the war. The fact that the building and its furnishings were not looted during the transition of power tells another story about the discipline of the transition. Finally, the residence’s richly furnished living quarters tell one more tale. A tale of the  of the opulent life style of South Vietnam’s leaders,  quite a contrast to Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house in Hanoi.

Cu Chi Tunnel Complex  demonstrating hidden tunnel entrance

Cu Chi Tunnel Complex demonstrating hidden tunnel entrance

The other must do site especially for foreign tourists is a visit to Cu Chi Tunnel complex. These tunnels, now symbols of resistance, were originally begun during the period of the French occupation. The complex includes some of the original tunnels many with entrances widened to admit the larger size of out of country visitors as well as reconstructed kitchens, displays of armaments, and tanks, and gruesome exhibits on the range of booby traps. Providing additional verisimilitude, is the   constant sound of gun fire from the nearby National Defence Sport Shooting Range. There for $1.50 a bullet you can shoot weapons such as machine guns and M-16s, which in the site’s brochure is billed as part of the sites recreational and entertainment services.

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

The final stop on my personal American War tour of Vietnam was a visit to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum until recently known as the Revolutionary Museum. The building  housed in, a French Colonial neoclassical building from 1886, has its own complex story. It served as the headquarters of the French Governor, then the Japanese occupation, and even  as a temporary residence for the ill-fated  President Diem.

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Exhibit Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Today the museum’s first floor displays antiquated exhibits of Vietnamese industry, geography and archeology. Upstairs there are only slightly more updated exhibits of the Vietnamese people’s resistance to theFrench, the Japanese, and finally the Americans.  The artifacts are the plain and touching remnants of the revolution: reading glasses, typewriters, and mess kits. The story is a continuum of struggle against outside forces from three continents.

And one more vignette: Seeking to escape the building’s atmosphere of humidity and dignified decay as well as a sudden rain shower, I headed to a coffee shop on the grounds of the museum. Opening its big glass door, I walked into a different world-  air-conditioning, gleaming brass fixtures, the whoosh of expresso machines, and a crowd of young Vietnamese sipping lattes and working on laptops.  No reason to look any further, welcome to Vietnam today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interpreting and Representing Slavery

By Brenda Barrett March 26, 2018
Panel on Assessing the Enduring Legacy of Slavery in Today's Societies

Panel on Assessing the Enduring Legacy of Slavery in Today’s Societies

Scholars from four continents gathered in the World Heritage listed Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for a two-day conference on “Interpreting and Representing Slavery and its Legacies in Museums and Sites: International Perspectives” (March 19-20 2018). The conference explored the variety of ways universities, historic sites and museums from around the Atlantic World tell the story of slavery and its far reaching legacy. The project was sponsored by  The conference is sponsored by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the University of Virginia (UVA), and the United States Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) in collaboration with the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, and Heritage.

Launched in 1994 the Slave Route Project explores the common links between Africa and the Americas. As described by Professor Paul Lovejoy in his article The African Diaspora: Revisionist Interpretations of Ethnicity, Culture and Religion under Slavery  it was the aim of the UNESCO project to “trace the slave trade from the original points of enslavement in the African interior, through the coastal (and Saharan) entrepots by which slaves were exported from the region, to the societies in the Americas and the Islamic world into which they were imported.”

Attendees at the Interpreting and Representing Slavery Conference

Attendees at the Interpreting and Representing Slavery Conference

In this the project has been very successful. The research that underlies the Slave Route Project includes extensive work on the history from the Africa perspective a topic that from the American side has been neglected or is just not well known. This is critical for understanding how enslaved Africans perceived this new world and modified traditional institutions and cultural practices to adapt to new conditions. The some of the publications from the project are featured on this web site.

The overall goal is to develop through a range of cultural and educational programs to enhance enhances awareness of this slavery and its consequences. The recent conference at UVA  featured museum and historic site practitioners, as well as scholars and public thought leaders who engaged in a knowledge exchange to:

  • Consider the global impact of the slave trade and the legacies of slavery
  • Discuss experiences and best practices on representing and interpreting slavery from different regions of the world
  • Examine the roles of the arts, humanities, and multimedia technology for interpreting and representing the memory and history of slavery
  • Contribute to the elaboration of a handbook on new approaches in interpreting and representing slavery in museums and sites
  • Explore opportunities and possibilities for partnerships among participants and with the UNESCO Slave Route Project.

Below are just a few observations from what was an extraordinarily rich conference. Fortunately, for those who were not able to attend the conference in person, the conference panels are already available to view on line.   

Use of big data

The Slave Routes project has generated a vast amount of data on the 12.5 million enslaved people brought to the new world. The availability of this information is one of the ways to break the chain of silence. And this information is about to become even more accessible. The Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant of $1.47 million to eight universities to link their individual data bases. When finished, the project, “Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade,” will enable scholars and the public to search millions of pieces of slave data to identify enslaved individuals and their descendants. Users also will be able to run analyses of enslaved populations and create maps, charts, and graphics. (Hear Dr. Paul Lovejoy speak on this initiative at the First  Session at the conference)

Making the connection to individuals

Rotunda University of Virginia

Rotunda University of Virginia

While the scale of the slave trade is important to understand, the conference speakers emphasized the need to recognize the individuality and humanity of each enslaved person. Both the Provost Dr. Louis Nelson and the President Dr. Teresa Sullivan in their introductory remarks used the names of the enslaved laborers who constructed the Rotunda where we were meeting. Other projects are underway to build a data base of enslaved individuals to break the silence by putting a name to each enslaved person. (Listen to Session One – Welcome to the conference)

The psychological impacts of slavery

One of the most powerful presentations at the conference was by Dr. Benjamin Bowser who addressed the long term consequences of the slave trade on mental health. These impacts have long gone unrecognized yet still influence behavior today. (Listen to Dr. Bowser speak at the Second Session)

 Role of museums and universities

The overall goal of the conference was to examine the variety of approaches used at museums and sites around the Atlantic to represent the history and legacies of the slave trade, slavery, as well as  emancipation with experts from the U.S. South Africa, the Netherlands, France and more. While this topic infused all the sessions at the conference, the panel on ‘Universities Confronting Slavery’ raised many challenging questions. Such as many universities are   historical actors with connections to slavery, what steps have these universities taken towards repairing historic injustices?  (Listen to session 5 for more information)

Importance of the arts and humanities

Early Immigrants by Ed Dwight

Early Immigrants by Ed Dwight

 

Also permeating the conference and rare at a history conference were the role of arts and humanities as an essential part of the story. Many speakers looked at how the arts can play a role in expressing and transmitting memory. (Listen to Mr. Ed Dwight speak on creating memorials to slavery on Session Six panel)

 

 

Again don’t just stop with my brief summaries of a few of the conference highlights. Go to the conference web site and listen in!  

 

 

 

 

 

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Places and People in Trouble

By Brenda Barrett February 7, 2018
Main Street of  Kane Pennsylvania

Main Street of Kane Pennsylvania

Can America’s small cities be saved? I spent quarter of a century managing programs to address this question.  And I am probably just one of thousands of practioners in the fields of historic preservation, parks and recreation, and community development across the country who have tried to tackle this problem.  In Pennsylvania, my home state, small cities are poster children for economic distress.  Over 30 municipalities, almost all of which could be characterized as small cities, have been designated   financially distressed under Act 47 a state law passed in 1987 that was  designed to provide failing municipalities with some relief. All across the commonwealth those small cities not yet designated under Act 47 were and are teetering on the edge. All of them had a similar litany of problems declining population and tax revenue, high pension and health care costs, a large inventory of blighted or tax-exempt properties, and heavy burden of municipal debt.

Once upon a time I administered programs that provided advice and assistance to preserve historic buildings, to revitalize main streets, to revamp park systems, and reimagine former canals and railroad beds as recreational assets. While there were some successes, even an enthusiastic supporter as myself could see that these initiatives and all the good intentions in the world were not going to turn these places around.

Now I have been out of this line of work for quite a few years.  However,  I felt my past frustration and despair rush back when within the space of three days, I was confronted by two opinion pieces concluding that many small cities are probably doomed. Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times (December 30, 2017), posits that while once these places had a clear rationale for being as service centers for the surrounding countryside and later adding on whatever industrial enterprises came along, this is no longer a winning strategy. The modern economic supply chain, one that is cut lose from the landscape as well as the pressures of globalization will inexorable erode the viability of small urban centers. See The Gamblers Ruin of Small Towns .

The other piece was a more in depth article in the Washington Post by Harrisburg native Heather Long titled “America’s Forgotten Towns: Can they be saved or should people just leave? . The article starts out by saying that …. ‘One of the great debates in American politics and economics in 2018 is likely to be how to help the country’s forgotten towns, the former coal-mining and manufacturing hubs with quaint Main Streets that haven’t changed much since the 1950s and ’60s.’ 

Well I thought – I do not hear a great debate going on in Pennsylvania although it would be great, if it were happening. As of now I have not seen the issue receive increased political attention. But if it was to receive attention, there is still no consensus about what strategies might revive small towns and cities or even if it is possible at all. Some economists have concluded that the best solution is for populations to move to where the jobs are located. But according to the census data that is not happening.  The American people are moving at about half the rate that they did in the 1970s and ’80s.

Why are people opting to stay put? Heather Long’s article suggests that one reason may be risk aversion to moving to another place that might also have an uncertain future and face the same problems. Even more importantly, people may have have the rational desire to stick with the trusted and familiar.  A local support system of friends and family has real value that will be lost upon relocation.   So if residents want to stay put and it is unlikely that many of these places are going to completely close down, then what?

Again there are no good answers. A recent report by the Pittsburgh Foundation found that Pennsylvania communities in the state’s Act 47 distressed municipalities program generally performed worse than average despite state assistance that in some cases has stretched for decades. Other programs like Main Street designations and other targeted grant assistance are just not game changers. And if indeed the problems are caused by global shifts in the national economy, local economies are not likely to respond to such small interventions. Heather Long is hopeful that the social capital of people and place will serve as the “Magic Fairy Dust”  to help build a better future. I hope so too, but experience has lead me to believe it will just extend the long goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Culture/Nature Journey: New Delhi India

By Brenda Barrett December 27, 2017
Taj Mahal  UNESCO World Heritage Site Agra India

Taj Mahal
UNESCO World Heritage Site Agra India

The recent Scientific Symposium at the 19th ICOMOS Triennial General Assembly in India (December 11-15, 2017) featured a track titled a “Culture/Nature Journey” that highlighted how the recognition of the interconnected character of natural and cultural heritage is critical for the future of conservation. The idea for this track was inspired by the September 2016 ‘Nature-Culture Journey’   launched a little over a year ago (September 2016)  at the IUCN  World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i. At the Congress, a week-long ‘Journey’ offered sessions and discussions that reflected on the importance of integrating the work of conservation. The two fields have been brought together by the growing evidence that lasting conservation of natural and cultural heritage in landscapes/seascapes depends on better integration for resource planning and management. The need for this approach is made more urgent by threats such as climate change, urban expansion and globalization that can only be addressed on a large landscape scale.

At the ICOMOS meeting in New Delhi, the Journey continued under Co Chairs  Susan Mcintyre-Tamwoy of ICOMOS  and Tim Badman of IUCN. A special track titled appropriately Culture/Nature consisted of 13 workshops, many providing updates on existing programs of the two organizations on this topic, 7 small focused Knowledge Cafes, 4 more traditional Paper Session, 2 Case Study Sessions and other events including a Culture/Nature lunch.

So what were some of the highlights?

India Habitat Centre New Delhi

India Habitat Centre
New Delhi

An important initiative is the joint ICOMOS/IUCN Connecting Practice Project. The goal of this effort is to explore how to link culture and nature through selected pilot projects at World Heritage sites. Leaders in this effort updated attendees on the fieldwork that has been carried out over the past few years and discussed its application to varied landscapes/seascapes. A key element has been the partnership with local and national management authorities who have been working to develop and strengthen policy and management frameworks to achieve long- term conservation and maintain biocultural resilience in regions as disparate as Mongolia, Hungary and South Africa.

Another capacity building initiative presented at the ‘Journey’ was an update on  World Heritage Leadership an effort to improve the conservation and management practices for culture and nature as a component of sustainable development. One proposed idea to better meld the practice of culture and nature is to publish a new integrated resource manual, which joins together the existing ICCROM-led Managing Cultural World Heritage manual with the IUCN-led Managing Natural World Heritage manual to be issued by 2020. As session leaders noted the current existence of the two separate manuals itself illustrates the existing divide.

A workshop also focused on how the Rights-Based Approaches (RBAs) can be more effectively framed and mainstreamed using a nature/culture approach to improve the effectiveness conservation and sustainable management in partnership with indigenous communities. Considering both values can enhance the experience of local communities with biodiversity conservation and reconnect people with their natural heritage.

Several workshops looked at the challenging issue of agriculture. These landscapes stand at the nexus of nature and culture and are repositories of bio- cultural diversity, associated intangible and tangible cultural heritage, including the physical shaping of the landscape and associated traditional knowledge and practice. However, there can be tension around the management of working landscapes. The challenge is to form new alliances among the traditional stewards of these landscapes and heritage conservation organizations that inter-weave of nature and culture, and that consider how these values can help to advance sustainability in the long term. One effort aimed at building crosscutting understanding is the World Rural Landscape initiative, which explores the entangled cultural and natural dimensions of rural and agrarian landscapes and examines conservation approaches for sustainability of these dynamic systems.

This is just a taste of the topics that were covered in the Culture/Nature Journey in New Delhi.  For further information, all of the session abstracts are available here.

Celebrating the Culture/Nature Journey Delhi India

Celebrating the Culture/Nature Journey New Delhi, India

As for outcomes on this Journey:  An important step forward was the adoption of two resolutions at the conclusion of the 19th ICOMOS Triennial General Assembly that document forward motion on culture/nature journey.

  • Adopted Resolution 19 2017/25 “Incorporating the interconnectedness of Nature and Culture into Heritage Conservation”
  • Adopted Resolution 19GA 2017/16 Adoption of the ICOMOS/IFLA “Principles concerning Rural landscapes as Heritage”

Also during the conference, a hardworking group attempted to distill the essence of many sessions and conversations. One message from this exercise was that success might be achieved by parties taking small steps aligned toward a common goal. There will be many more reports coming out of this event, but for some additional background visit the Culture Nature Journey Facebook page. 

Postscript:

Just a reminder that the highlights of the Journey at the Word Conservation Congress (September 2017) were captured in a recent issue of the George Wright Forum titled Nature Culture Journeys: Exploring Shared Terrain. This thematic issue of the George Wright Forum draws examples from this broad array of themes through examples of case studies and reflections on the journey experience. While not comprehensive overview of the Nature-Culture Journey, together these papers illustrate many of the important emergent themes from that gathering.

Explore this issue  on the George Wright web site.

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Half Earth: E.O. Wilson sparks the planet’s largest conservation effort

By Brenda Barrett October 30, 2017
unnamedOn October 23, 2017 conservationists gathered at National Geographic Headquarters for an event called “Half Earth Day” held six months after Earth Day in April. The half theme was to highlight renowned biologist, naturalist, and author E.O. Wilson’s big idea that half the planet is the amount of protected marine and land habitats required to save 80 percent of the world’s species. His book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (2016) is a compelling manifesto of the why and even the where of what we must conserve in order to reclaim our natural heritage.

However, the how to accomplish the aspirational idea of reserving half the surface of the earth for nature has been more difficult to envision. The recent program at National Geographic demonstrated whether this outsized dream might just come true. Most inspiring was a series of  presentations that featured young conservation leaders showcasing innovative landscape scale efforts around the world: The Gorongosa Restoration Project in Mozambique, Tompkins Conservation  in Patagonia, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve in Montana, and National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

All these presentations are well worth watching on the E.O. Wilson Foundation web site.

While less than 10% of the globe’s terrestrial area is officially protected and only 3% of the oceans, the speakers and discussants spoke confidently of ways to increase these numbers. The approach was not necessarily to set aside huge protected swaths, but to build conservation areas into all human developments. One speaker spoke about the need for “gerrymandering” nature preservation into all that we do. While all of the examples were exciting, the presentation  by Dr. Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and leader of the Pristine Seas Project stood out, as he broke down the complexity of conserving the planet’s oceans into a seemingly doable strategy.  A strategy that he has presented to country leaders, business leaders, NGOs, and local governments and communities and that has inspired the establishment of some of the largest marine reserves in the world.

Another example of turning ideas into action is the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act (HR 6448) to establish a National Wildlife Corridors System to ensure that species are able to move between habitats less encumbered by obstacles. Introduced by Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) the bill directs key Federal land and water management agencies to work with each other, as well as with States, tribes, local governments, and private landowners, to develop and manage national wildlife corridors. Although the political climate is challenging for such efforts,  the ideas embedded in the bill are already being implemented on the ground in such disparate efforts as the Yukon to Yellowstone a transboundary two countries, five American states, two Canadian provinces, two Canadian territories, the reservation or traditional lands of over 30 Native governments, and a number of government land agencies. And by the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership a regional coalition of over fifty partners engaged in land conservation and related fields all dedicated to saving this large east coast watershed.

Can all this work add up to 50%? Make no small plans

 

 

 

 

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Threats to the Conservation of U.S. Marine Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett October 30, 2017
 Remains of the USS Macaw that sank near Midway Island. Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

Remains of the USS Macaw that sank near Midway Island.
Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

Overshadowed by the controversy over shrinking the size of national monuments that protect large swaths of the United States’ western landscapes, is a parallel effort to change the protected status of the nation’s marine resources. While all eyes have been focused on Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce has been preparing its own report on the future of marine national monuments and national marine sanctuaries. The report is not yet public, but could impact a broad area of the nation’s off shore real estate.

Included in the Department’s review are the Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments as well as the Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, Greater Farallones, Monterey Bay and Thunder Bay national marine sanctuaries and the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Taken together areas make up 425 million off shore acres in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

What is at stake?

National Marine Sanctuaires  Courtesey NOAA

National Marine Sanctuaires
Courtesey NOAA

The Department of Commerce could propose changes to these protected areas such as boundary reductions particularly for the more recently designated national monuments like the recent expansion of Papahānaumokuākea, which is also inscribed as a World Heritage site. However, just as risky to the conservation of these monuments and sanctuaries as a boundary change would be change in permitted activities. For example, allowing energy development such as off shore oil and gas drilling and allowing commercial fishing in areas where it is now banned. At this time national marine and monuments sanctuaries are similar to national parks. Although fishing is allowed in some of them, oil and gas drilling is banned, as is undersea mining.

The review began in April of 2017 with an Executive Order that directed the Department of Commerce to examine six national marine sanctuary expansions and five marine national monument designations and expansions are part of this review. In the Public comment period over this summer nearly 100,000 comments were received, with 99 percent in favor of retaining the existing boundaries of the protected ocean areas. But the cold facts are that public opinion may carry little weight. The Commerce Department’s recommendations have not seen the light of day, however, if the outcomes follow the path of the land based monument things are not looking up for the marine protected areas. President Trump has already announced he will shrink the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante and this could just be the beginning. Recently the Department of the Interior offered its largest lease sale ever for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This action sounds an ominous note for those marine landscapes whose special protective status maybe stripped away. Stay tuned.

One side note:  Why is the Department of Commerce undertaking this review? The answer is that through a quirk in evolutionary bureaucracy the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  , which has its roots, two hundred years deep in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the US Fish and Fisheries Commission, has the current responsibility to oversee both national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments  a system that conserves a network of ocean and Great Lakes environments with extraordinary biodiversity, scenic beauty, cultural heritage and economic opportunity.  .

 

 

 

 

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Edward Abbey: Seer in the Desert

By Brenda Barrett September 27, 2017
One of the pleasures of my summer vacation, visiting  parks on the Colorado Plateau, was re-reading the 1968 classic by Edward Abbey Desert Solitaire. As always I enjoyed his lyric and intensely personal descriptions of the desert and his sketches of such characters as morose cowboys and a moon-eyed horse. But this time I was struck by something I had never noticed before, the book offers a glimpse into the future.  So what did Abbey, seer of the desert, foresee?

unnamed-31) The looming tragedy of the Glen Canyon Dam – Alright this one was not too hard to predict. One of the book’s most enjoyable chapters is the author’s leisurely raft trip down the Colorado right before the completion of the dam that would forever drown this stretch of the river. Calling out the project as a silt trap and an evaporation tank, he bemoaned the irony of calling the lake created by the dam after the great river explorer  – John Wesley Powell. But perhaps Abbey could not have foreseen that just 50 years later there are serious proposals to open the gates of the Glen Canyon Dam and let the river run free at least through the Grand Canyon. Or perhaps he might have said – I told you so.

93198BEB-155D-451F-67A4F28EE433B6E5-large2) Reimagining our National Parks – For me Abbey’s most revelatory thoughts addressed  the desired future state for our National Parks. As a park ranger in the late 50s -60s, he was horrified by the onslaught of motorized industrial tourism and the policies of an agency he sometimes refers to as The National Parking Service. But all his writing is not negativity, he makes some very concrete recommendations.

One -No more cars in National Parks. He proposes that the service repurpose existing roads for walking, bicycles and even buses if you must. For example, he notes how this would vastly improve the visitor experience in Yosemite, which he describes as a “dusty milling confusion of motor vehicles and ponderous campers”.

Two -No more road development in parks.

Three -Put rangers to work not selling tickets or filling out forms, but leading the public  into the outdoors to enjoy the wonders of an unfamiliar carless word.

This summary does not do justice to his ideas some of which are laugh out loud funny. However, I know Abbey would be glad to see his idea of banning car put into action in places like Zion National Park and in parts of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. As for his thoughts on new roads and ranger, well for better and for worse, budget short falls have taken care of those action items.

North Rim of the  Grand Canyon

North Rim of the Grand Canyon

 3) Wilderness as a Revolutionary Idea – Along with all the other good reasons to set aside public lands as wilderness, Abbey presented what he believed was an entirely new argument. He says it best “…the wilderness should be preserved for political reasons. We may need it someday not only as refuge from excessive industrialism, but also as a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression.”

He expands on this theme noting that few civilizations are able to hang on to personal liberty for their citizens. And he goes on to predict that places like national parks could serve as centers of insurrection. While it might be tempting to draw some parallels to current events,  See Park Rangers to the Rescue,  one prediction Abbey got wrong was who would be on the front lines. He speculated that the insurgents might be made up of self-sufficient types farmers, cowboys, and woodsmen. It has not turned out that way – the protesters in my experience are more likely to be 60 something year-old women – like the one I met  on a Roads Scholar bus trip  to the Grand Canyon wearing her Alt NPS Tee shirt. Time to work the phones, barricades can come later.

 

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The Future of the Bureau of Land Management’s Master Leasing Plans

By Brenda Barrett September 26, 2017
Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for administering 247 million acres or over an eighth of the land mass of the United States. With a multiple use mission, BLM oversees leases for grazing, mining, oil and gas drilling as well as recreational uses and is charged to do so to benefit the economy, environment and enjoyment of people today and in future generations. Needless to say this basket of competing interests makes for a challenging job. And nowhere is the work of BLM more difficult than in balancing interest of the public when  leasing land  adjacent to our National Parks.

Conflicts between BLM practices and the need to protect National Park resources has resulted in the agency adopting a landscape scale approach to reviewing proposed leasing. This is the background as reported in a recent letter (Aug 29, 2017) http://protectnps.org/over-350-coalition-members-sign-letter-to-secretary-zinke-against-oil-and-gas-developm issued by the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks,

”In 2008, the BLM sold several oil and gas leases next to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. It was a rushed exercise, and NPS was not consulted until late in the process. A federal court halted the leases, because of the grave threat to the national parks, and an internal review conducted by a veteran BLM/NPS leadership team recommended a series of changes to BLM’s leasing program designed to avoid similar conflicts in the future. Those recommendations were largely adopted, and are achieving their goals. Master Leasing Plans (MLP’s) are reducing conflicts across the West, including around Arches and Canyonlands, and a new leasing process has created a vehicle for identifying and resolving NPS concerns for leases proposed near national parks. MLP’s prevent irreparable damage to park resources and avoid costly litigation, while allowing appropriate levels of oil and gas development to occur”

However, today the Coalition and other conservation minded organizations are concerned that the use of the MLP approach may be falling out of favor in the new administration. The Coalition noted that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed oil and gas leases near NPS units including Zion National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site. In addition, BLM has decided not to go forward with proposed “master leasing plans” (MLPs) in Utah.

These actions place National Park resources such as dark skies, clean air, scenic vistas and peaceful enjoyment of cultural and natural wonders at risk. Or as the Coalition eloquently said: Our national parks are not meant to be islands in seas of development.

While energy development may be a necessary activity on public land, it needs to be done in a way a way that balances competing interests. The MLP offered such an approach  for our National Parks and should be continued.

 Want to learn more?

Listen to a recent telepresser    held by the Coalition to urge Department of Interior Secretary Zinke not to lease lands next to any national monuments or national parks, and instead ensure that the lands around our national parks and monuments are protected and developed responsibly.

This comes at a pressing time, as this  September  (2017)all agencies will be providing a finalized report to the White House that identifies what existing rules and policies, which could include important protections for our land and water, should be eliminated in order to further President Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order. These decisions will directly impact the future of our national parks, national monuments, and their surrounding communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nature and Culture: The Journey Continues

By Brenda Barrett August 29, 2017
The voyaging canoe Hokulea'a Credit: Polynesian Voyaging Society and ʻŌiwi TV.

The voyaging canoe Hokulea’a
Credit: Polynesian Voyaging Society and ʻŌiwi TV.

In 2013, the traditional voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa set sail from Hawai’i on a round-the-world journey using only traditional Polynesian wayfinding techniques, including observations of the stars, the sun, the ocean swells, the winds, birds, and other signs of nature. After a journey of over 60,000 miles, visiting more than 23 countries and territories and 150 ports, the Hōkūleʻa returned to Hawai’i on 17 June 2017. The wayfarers carried a message of Mālama Honua –  a Hawaiian expression meaning “to care for our island Earth” – and gathered ideas to meet the challenges facing our world today.

And so it was in September 2016 that another journey occurred with similar intentions to the Hōkūleʻa – this one at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Hawai’i .  In the Hawaiian spirit of Mālama Honua, over 8,000 people travelled to Honolulu from around the world to share ideas and learn from each other’s innovations to better address the many conservation challenges facing our planet.

unnamedIn the conservation world, the two faces of nature and culture have become more a dichotomy than a duality. And yet, there is growing recognition that only by taking a more holistic approach can the field address the most urgent issues facing our planet – climate change, urbanization, and the transformations wrought by globalization. To explore these challenges  a Nature-Culture Journey was launched part of the larger WCC conference. It brought together a broad array ideas that touch on the duality of the nature – culture divide. For example, how the World Heritage Convention has shaped our perceptions of the two fields, the role of indigenous communities, traditional knowledge and spiritual values, and the challenges of conserving agricultural heritage landscapes.  While it would be impossible to represent the many threads of dialogue from last September’s journey, an upcoming issue of the George Wright Journal titled Nature – Culture Journeys: Explorations on Shared Terrain is dedicated to highlighting some of these intersections from   different fields and different geographies. The Journal provides a dive into some of the most critical topics where nature and culture merge and is a must read for those who recognize the urgency of taking a holistic perspective for a sustainable future.

March Billings Rockefeller National Historic Site Credit: Nora Mitchell

March Billings Rockefeller National Historic Site
Credit: Nora Mitchell

To read all of the articles in this issue of the George Wright Journal Nature – Culture Journeys: Explorations on Shared Terrain, you will need to become a member of the society. Note that selected content from this issue is available now and all the  content will become available to all readers on line after the publication of the next issue of the Journal.

As a reader of this blog I know you will be interested in this issue of the George Wright Journal and I urge you to consider becoming a member and supporting the mission of the society. The George Wright Society promotes professional research and resource stewardship. As a bridge between science and management, the GWS brings together hundreds of leaders across disciplines in natural and cultural resource management. With members in nearly all 50 U.S. states and numerous countries around the world, the GWS unites a community of Indigenous peoples, resource managers and park staff, researchers, professors, emerging leaders, educators, government agencies, nonprofits and outdoor enthusiasts.

This article draws in part from the work of Nora Mitchell in the Introductory essay to the issue of the George Wright Journal Nature – Culture Journeys: Explorations on Shared Terrain

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Culture and Nature: Thoughts on the English Lake District

By Brenda Barrett July 28, 2017
Lake District National Park Credit: Brenda Barrett

Lake District National Park
Credit: Brenda Barrett

At every level conservation practioners labor to understand and balance natural and cultural values at a landscape scale. Globally, this challenge plays out in the push and pull of the World Heritage inscription process.  When in 1972 UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, referred to as the World Heritage Convention, the document recognized the importance of both natural and cultural heritage. However, these values were generally treated in a parallel manner. To be inscribed on the World Heritage list a site must be of Outstanding Universal Value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria.  of which six are focused on cultural resources and the other four on natural resources. Most sites are nominated under either the cultural or the natural criteria. While sites can be nominated as mixed site by qualifying independently for the cultural and  for the natural criteria, this is not common. To date only 35 sites out of over one thousand World Heritage listings are classified as mixed properties. The fact that two separate organizations, ICOMOS for cultural resources and IUCN for natural resources, are responsible for the development of operational guidelines and technical assistance for proposed World Heritage nominations has further reinforced the bifurcation of the  program. However, recently there has been a surge in interest in viewing sites more holistically motivated in part by the recognition that global issues such as climate change, population shifts and urbanization, and political instability threaten all resources. This has resulted in renewed efforts to bridge the culture- nature divide and seek more universal solutions.

Drystone wall Lake District National Park Credit: Brenda Barrett

Drystone wall Lake District National Park
Credit: Brenda Barrett

The recent (July 2017) inscription by the World Heritage Committee of the English Lake District  highlights some of the challenges and opportunities of integrating cultural and natural values. Located in northwest England, the English Lake District represents the  combined work of nature and human activity, which produced a harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes; a region whose valleys were carved by ice age glaciers and then shaped by centuries of agro-pastoral land use; a landscape that has been appreciated from the 18th century onwards by the Picturesque and later Romantic movements, which has been celebrated in paintings, drawings and words. It also has inspired an awareness of the importance of beautiful places and triggered early efforts to preserve them for future generations.

This is a celebrated and iconic landscape, but there have been bumps on the road to gaining World Heritage recognition. The English Lake District was first nominated in 1986 as a mixed site proposed under both the cultural and natural criteria. However, in 1987 the World Heritage Committee was not convinced by this approach and decided to leave open its decision on the nomination until it had further clarified the committee’s position regarding the inscription of cultural landscapes. Two years later the state party then submitted the nomination under cultural criteria alone and while the nomination was discussed again at the World Heritage in 1990, there was still no resolution on how to address a site best described as a cultural landscape.

Herdwick Sheep Lake District National Park Credit: Brenda Barrett

Herdwick Sheep Lake District National Park
Credit: Brenda Barrett

The idea of a cultural landscapes category within the World Heritage Convention first began to emerge in the 1980s, as the committee debated the issue of how to recognize landscapes that included both cultural and natural resources.  This debate was spurred in part by the saga of the United Kingdom’s unsuccessful nomination of the Lake District, as a natural and then as a cultural site, and also by uncertainty among many committee members about the relationship between the idea of a lived-in landscape and the concept of  a Mixed Sites. It was fitting that in October 1987 an international expert symposium was convened in the Lake District National Park to examine these issues. The outcome was the Lake District Declaration, the opening lines of which are echoed in the current Lake District nomination, “People in harmonious interaction with nature, have in many parts of the world fashioned landscapes of outstanding value, beauty and interest.”

The Lake District Declaration made many recommendations to improve the management and understanding of protected landscapes. Since that time much progress has been made by the World Heritage Committee in refining the criteria and operational guidelines to better define cultural landscapes as:

47: Cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent “combined works of nature and of man” designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal.

English Lake District Credit: Brenda Barrett

English Lake District
Credit: Brenda Barrett

Applying these criteria in 2016, the United Kingdom prepared a new nomination for the English Lake District as a cultural landscape based  solely on World Heritage cultural criteria (ii), (v) and (vi).  While IUCN did not participate in the technical evaluation of the Lake District nomination, it did provide comments from a natural resource perspective to the World Heritage Committee. (See IUCN World Heritage Evaluation 2017)   IUCN’s comments noted that quarrying within the boundaries of the nominated property was a matter of concern for its impact on the region’s flora and fauna. Also the IUCN report raised the issue of providing a buffer zone or  additional planning strategies to protect the property from climate change and over development.  Its comments also stated that the English Lake District played an important role in the development of IUCN Category V resources – protected landscape/seascape.  These resources are defined as a protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values

English Lake District  Credit: Brenda Barrett

English Lake District
Credit: Brenda Barrett

The English Lake District is often cited in the literature on protected areas  as the classic example of a Category V landscape and has provided the basis for the application of the concept  in other parts of the world. While the IUCN comments on the recent nomination suggested that this connection should be more strongly emphasized, the comments did not follow on and provide guidance on one of the most pressing culture/nature issues facing the region. The challenge, which is explicitly stated in the nomination,  is how to sustain the 200 or so shepherding families and their flocks of hefted Herdwick sheep that have been instrumental in  creating much of the special character of the landscape and are indispensable to maintaining many of its defining features. The traditional shepherding way of life is threatened by global market forces that impact the viability of farming communities and in the United Kingdom national agricultural plans and subsidies face additional uncertainty in a post Brexit world.  And if this is not enough, shepherding as a way of life in the Lake District is also threatened by some nature conservation policies that promote a different vision for the region: A vision that encourages the re-wilding of the landscape. The most out spoken critics of the traditional shepherding practices describe the Lake District as a “sheep-wrecked landscape”.  The bid for World Heritage designation has been criticized as discouraging other efforts to re-introduce a great variety of plants and wildlife in favor of the status quo.

In considering the nomination, ICOMOS recognized the value of this agro-pastoral landscape. ICOMOS also made specific recommendations to the World Heritage Committee to address the long term survival of this way of life – recommending national farm supports to assist shepherding community in maintaining the heritage values of the landscape as well assistance in preserving the genetic diversity of the herds and their role in providing for the nation’s future food security. In addition the report recommended rebalancing public funding for preserving natural resources in the region to provide support for conserving its cultural landscape.  This is good stuff. But it would have had even more power if IUCN had weighed in using the principles articulated for Category V  Landscapes   including one of the  primary objectives for these places: To maintain a balanced interaction of nature and culture through the protection of landscape and/or seascape and associated traditional management approaches, societies, cultures and spiritual values.

If ICOMOS and IUCN had presented unified recommendations in this matter using both the cultural landscape approach and the principles of Category V landscapes, the Lake District nomination could have provided future guidance on how to balance natural and cultural values in this lived in landscapes.  It could have provided an additional chapter in the English Lake District’s long journey to World Heritage listing.

Postscript

For the conservation community the successful nomination of the English Lake District is only one more step on the Nature/Culture Journey. At the IUCN sponsored 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaii a special track featuring over 50 related sessions brought together the Nature and Cultural community to look at interrelated ecological and cultural topics – often across large landscapes – to better understand the field’s complementary knowledge and capacities. This will be followed by a complementary Culture/Nature Journey at the upcoming Scientific Symposium at the ICOMOS General Assembly meeting in Delhi India in December 2017.

IUCN and ICOMOS have also  launched the Connecting Practice initiative devised and implemented by “to explore, learn and create new methods that are centered on recognizing and supporting the interconnected … character of the natural, cultural and social values of highly significant landscapes and seascapes”. The goal of this practice led approach is to deliver a fully connected approach to considering nature and culture in the context of World Heritage. A number of pilot studies to test this strategy of learning while doing have undertaken in Mongolia, Hungary and South Africa. Read the just released report on Connecting Practice  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is in a name? The National Monument Version

By Brenda Barrett May 27, 2017
Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument Courtesy: Bureau of Land Management

Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument
Courtesy: Bureau of Land Management

National Monuments were once an obscure protected area designation. Today they are a big story in major news outlets.  Reporters are struggling with names likes Bears Ears, Grand Staircase – Escalante, and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. What put these places in the headlines was the new administration’s signature on an April 26, 2017 Executive Order authorizing a review all National Monuments designated since January 1, 1996 and specifically those over 100,000 acres.

The press coverage usually gets the origin story right. The Antiquities Act passed in 1906 during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. It authorized the president by proclamation to set aside land owned or controlled by the federal government for conservation purposes. This power has been used by 16 presidents of both parties for over a hundred years to create 170 national monuments. However, there are some ongoing misconceptions. The biggest one is that the designation locks up private lands.

The legislation is clear that monuments are to be created out of the public estate or lands that have been donated for public purposes. However, general readers might conclude from the rhetoric in the press that this is a Federal land grab. To start with the President called it a land grab when he signed the E.O. And a Utah local government official is quoted in the New York Times as saying., “You just don’t take something from somebody,” equating the designation of Bears Ears as a national monument to grand theft.  In Maine, where one family has donated over 87,000 acres to the Department of Interior to create the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, opponents claimed the land would be better returned to timber production. But, as noted by Lucas St. Clair, a spokesperson for the family, in an interview with the Guardian: “This was private land that my family owned and wanted to donate to create a national park… they (opponents) fail to realize the land was sold to us by people from the forest products industry because it was no longer valuable to them as a landscape to log and cut trees…the argument that this is taking this land out of potential fiber production is absurd.”

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Courtesy: National Park Service

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Courtesy: National Park Service

Another source of confusion is what National Monument status means. The New York Times opined that, in terms of protection, national monuments are generally considered one step below national parks. Some of this confusion may be caused by the different agencies tasked with managing the individual monuments. For example, Grand Staircase – Escalante is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Papahānaumokuākea is administered jointly by three co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior and the State of Hawai’i. But just to set the record straight those National Monuments managed by the National Park Service are part of the National Park system and are not second class citizens.

The size of monuments also appears to be a concern.  And this is in part because the Antiquities Act states that a monument “be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”  Secretary Zinke raised this issue at his confirmation hearing and it is reflected in the recent order to review the larger sized monuments. But, as a recent well researched post in the National Trust Forum notes, some monuments are  “pretty monumental” take the Grand Canyon. And we can add the Grand Tetons and multiple parks in Alaska to the list.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Courtesy: NOAA

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Courtesy: NOAA

There are also some big unknowns.  Just what will happen if some of the national monuments are rescinded or boundaries adjusted. Drill rigs are pictured in many environmental alerts on the topic and that is certainly a possibility. And opponents talk about the limits monument designation may impose on economic activity such as logging, and oil and mineral extraction. However, the local people of San Juan County Utah are more likely objecting to the designation of Bears Ears because they want more control over their place on the earth. President Trump certainly played to this theme. In signing the April Executive Order to study the targeted monuments by saying “Today I am signing another E.O. to end another egregious abuse of Federal power and to give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs”.

Department of Interior Secretary Zinke, who has the challenging task of implementing the study, has taken another path. Many of  his public statements have been supportive of continued federal ownership of public land. See the Living Landscape Observer Listening to Zinke. So how will this all play out?

One discouraging sign is that despite his declarations about  the importance of listening to residents and affected communities, Zinke issued a Department of Interior memo (May 5, 2017) sending a  temporary stop work order to over 200 Department Advisory Committees. The stated goal is to review the charter and charge of each committee and as a spokeswoman for the department said “to restore trust in the Department’s decision making.” However, many of the committees, as has been pointed out by their members, were created to give local community input.  Just one example, the 16-member, volunteer Acadia advisory commission was created by Congress in 1986 in response to community concerns about the park expanding its boundaries without adequate input. Membership is primarily 10 local governments adjacent to the park. Now government decisions are being made while they sit on the sidelines. Even more ironic, the agency’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument advisory committee will be suspended throughout the debate over the monument’s future.

With all of this is happening in the very short time frame of  120 days, it is hard to even set the record straight on what  national monuments are or are not,  before other changes may be proposed to this venerable conservation program.

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Take Notice: Trending for Large Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett April 25, 2017
Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area

Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area

Every two years protected area managers, scientists, and every kind of experts on cultural and natural heritage gather at the George Wright Conference to present papers, engage in lively discussions and swap professional gossip at the bar. I always find these meetings to be the place to spot emerging ideas and trends in the field. For the 2017 conference titled Connections across People, Place and Time, I journeyed to the conference location in Norfolk VA with my attention focused on what is ahead for the  large landscapes movement.

The answer: It is headed to the top of the charts. The conference’s opening session was titled “Making the Big Connections: The Future of Conservation on a Landscape Scale”.  And it featured two of the preeminent leaders in the field of connectivity conservation, Harvey Locke, Co-founder and Strategic Advisor of the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative and Gary Tabor, Founder of the Center for Landscape Conservation.

They spoke about the vast scale needed to conserve migratory wildlife and of the critical need to work on a large enough canvas particularly as climate change disrupts  our natural systems.  For example, the Yellowstone to Yukon worked to identify bottlenecks to species movement and facilitate  targeted land acquisition in this 3,500-kilometer corridor.  Both speakers proposed that this big picture strategy needs to go global and that to thrive nature needs half.

So this was a strong start. What other ideas from the conference had implications for landscape scale work? Well here are a few:

1.The indivisible connection between Nature and Culture

The need for a dialogue between the disciplines of culture and nature is now out in the open and landscapes are an important place of intersection.  As one speaker noted “Culture is the pathway to the conservation ethic”.  One session reprised some of  the highlights of the  Nature Culture Journey at the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaii where there were over 60 presentations on the topic.

Most interesting for someone not inside the National Park Service (NPS) was the inclusive tenor of the recently issued NPS Director’s Order 100. It states that 21st century resource stewardship requires coordination between natural and cultural resource programs and follows up with a host of proposed action to achieve such integration.  A long time attendee, grasping the full scope of the order, said to me “ I have been waiting my whole NPS career for this”.

2. The importance of the Urban Interface

There were a good number of sessions on nature in the city. These included initiatives in Chicago, Portland, and Tucson. Many of these efforts are linked together by such groups as the Metropolitan Greenspace Alliance who’s tagline is “Nature is not a place to visit it is home” and Natural Neighbors  which works to promote metropolitan and regional conservation alliances.  And it is not just  about nature. The Natural Neighbors web site  identifies the importance of cultivating a community’s sense of belonging and of civic responsibility by valuing a region’s history and culture, as well as its natural environment.

And one more thing, the NPS Urban Agenda is making a difference. For example, every year the George Wright Society sponsors a prestigious program for graduate students called Park Break Program. This is an all-expenses-paid, park-based field seminar for graduate students who are thinking about a career in park management or park-related research and education. In 2016, the  Park Break seminar was held in Detroit a place without a traditional national park  unit to serve as home base. Under the direction of the city’s NPS sponsored urban fellow, the students tackled research on the cultural heritage of the city. This the way to develop 21st century protected area managers!

3. The recognition of Indigenous People in the Landscape

The George Wright Society has a strong commitment to ensuring that indigenous voices are represented at the biannual conferences. The organization puts it money where its mouth is by offering travel grants for participation by indigenous people from Canada, Mexico and the United States with the goal of encouraging discussion on parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. More than any other professional gathering I have ever attended, the George Wright meetings weave together indigenous viewpoints as part of opening ceremonies,the  plenary presentations, the conference sessions, and at special events and receptions.

This year taking advantage of the conference location in the Mid-Atlantic, there were a number of sessions on the innovative work being done to better understand the deep time depth of the human occupation of the Chesapeake watershed. Many thanks to Chief Ann Richardson and Chief Stephen Adkins for their perceptive presentations placed their people in this landscape in the past through to today.  Sessions and discussions included contextualizing the recently designated national monument Werocomocco and an update of the Indigenous Cultural landscape approach to the home land of the Rappahannock people on the eastern shore of Maryland. Read the full report on Defining the Rappahannock Cultural Landscape.

Finally, and not directly related to large landscape practice, I was struck by the number of presentations that focused on the history of protected area management. Perhaps it is the current state of the nation, but attendees were seeking solace in lessons from the past. For the large landscape movement, this conference seemed to confirm that the time is now.  As noted in NPS Directive 100, land and seascapes need to be managed to sustain biodiversity and viable ecosystems as well as to be managed in such a way as  to understand the resources larger thematic and geographic context. However, when we look back on this moment in fifty years, will we see this as a break through moment or the beginning of a long slide down hill?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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