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Ideas to Reach the Goals of Thirty x Thirty

By Eleanor Mahoney July 1, 2021

Six months ago, in January 2021, the Biden administration announced a plan to protect 30 percent of the country’s land and water by 2030 (Executive Order 14008). In May, four federal agencies jointly released a preliminary report, entitled Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful, which outlined – in broad strokes – how the administration hoped to achieve this ambitious goal. The foundation of the report is a set of eight guiding principles that – on the whole – emphasize collaboration, inclusiveness, and equity as key aspects of conservation practice. In addition, many of the guiding principles also stress the importance of local leadership in determining when, where, and how to protect threatened lands and waters. Federal mandates or directives will likely not be part of the 30 x 30 plan – at least in terms of determining which sites are prioritized for preservation.

This type of approach, one that takes into consideration the knowledge and experience of people living and working in the places they call home, may not seem radical. But, in terms of the history of federal conservation policy, it does, in fact, represent a significant shift. It wasn’t until the late 20th century (about one hundred years after the creation of the first national parks) that federal land managers began to (fitfully) incorporate outside perspectives, including those of local residents, into their decision-making processes. The late historian Hal Rothman called this transformation “the end of federal hegemony. ”

While the causes of the change are complex, a big impetus was the passage of new environmental and historic preservation laws, especially the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This type of legislation mandated public input and involvement in many federal actions and opened up opaque administrative processes to more scrutiny and review.

Before the 1970s then, the needs and perspectives of community members rarely received much attention from federal agencies – that is unless the affected individuals were especially wealthy or politically influential. Indigenous peoples, African Americans, Latino/as, and Asian Americans were especially subject to such treatment. Indeed, the contemporary public lands infrastructure in the U.S. is a product of Indigenous dispossession. Significantly, Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful does discuss this often times violent history and prioritizes Tribal sovereignty as one of its key values, stating clearly, “Efforts to conserve and restore America’s lands and waters must involve regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations. These efforts must respect and honor Tribal sovereignty, treaty and subsistence rights, and freedom of religious practices.” (14)

Based on history then, achieving the collaboration goals set forward in Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful will be a challenge. But history, especially the recent past, also offers some promising lessons – ones that can hopefully inform the 30 x 30 campaign. Federal agencies have been experimenting with more cooperative approaches for several decades, at sites as varied as Cape Cod National Seashore and Bears Ears National Monument. The Living Landscape Observer has highlighted many of these efforts, especially those that acknowledge the central importance of lived-in landscapes to conservation practice. Here are three models we have profiled that are well worth another look by the Biden administration.

1) The Indigenous Cultural Landscapes (ICL) initiative – In an article on Presquile National Wildlife Refuge from 2012, Deanna Beacham wrote that the ICL idea was “…Developed as part of the planning for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the concept is intended to represent large landscapes from the perspective of American Indian nations at the time of their first contact with Europeans. These landscapes comprise the cultural and natural resources that would have supported the historic lifestyles and settlement patterns of an Indian group in their totality. The concept attempts to demonstrate that American Indian places were not confined to the sites of houses, towns, or settlements, and that the American Indian view of one’s homeland is holistic rather than compartmentalized into the discrete site elements typically used in our language today such as ‘hunting grounds’, ‘villages’, or ‘sacred sites.’” One place where this innovative approach (which Beacham played a critical role in developing) is being implemented is along the Rappahannock River. Joe McCauley described the early period of the project in this 2016 piece, including the central role of the Rappahannock Tribe. More information is available here.

2) Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC) – Launched in 2009 by a Department of Interior Secretarial Order, the LCCs represented a major cooperative effort to bridge jurisdictional boundaries within the Department of the Interior as well as with other federal, state, and Tribal agencies and private landowners. The LCCs consisted of 22 individual, self-directed conservation areas that covered all of the U.S. including islands, and parts of Canada, Mexico and Pacific Islands. Brenda Barrett wrote about the LCC’s here. The Trump Administration ended the program, but its lessons could prove vital to the 30 x 30 initiative – and recent news reports note a revival of the effort, in some shape or form, is possible.

3) National Heritage Areas (NHA) – There are 55 NHAs across the country, ranging in size from downtown historic districts to multi-state corridors. Management varies significantly across NHAs as does interpretive foci and staffing. What unites the approach – and why it is important for 30 x 30 – is the emphasis on cooperation, partnerships, and planning. NHAs, with a few exceptions, do not own land and have no regulatory authority. They instead serve as a platform for storytelling, community development, and capacity building. One recent development for NHAs is a bill to create program legislation.

History, literature, and art, can also offer important insights into the connections between people and place, revealing the underlying significance of landscape to human identity and belonging. Want to know more? Read our interviews with two NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellows, Dr. Mia Carey and Dr. Emma Silverman, about their work to make these types of connections more visible.


Management at Pimachiowin Aki: A Three-Pronged Approach

By Guest Observer June 28, 2021

By Hannah Sisk

A large landscape invites any number of management approaches: nature conservation, cultural resource management, community stakeholder engagement—the larger the landscape, the more robust and diverse a heritage practitioner’s toolbox must become. A thoughtful practitioner, though, will learn to employ these tools or approaches concurrently, in relation to each other, to develop an integrated management plan. Pimachiowin Aki, a large landscape in Canada, demonstrates this, as different approaches are deployed in conversation with each other to yield a strong yet flexible system of management. 

Spanning two Canadian provinces and 11,212 square miles, Pimachiowin Aki is clearly conceived as a large-scale entity and was successfully inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018 (Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project, 2016, p. iv). Equally important, the site’s management innovatively stems from a joint understanding of nature and culture—it’s one of only 39 “mixed” natural-cultural landscapes recognized by UNESCO—and via a bottom-up partnership between four Anishinaabe First Nations communities and provincial government representatives (Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project, 2016, p. iv). This blog will look at this three-pronged management system—large-scale landscape designation, nature-culture relationships, community-centered partnerships—with the hope that it might inspire more inclusive, sustainable heritage practices in the United States. 

Large-scale landscape designation: This first prong is perhaps the most straightforward on its face. The decision to “scale-up” to a larger landscape yielded an entity that more accurately represents its complex realities, particularly from an ecological stance. Pimachiowin Aki is “a vast area of healthy boreal forest, wetlands, lakes, and free-flowing rivers” (UNESCO, 2021, para. 5) and hosts multiple ecosystems over a boundaried landscape that includes two provincial parks, a conservation reserve, and multiple protected areas stewarded by Anishinaabe First Nations communities (Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project, 2016, p. 106-107; Asuncion, 2020, para. 1). The flora and fauna living within these 11,212 square miles are codependent and migratory: “wildfire, nutrient flow, species movements, and predator-prey relationships are key, naturally functioning ecological processes that maintain an impressive mosaic of ecosystems” (UNESCO, 2021, para. 5). Previously, the land was divided under either provincial or First Nations control, with little interaction. Beginning in 2002, discussions between different manager stakeholders slowly moved towards a cooperative, transboundary model (to be discussed below), largely based on the realization that a larger-scaled vision would ultimately “[provide] for ecological resilience, [especially] in the context of a changing climate” (Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project, 2016, p. 106-107; Gilmore, 2020, para. 5-9). This scaled-up approach yields a united front and more comprehensive understanding of the systems at play.

Nature-Culture Relationship: Pimachiowin Aki’s integrated approach towards natural and cultural resources provides the second prong. As described above, the landscape is home to a complex ecological system of natural resources. Pimachiowin Aki also includes ancestral lands of Anishinaabe First Nations communities, 6,400 of whom live within the site’s boundaries today (Pimachiowin Aki, 2021a). These community members have been, and continue to be, stewards of the land (to be discussed below), and their cultural heritage is inherently tied to the natural resources. This is reflected in the Anishinaabe cultural tradition of Ji-ganawendamang Gidakiiminaan (“Keeping the Land”), a commitment to “honouring the Creator’s gifts, observing respectful interaction with aki (the land and all its life), and maintaining harmonious relations with other people,” which forms the basis of site management (UNESCO, 2021, para. 2). This is also reflected in the process that led to the site’s formal recognition as a UNESCO “mixed natural-cultural landscape.” Using Criterion III, VI, and IX, the nomination emphasizes the place-based importance of the site’s cultural features, demonstrating that cultural traditions cannot exist without the natural environment, and vice-versa (UNESCO, 2021, para. 3, para. 5). The discussions surrounding this mixed nomination received “worldwide attention,” challenging UNESCO to reconsider the often-overlooked relationship between nature and culture (Pimachiowin Aki, 2020, para. 9; Pew Charitable Trusts, 2014). For heritage practitioners, it’s a reminder to work against the assumed—yet false-—dichotomy between culture and nature. 

Community-Centered Partnerships: This third prong is arguably the most important—the centering and prioritization of Anishinaabe First Nations communities in the management of Pimachiowin Aki. This is accomplished through an innovative series of partnerships and programs that focus on bottom-up, community-driven management. Prior to the formal recognition of Pimachiowin Aki, different areas of the landscape were managed by different stakeholders: First Nations communities worked “individually on their own land management plans” and provincial managers handled the park lands in Manitoba and Ontario (Pimachiowin Aki, 2020, para. 11). As conversations regarding a new, scaled-up approach began, these local management plans were maintained—thus respecting the unique needs of the different stakeholders they represented—but also brought into conversation with each other. A series of compromises and partnerships were developed, yielding the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation, a non-profit charity organization responsible for safeguarding the landscape’s natural and cultural resources through cooperative measures and financial support (Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project, 2016, p. 227; Pimachiowin Aki, 2021b). Most notably, the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation’s Board of Directors includes a First Nations members majority (Pimachiowin Aki, 2021, para. 1), representing four Anishinaabe First Nations communities within the site (the remaining two seats are granted to Provincial park representatives). The Board of Directors has created a “consensual, participatory governance structure…and management framework for the property” and  “acts as a coordinating management body and enables the partners to work in an integrated manner” (UNESCO, 2021, para. 18). This focus on coordination and empowerment, rather than top-down directives, allows for management to remain bottom-up and community-driven, which is significant given Pimachiowin Aki’s massive size (Pimachiowin Aki, 2021c, para. 1). Anishinaabe traditional management practices are honored, as keenly seen in the newly-developed Indigenous Guardians program, modeled after similar Indigenous stewardship programs elsewhere in Canada and in Australia (Indigenous Leadership Initiative, n.d., para 1). But, equally significant, provincial law and policy do play a role, too, though decidedly in support of First Nations (UNESCO, 2021, para. 16)—legislative protections enacted in 2009 and 2010 granted important land management agency to First Nations communities (Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project, 2016, p. 95). These cooperative partnerships, with a centering towards Indigenous communities, are key to providing a reflexive, effective, and sustainable system of management. 

Pimachiowin Aki promotes a management system that simultaneously scales-up and stays grounded, thereby amplifying community voices. While each management tactic is important on its own, demonstrating bold and thoughtful approaches, the true strength in Pimachiowin Aki’s site management is that these approaches work in conversation with each other. It is this three-pronged framework that has enabled the sustainable, community-driven management practices that work to safeguard both cultural and natural resources at Pimachiowin Aki. For site managers and heritage practitioners, it is a reminder to work cooperatively and creatively, and to prioritize the communities who give life to these living cultural landscapes.


Asuncion, A. (2020, April 1). Pimachiowin Aki: The Protection of Intact Forest Landscapes as an Effective Policy Tool. Ontario Planners.

Gilmore, D. (2019, March 20). Pimachiowin Aki: A Journey. Ontario Parks Blog.

Indigenous Leadership Initiative (n.d.) Indigenous Guardians.

Pew Charitable Trusts (2014, June 17). Canadian Boreal Forest Site Sparks UNESCO Rules Review. 

Pimachiowin Aki (2020). We’ve Answered Your Questions: World Heritage Sites Explained.

Pimachiowin Aki (2021). About Us: Board of Directors.  

Pimachiowin Aki (2021a). About Us: Communities.  

Pimachiowin Aki (2021b). About Us: Pimachiowin Aki Corporation.

Pimachiowin Aki (2021c). Keeping the Land: Our Work.

Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project (2016). Nomination for Inscription on the World Heritage List.  

UNESCO (2021). Pimachiowin Aki.

Hannah Sisk is a collections management professional based in the Philadelphia area. She is currently Assistant Registrar at The Frick Collection (NYC), previously having held positions at the American Philosophical Society Museum (Philadelphia) and the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston). She received her M.A. in Cultural Heritage Management from Johns Hopkins University and her B.A. in archaeology from Brown University, where she co-founded a student group for the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Hannah is interested in “big-picture” questions related to collections management practices, notably how collections procedures and policies can become more bottom-up, inclusive, and sustainable.


Half Earth and Thirty by Thirty – Large Landscape Ideas Take Hold

By Brenda Barrett May 4, 2021

How much of our planet needs to be protected to conserve its biodiversity? In 2016 the renowned biologist, naturalist, and author E.O. Wilson proposed a big idea – he posited 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 this aspirational idea of reserving half the surface of the earth for nature has been more difficult to envision.

More recently, a global scientific consensus has emerged around a more specific formula – to conserve 30 percent of the planet’s lands and waters by 2030. The Convention on Biological Diversity now champions what is known as the 30 by 30 initiative to protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change impacts. This goal, developed by the science-based conservation community, has been examined in peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and detailed reports. 

On January 27, 2021, this idea received a big boost, when newly sworn in President Biden signed a sweeping Executive Order. In it, he harnesses the full power of the executive branch to frame an ambitious plan to tackle the climate emergency for the United States and the globe. Embedded within the order are three paragraphs calling for the nation to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The new Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland was placed in charge of implementing this effort. This is a challenging undertaking, as the U.S. has only conserved around 26 percent of its coastal waters but only about 12 percent of its land in a largely natural state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There has already been much discussion about how this bold conservation goal can be met. Fortunately, a recent book Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth (2021) by the Pulitzer prize winning author Tony Hiss offers encouraging examples of ways that this outsized dream might just come true. The book covers the science and the politics of landscape scale conservation, but most inspiring are the stories from landscapes across the nation and Canada. These showcase innovative regional efforts led by Indigenous People, community activists, land trusts, visionary leaders, and caring local citizens. The impact of their work is felt from the Boreal Forests in the north to New England and to the Southwest border with Mexico. What is most striking is how people centered these stories are. This reflects an emerging consensus that to preserve our planet, we must take a different approach than just setting aside huge swaths of protected swaths. We need to build conservation areas into all human developments. One conservationist memorably spoke about the need for “gerrymandering” nature preservation into all that we do and make it part of the living landscape

Can all this work add up to 30% or even 50%? Make no small plans.


Saving America’s Amazon: The threat to our nation’s most biodiverse river

By Brenda Barrett May 3, 2021

In this moment of climate change and increasing exploitation of the planet’s land and waters, it is urgent that we act on big ideas for conserving the planet’s biodiversity. But, to save a place, we must see it as valuable. In Saving America’s Amazon: The Threat to Our Nation’s Most Biodiverse River (2020) Ben Raines takes us deep into one of those places and makes a passionate case for its protection. Beautifully written and illustrated, this book introduces us to a little appreciated watershed – the Mobile River system and specifically the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. This is the landscape that ignited the passion of renowned biologist, naturalist, and author E.O. Wilson to dedicate his life to the study of nature. In his autobiography, Naturalist (1994), he devotes a whole chapter to ‘Alabama Dreaming’. So, it is not a surprise that he authored the book’s foreword in which he calls on future generations to conserve this landscape’s timeless treasures. 

The book is a series of essays that explore the unique geography and geology of the region and its rich array of plant and animal life. Chapters in the book take us to its specialized habitats such the rare plants of the bogs and the giant seafood nursery that is Mobile Bay. It introduces us to human’s earliest settlement in the region and how Indigenous peoples depended on the richness of the teeming fish in the rivers, the shell fish, and cared for plant gardens on islands in the river and bay.  This is an important contribution to the growing list of examples of Indigenous cultivation of the landscape that, because it differed from European ideas of agriculture, was not recognized as such by these newcomers.

Another chapter documents the impact of dams on the once plentiful migratory fish of the region. I remember years ago reading an account written by Henry David Thoreau in 1830 about a canoe trip on the Concord and Merrimack rivers. Dams already were blocking the fish migrations and he wrote “Poor shad!”  left to “inquire humbly at the mouths of rivers if man has perchance left them free to enter.”  Saving America’s Amazon provides the heart-breaking photographic evidence not available from earlier times that is even more powerful than those words. Dams are only one of the destructive forces impacting the region. Increasing sediment levels, chemical pollutants, and habitat destruction have caused over 90 species to go extinct and over a hundred are endangered.

Raines makes a strong case for saving the rich natural resources of the Mobile river system and delta, E.O. Wilson’s timeless treasures, from past and still looming threats. And while there are no easy solutions, there is a growing consensus that broad swaths of our planet need to be protected to conserve its biodiversity. E. O. Wilson has proposed that protecting half the planet is the necessary amount of marine and land habitats required to save 80 percent of the world’s species. More recently a global scientific consensus has emerged around a more specific formula – to conserve 30 percent of the planet’s lands and waters by 2030. But can this be achieved? 

Saving America’s Amazon is now on a shelf in my library along with Pulitzer prize winning author Tony Hiss’s recent book Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth (2021). Both books serve as powerful testaments to why these outsized conservation dreams must come true. Both books cover the science and the politics of landscape scale conservation and showcase the wonders of nature. However, Rescuing the Planet is a collection of hopeful tales of innovative and successful conservation efforts led by Indigenous People, community activists, land trusts, visionary leaders, and caring local citizens. This is not yet the tone of the final chapter in Saving America’s Amazon. Although the book demonstrates the value of the Mobile Bay and its watershed, its conservation is a human enterprise and the will to preserve this treasure still hangs in the balance.


The Value of the George Wright Society Conference

By Eleanor Mahoney March 4, 2021

Over the past year, parks and other protected areas have served as sites of dialogue, research, and rejuvenation. But how do we ensure that these landscapes, which vary tremendously in their scale and their approaches to resource management, remain connected to one another? What mechanisms can be put in place to facilitate knowledge exchange among staff, partners, and volunteers? And how can we continue to bridge the artificial divides of science / humanities and nature / culture that (still) remain so pervasive? 

One place to looks for ideas on how best to foster crosscutting interchange is the George Wright Society (GWS). For 35 years (1982 – 2017), the GWS sponsored a biennial meeting that explicitly sought to bridge institutional and scholarly divisions. Named for George Meléndez Wright, the first chief of the National Park Service’s wildlife division, the GWS promotes protected area stewardship by bringing practitioners together to share their expertise. As David Harmon, the Society’s Executive Director, explained to me over email, “We in the GWS believe that you HAVE to cross boundaries in order to make any progress against really big issues like climate change, loss of biodiversity, erosion of historical literacy, the challenges to genuine civic engagement, and, now, the growing epistemological divide in the United States. The GWS conferences modeled a kind of discourse — collegial, stimulating, and, yes, fun! — that really does bridge divides.” 

We in the GWS believe that you HAVE to cross boundaries in order to make any progress against really big issues like climate change, loss of biodiversity, erosion of historical literacy, the challenges to genuine civic engagement, and, now, the growing epistemological divide in the United States.

David Harmon

In 2015, I had the chance to take part in the GWS biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites in Oakland, California. I was in the middle of writing a dissertation on the politics of National Park creation after World War II and came hoping for some inspiration. At my panel, a number of the attendees had worked for the National Park Service (NPS) during the postwar period and generously shared their firsthand knowledge of events chronicled in my study. In addition, they and others present discussed how my findings might impact future NPS decision-making. There was a general openness to new ideas and a lack of pretension. It was an excellent meeting and I was already looking forward to future gatherings.

Unfortunately, the GWS conferences have been on hold since 2017. According to Harmon, the conference was negatively impacted by changes to federal government travel rules. After the media reported on a few extreme examples of employee misconduct at conferences (in no way linked to the GWS), scrutiny over all travel costs increased. It became almost impossible to plan any event with a large federal presence. Review by some departments became so onerous that approval or rejection of travel might only have occurred ten days before a meeting. Even with these challenges, the GWS still hopes to re-start its meetings, but much depends on how the federal government manages its travel programs in the future.

Origins of the GWS Conference Idea

The origins of the George Wright Society conference are quite interesting. Harmon told me that the roots actually go back to the late 1970s. During that period, two NPS scientists, Robert M. Linn and Theodore W. Sudia, helped organize two agency-wide science conferences. Both men also served as the chief scientist of the NPS and were among the co-founders of the GWS. The meetings proved valuable, and Linn and Sudia hoped to expand them. “They recognized the need for a mechanism of sustained information exchange to support better research and management, not just in terms of science, and not just in terms of US national parks, but across disciplines and for all kinds of parks, protected areas, and cultural sites,” Harmon noted.  “This was their key insight, and it became what sets GWS apart: the need to bring together people from different perspectives, from different disciplines, for the common purpose of conserving and protecting important place-based cultural and natural heritage.”

Building on those initial NPS-wide science conferences, while also expanding to include interdisciplinary perspectives, the first GWS meeting took place in 1982. This was only a few years after the organization’s founding in 1980. It took a little bit of time, but, by the 1990s, the GWS conferences had become one of the premier opportunities for protected area managers from across the U.S. – and indeed, the world – to gather and learn from one another. Rolf Diamant, who served as the superintendent of multiple NPS units and as a past president of the GWS board, emphasized the international significance of the meeting to me in an interview. He recalled that Tim Badman, Director of the Nature-Culture Initiative for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), always tried to make the GWS meetings “because, as he could only get to the US infrequently, it was the one single event anywhere in the US where he could connect with the very latest in park & conservation thinking and practice – all under one roof.”  

Want to know more about the George Wright Society Conference? Read our interviews with David Harmon and Rolf Diamant.

As the conference matured, the GWS also sought to expand its reach and purpose. The organization, Harmon stressed, mounted sustained outreach to Native peoples through an Indigenous Involvement Working Group, “a Native-led group that had direct input into the conference program at the highest levels.” An Indigenous Participant Travel Grant Program, primarily funded through NPS donations, helped support this endeavor. In addition, a parallel program for students of color and other under-represented groups, the George Meléndez Wright Student Travel Scholarship, also took shape. Significantly, despite the conference hiatus, the Indigenous Involvement Working Group is still working on a number of projects.

The Value of the GWS Conference 

For agencies like the NPS, the U.S. Forest Service, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in-person interaction is essential, yet also limited. Geography is one challenge, but so too are intra- and inter- agency institutional silos. Exchange with academics, whose research often touches directly on protected area management, also remains uneven across programs and bureaus. This is why the George Wright Society conferences were so vital.

The meetings brought diverse groups of people together, to share ideas, experiences, and perspectives in often unscripted and creative ways. As Diamant put it, the meetings “engaged an interesting mix of academics and practitioners presenting on both theory and practice. These were not two separate worlds (the agency and the academy) coming together for a meeting, rather, the program was largely made up with presentations and panels that referenced university projects being undertaken in parks and in partnership with park staff.”

Dr. Stephanie Toothman, who served as the National Park Service Associate Director for Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science, also commented on the uniquely interdisciplinary nature of the conference. She served for seven years on the GWS board and supported the events as NPS Associate Director. “The conferences were very valuable in providing an inter-disciplinary forum to discuss issues of common interest from climate change to cultural landscapes and wilderness…the latter three topics were repeated over and over again. There was nothing like it and there still isn’t,” she told me. Toothman also commented on the importance of the GWS as a venue for practitioners in the NPS to share their research with colleagues inside and outside the agency. “Another value is that the conference provided opportunities for resource staff in the field to present without the peer review of journals.  So the conferences presented a lot more hands-on research than your standard professional conference.”

Looking Ahead – What Do you Think?

What does the future hold? Ideally, the Society would re-start its meetings as soon as possible, but given the pandemic, as well as the ongoing uncertainties of federal government funding, that appears unlikely – at least in the near term. Also, the climate impacts of air travel, especially, must be considered as we plan for events in the future.

The past year has demonstrated the value and malleability of virtual gatherings (webinars, conferences) but also their limitations. Great, even amazing, content is available, but interaction, especially spontaneous exchange, is limited. Rather than chatting with the person sitting next to you, we are often just a number on the bottom of a screen during a Zoom meeting, sending our questions anonymously to a moderator. The ability to form lasting connections just is not there for the most part. Mentoring opportunities are also limited. As Diamant noted, “by not meeting occasionally in person, you are also passing on opportunities to meet and get to know other people with similar interests and informally build collegial networks. Large organizations like NPS really benefit from this networking and from problem solving based on personal relationships with people scattered across the system.”   

Going forward, smaller, hybrid meetings may be an option – one I would love to see. Attendees in a local area might come together, with others able to attend virtually. Maybe a version of “speed networking” will launch virtually as well, which might aid in meeting new people, especially across experience, age, and background. Equity needs to be built into all gatherings from the ground up too. Virtual meetings allow those who might not have access to travel funds or the professional flexibility to travel to take part in important conversations – whether presenting information or asking important questions of those speaking. Accessibility must also be considered and prioritized from the beginning when planning any virtual or in-person meetings – and there is much to do to improve accessibility in both cases.

No matter what, we need more, much more, of the type of crosscutting conversations that took place at GWS conferences. With new leadership in federal land management, preservation, and humanities agencies, 2021 may offer a chance to re-new and build upon these types of gatherings. 


To learn more, read interviews with David Harmon and Rolf Diamant. The LLO thanks Harmon, Diamant, and Dr. Stephanie Toothman for sharing their insights into the history of the GWS conference program.


The National Heritage Areas Act: Now is the Time

By Brenda Barrett March 3, 2021

The first National Heritage Area (NHA) was designated almost thirty-five years ago and today that number has grown to 55 congressionally designated areas. Built on the nationally important cultural and natural resources of a region, knit together by storytelling and multiple partnerships, incentivized by the National Park Service (NPS) brand and limited grant assistance, and locally managed, it is no wonder that the idea is still extremely popular. But while evaluations undertaken by the NPS have demonstrated the idea’s success and new areas are clamoring to be recognized, official acknowledgement of NHAs as part of the NPS family has not been achieved, despite years of advocacy. 

I suggest that the time is right to make this quest a reality and recognize NHAs as a legislatively authorized component part of the NPS. After all these years, why is now the time? Here are just a few good reasons:

  1. Economic Recovery – In this pandemic time, with the country suffering a severe economic slowdown, the federal government can turn to NHAs as a cost-effective strategy. They use sustainable practices and locally created partnership to rebuild communities drawing on their heritage of cultural and natural resources. NHAs can create a new economic platform based on heritage tourism and outdoor recreation that revitalizes regional economies and instills pride of place in residents. 
  2. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – NHAs can advance the new administration’s commitment to these values by telling nationally important stories. These stories celebrate and reflect on the complexity of our national heritage mosaic, and can, at times, be challenging to share. Most importantly, the narrative is developed by the people on the ground, the people who live on the land. Read the latest issue of Heart & Soul, the magazine of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, to discover the diverse histories interpreted in NHAs.
  3. Working at a Landscape Scale – To address the threat of climate change and loss of biodiversity, the new administration has signed on to the ambitious conservation goal to protect 30 percent of US lands and coastal areas by 2030. Given the scope of this initiative, it cannot be achieved without engaging multiple partners and private landowners in the effort. While they do not directly undertake land conservation, NHAs have pioneered effective partnership models that provide stewardship outcomes.  NHAs have also been shown to increase a regional sense of place and sense of pride as well as an understanding of the need for connectivity and a framework for landscape scale conservation.

These reasons and many more are why now is the time to make NHAs part of the National Park Service. For one thing, the political climate has never been more promising. In 2020, the House passed The National Heritage Area Act of 2020 (H.R. 1049) although the bill failed to reach a vote in the Senate. Already, in 2021, the House passed the act again as part of the large public lands bill HR 803. The program has always had bipartisan support and the current make up the Senates augers well for the passage of the act in this new session. The key now is making this a priority for the Department of Interior’s legislative agenda.

In the past, when asked to testify on a request to designate a new individual NHA, the agency routinely stated ‘..we recommend that the Committee defer action on this legislation until program legislation is enacted that establishes guidelines and a process for designation of national heritage areas.’ This necessity for program legislation has been the NPS’s official position since the 1990s. In 2006, the recommendation for crafting such legislation was the centerpiece of the National Park System Advisory report, Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas and other NPS white papers. All reports point out the benefits NHAs offer to the NPS: conserving and interpreting the landscape around park units, telling underrepresented stories in the voice of the community, and doing so with support and assistance of the people who live in the landscape.  Sara Capen, the President of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas,  put its this  way: 

“There are few federal programs that epitomize the democratic principles our nation was built on like National Heritage Areas.  National Heritage Areas truly are of the people, by the people, and for the people.  The National Heritage Area Act will establish a system of National Heritage Areas as an integral part of the National Park Service, ensuring uniform standards for the way NHA’s are designated, managed, and assessed, and provide Congress with an enhanced ability to conduct oversight of the program. “

Since the work of NHAs aligns so well with the goals of the new administration and Congressional interest is high, now is the time for the NPS, Alliance of National Heritage Areas (ANHA) and other supporters to make history and push the legislation over the finish line!



Stories That Captured Your Attention

By Eleanor Mahoney January 5, 2021

In 2020, it often seemed as if each day held a year’s worth of headlines. As a result, stories that might have merited front page coverage in the recent past managed to escape significant media and public scrutiny. Our most popular post of 2020, “While We Were Not Watching,” tried to capture some of these missing narratives, especially as they related to the protection (or lack thereof) of large landscapes. More hopeful writings on the potential for large landscape conservation to aid in economic revitalization or contribute to the practice of interpretation and storytelling, also garnered attention over the past year.

Virginia Tidewater Farm
The protection of rural and agricultural landscapes, generated interest among readers in 2020.

Below is a summary of our 10 most read posts in 2020.

  1. “While we Were Not Watching” – In spring 2020, the nation and the world were riveted by the devastating spread of COVID-19. At the same time, the current administration proposed a number of potentially catastrophic initiatives to dismantle several well-established federal conservation programs.
  2. Conservation and Controversy the Agricultural Landscapes of Marin County, California – Agriculture has long had a huge impact on the economy of the San Francisco Bay region. The industry generates billions in revenue and employs close to half a million people. Marin County, especially, is known for nurturing local food production. Yet, the county is also the site of a long running dispute over the presence of private farms and ranches on public lands. The conflict, which dates to the 1960s, exposes the tensions that can underlie the preservation and use of living landscapes.
  3. Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes: A Story of Success – Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes program was launched more than a decade ago to connect people to the Commonwealth’s rich heritage of parks and forests. Today with seven designated regions, it is a model of landscape scale resource management. A recent study looks at the critical ingredients for its success and makes recommendations for the future of the program.
  4. The Impact of the Pandemic on Agricultural Landscapes – Our world may look very different after the current crisis. Agricultural landscapes, especially, will potentially be affected. The underlying structural challenges facing the farming community are well known. The World Rural Landscape Principles identified them as the aging farmer population, critical seasonal labor shortages, global market forces, urbanization, and, of course, the overarching threat of climate change. But will Covid-19 amplify these trends? Let’s look more closely.
  5. The Role of Storytelling in Landscape Conservation – The idea of using cultural objects or site-specific historic places as a way to convey a story is customary practice in heritage interpretation. However, storytelling on a landscape scale is less common. Heritage areas and the United States National Heritage Area program, in particular, have demonstrated the power of this approach to build partnerships and unify a region. More recently, the movement to conserve landscapes at scale has recognized the significance of storytelling to connect people to resources. More challenging is telling the less visible stories and those of underrepresented communities.
  6. Dramatic Changes Could be Coming to NEPA – In January 2020, the Trump administration proposed dramatic changes to the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a landmark law for both natural and cultural resource protection. In order to better understand the potential implications of these actions, we interviewed Dr. Tom King, a preservation professional, who has worked with NEPA and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) since before they were enacted in the 1960s.
  7. Washington Watch – Updates on the President’s 2021 budget, changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, and staffing vacancies at the National Park Service from early in 2020.
  8. Landscape-scale Community and Economic Development – Creating and implementing programs to jump start community and economic development on the ground is never easy. However, there are many benefits to doing so at a landscape scale. The opportunity for regional promotions, sharing capacity building initiatives, and assembling a critical mass of attractions are strategies with a record of success. What are some examples of this approach and why is it more critical than ever?
  9. Exploring the Landscapes of the Caribbean – Palm trees, turquoise water, and beaches are the idyllic images of the Caribbean promoted on TV. A wilder Caribbean landscape of nature reserves is familiar to eco-tourists. Yet, the perceptions of many of the region’s residents do not mesh easily with either of these perspectives. The challenge has been how to identify the significance of a larger sense of place for the local communities, for the people who live there, not the images constructed for tourists.
  10. U.S. Public Lands: Where to Now? – While the big excitement is passage of the America’s Great Outdoors Act, there is a lot more happening on and to public lands and most of it is not good news. Negative impacts include the shrinking of national monuments, numerous proposals for energy extraction, and elimination of regulatory protections.These actions leave cultural and natural resources vulnerable to destruction. But what about the future, where should we be heading?


The Next Four Years: Trends in Landscape Scale Conservation

By Brenda Barrett January 2, 2021

The conservation community is awash with lists of what the new administration needs to do to reduce if not reverse the damage of the last four years. The National Parks Traveler provides a good summary of actions needed to protect public land as well as the nation’s environment, see also the statement of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks on the need to rebuild the National Park Service and there are many more.

All of these recommendations will benefit landscape scale conservation and should be adopted posthaste. However, you cannot just turn back the clock. After all, four years have passed and we are now faced with the dual challenges of political division and a global pandemic. So, what are the trends that might impact landscape scale work and what should be considered as go forward? Well, not in priority order, they are…

  1. The need to recognize the role of the states in landscape work – States have always been a major player in conservation funding through dedicated bond funding and other revenue streams. Now, with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and assured funding for the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund, the role of state’s in conservation assistance is critical. When the Federal government steped back or even actively discouraged conservation at scale, many states stepped forward. For example, some of the work of the short-lived federal Landscape Conservation Cooperatives initiative has been picked up by state Fish and Wildlife agencies. In addition, some states like Pennsylvania, have established their own conservation landscape programs.  We need to pay attention to these efforts as they are are both innovative and grounded in the real world. We need to invite the states to the conservation table as full partners as their contributions are more important than ever.
  2. The need to sustain the non-profit model of collaborative conservation – After the financial collapse of 2008, many smaller conservation organizations and land trusts had to retrench, merge, or give up. In the current pandemic this will undoubtedly be a real risk as economic conditions worsen and philanthropy focuses, and rightly so, on looming social service needs. However, to gain the benefits of landscape scale work – resilient habitats, essential ecosystem services and stronger cultural connection – nonprofit organizations or partnerships are essential to convening this work and making it happen. Yet, generating and sustaining funding for this work on a landscape scale remains daunting. Why is making the case for collaboration so hard? Is it because donors and politicians like shovel ready projects or that in hard economic times there is a cry to go “back to basics”? We need to be stronger advocates for collaborative conservation. We need show the value of the process and show how this work is linked to achieving significant conservation outcomes.

3. The need to rebuild federal landscape scale programs – The dismantling of the Department of Interior’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives has received a lot of attention as it was specifically designed to be a cross agency, cross boundary landscape effort. However, the National Academy’s 2016 report A Review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives identified over ten landscape scale programs in federal agencies as diverse as the Department of Defense and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some of these may have survived the recent administration, while others may be in tatters. With the incoming administration’s platform committed to conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 all these federal landscape programs could provide expertise and tools to revitalize big picture thinking to aid in achieving this ambitious goal. These programs could also be made even more effective by mandating that the landscape scale approach is a cross agency, ‘all hands-on deck’, effort to protect wildlife habitats and biodiversity, slow extinction rates, and grow America’s natural carbon sink. We need to seek these programs out, re-energize them, and coordinate their work to be most effective.

4. The need to foster expertise in landscape work – The last administration’s disregard for science and knowledge-based resource management is well documented. The fact that the nation went for four years without a Congressionally-confirmed director of either the National Park Service or the Bureau of Land Management was just one indicator.  The repressing of federal research on climate change is of course another. No wonder remedying this situation is high on the list of transition recommendations of most conservation groups. While nominating qualified agency leaders is a good first step, rebuilding expertise within the federal government will take time and intentionality. So many experts have left or have just given up. It is critical for researchers outside the walls of government to share their research to jump start science and science applications at the federal level.  This is particularly true for landscape scale work that requires data sharing across many platforms. We need to make updating this work a high priority. One idea might be to create a targeted public/private advisory committee on conservation research needs and recent developments in the field.

5. The need to put people in the forefront of the movement – An emerging trend in conservation that is long overdue is acknowledgment of the stewardship role people play in the landscape. This presents itself in multiple ways, such as recent efforts to include indigenous people, underrepresented communities, and those who work the land – ranchers and farmers in large landscape work.  The Network for Landscape Conservation recognizes this shift in perspective stating that “Wildlands, farmlands, timberlands, tribal lands, places of cultural and historical significance, rural communities, urban areas, and other private and public lands are all part of a fully integrated whole — a landscape”. In addition, the Network’s Catalyst Fund prioritizes grants for partnerships that are “Indigenous-led and Primarily Serving Indigenous Communities”.  Landscape scale work also can provide economic benefits to communities and in these difficult times. There are good examples of holistic conservation with a track record of benefitting communities such as the National Heritage Area program and PA Conservation Landscapes initiative. We need to accept this more inclusive approach and recognize that traditional models where landscape scale work was defined only by its ecological values are behind us.

This is my list of the trends and next steps that the landscape scale movement needs to take to be meet its potential. Our work must go beyond just unraveling the misdirection’s of the last administration. We need to invite new partners and new ideas to the table and plan our work with an eye to the realities of 2021.


Featured Voice Interview: Ta Enos, Founder and CEO of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship

By Eleanor Mahoney November 9, 2020

This month, we had the privilege to interview Ta Enos, Founder and CEO of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship. Ta has a rural entrepreneurship background and 20 years of experience in journalism and public communications in Alaska and Pennsylvania. As Founder and CEO of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, she has scaled the nonprofit and built a team that is developing models for asset-based rural development that are recognized nationally.

Ta Enos, Founder and CEO of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepeneurship

Prior to founding the nonprofit in 2013, Ta served as the PA Wilds Small Business Ombudsman for five years, working with entrepreneurs across the 13-county PA Wilds region. She says that when she saw the difference the PA Wilds work was making in the region’s rural communities, it inspired her to go way outside her comfort zone and found the Center to help advance and sustain the movement.

Before returning to her home state of Pennsylvania, Ta spent 10 years as a news reporter and editor in Alaska, writing for the Anchorage Daily News, Anchorage Press, Dutch Harbor Fisherman, Bristol Bay Times and other publications.

A fourth-generation resident region, Ta lives in the northwest corner of the PA Wilds with her husband and three young boys. She is working on a memoir about her experience moving back to her rural region and helping lead what has been called “one of the greatest, rural natural resource based economic development programs in America.” TA holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

LLO: What is the Pennsylvania Wilds? Can you describe the physical landscape and the organizing concept / idea to those outside the region?

TE: The Pennsylvania Wilds is one of the Commonwealth’s 11 designated tourism regions. The region is the size of Massachusetts, economically-distressed and home to the greatest concentration of public lands in the Commonwealth. We have two National Wild & Scenic Rivers, the largest wild elk herd in the northeast and some of the darkest night skies in the country. It is also one of Pennsylvania’s eight Conservation Landscapes because of its unique natural assets. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) established its Conservation Landscapes Program in 2004 to further place-based and landscape-scale initiatives that embrace partner collaboration and entrepreneurial thinking (learn more about PA’s Conservation Landscapes in this recent report).

For more than 15 years, public- and private-sector partners in our most rural part of the state have made coordinated investments to establish the 13-county PA Wilds region as an outdoor recreation destination to help diversify rural economies, create jobs, improve quality of life and inspire stewardship. These include investments in small business development, branding and marketing, community character and natural resources stewardship, regional planning, and recreation infrastructure.

Through increased visitation and thoughtful investments in rural communities, the PA Wilds strategy is helping the region recover from decades of divestment and population decline by building rooted local wealth through entrepreneurship while celebrating and bolstering a stewardship ethic. These investments in turn make our rural communities – and the major employers in them – more competitive.

As the coordinating nonprofit for the PA Wilds Conservation Landscape effort, the PA Wilds Center, a 501(c)(3), works closely with DCNR, the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and other public and private-sector partners at the local, state and federal level. The Center is also the administrative home to a ground-breaking Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement (ICA), the largest geographically of its kind in PA, which brings together the region’s 13 county governments and other partners around the PA Wilds strategy through a group called the PA Wilds Planning Team. The Center’s Board of Directors is a mix of public- and private-sector leaders across a range of disciplines.

LLO: Where did the inspiration for this effort come from?

TE: I guess you can say the PA Wilds started the way a lot of opportunities do, with a challenge. Thanks to many years of conservation and wildlife management efforts, our region’s wild elk herd was rebounding. Word was getting out and visitors were flocking to see these majestic animals. But this was all happening in a super rural area that didn’t have the infrastructure to support the kind of visitation it was getting. So a Republican governor commissioned a study, and when his successor, a Democrat, took office, he took that report and visited the region and was really blown away by the elk and also by the region’s vast public lands and charming small towns.

With enthusiastic support from his Secretaries at DCNR and DCED at the time, a larger vision including the idea to brand the region as the PA Wilds was born. So the strategy itself was born at the top, but it never would have survived had it not resonated with locals in a real way, and had the state not championed local ownership from the start. Both happened. Today, several administrations later, the work is locally-driven, supported on both sides of the aisle, with strong involvement from our state partners around shared goals. As someone who grew up here, I can say it is a hugely positive effort.

LLO: Economic development and conservation interests can often be at odds with one another – what does collaboration look like in the Pennsylvania Wilds and how have you been so successful?

TE: Yes, economic development and conservation interests are often at odds. But in our landscape, marrying these two concepts is a no-brainer. Our natural assets are bringing new visitors, wealth, jobs, even residents to our rural communities, they are making our major employers more competitive, so it only makes sense to be great stewards of these assets. A lot of people here get that, and I think that’s a big part of why this work has been successful. I think another reason is because this landscape level approach acknowledges that to better steward public lands you have to care about the communities around those lands. I give PA DCNR huge kudos for walking the walk on this. They invest in our communities and in this work in tremendous ways, year after year, through dedicated staff support for the work in the conservation landscape, grant support from its Community Conservation and Partnership Program and by managing so many of the region’s star assets located in the 29 state parks and 8 state forests across the landscape.

The other thing that has been critical to our success is that this work, from the beginning, has attracted innovative thinkers from a variety of fields and industries in our region and state who want to help advance it. I have a great Board and a staff that blows me away daily with their work ethic, creativity and spirit. And then we are surrounded by and interacting with all these amazing rural entrepreneurs and conservation people, who are just completely inspiring in their own ways. As far as what does the collaboration look like, I’d say it looks genuine and authentic. Mostly fun and full of passion, sometimes rocky, always interesting. Just real. For me, when marrying conservation and economic development, it often starts by looking at a specific economic challenge and trying to help solve that in a real way on the ground with the help of these innovative thinkers around me. And then taking that solution and asking, how do we make this solution work harder for stewardship and/or conservation? We look a lot at how to make the market work for a particular solution, and how to make technology work for it.

LLO: How do you work across such a large landscape? Any advice to offer other efforts that have a similarly large geographic scale?

TA: On the program side, technology is a big help to allow us to serve the region. Even before COVID, because of our size, we were building systems that allowed people to plug in and benefit from the brand and our programs from many different locations.

The real challenge to our geography is in developing and maintaining partnerships. So much magic can come from bringing different kinds of partners together around a strategy or project. But building deep relationships takes real resources. Positions at partner organizations and political offices are constantly changing. Amplify that across a place the size of Massachusetts and it gets tough for a small staff. Building trust is critical. We have to be realistic and mindful about what partnerships we are trying to grow or reconnect with in a given year.

For example, we had a lot of county commissioners change over in the last few years, so we are going to try to do Zoom calls with all 13 sets of commissioners to put faces to names, talk projects and economic impact in their areas, and answer questions. I have found that meeting in person at least once a year is important. Having a core stakeholder network to help make in-person touches or to call on for insights around specific projects or situations is critical. Having staff based in different counties matters.

We also strive for geographic diversity on our board. We have one major event a year (an annual awards dinner) that brings scores of our stakeholders together, and that is helpful. We also publish several e-newsletters, social media communications, an annual report, etc. And handwritten thank you cards, they matter.

LLO: Can you highlight a program or initiative that might be interest to our readers?

TA: is our regional visitor site that helps excite and orient people to our 2M+ acres of public lands and charming communities, as well as our region’s conservation legacy.

The Wilds Cooperative of PA is our network of makers, outfitters, shops, lodges and other businesses and nonprofits that are rooted in our communities and are helping us grow the PA Wilds as a destination and lifestyle brand.

PA Wilds Conservation Shops are our stores that focus on selling regionally-made products from the Wilds Cooperative rural value chain at high foot traffic sites like flagship destinations managed by DCNR and other partners. Whether at a brick-and-mortar shop or online, shoppers support regional businesses and the PA Wilds Center’s mission through purchases and they can also take part in a charity checkout campaign for conservation. This is possible through a new and unprecedented public-private partnership that we have with DCNR.

The PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship is a great free resource the PA Wilds Planning Team developed to help property owners, developers, municipal officials and others build to fit the landscape. This tool can easily be adapted for different areas to help preserve the unique and authentic qualities of any community or place.


Landscape Scale Community and Economic Development

By Brenda Barrett November 8, 2020

Creating and implementing programs to jump start community and economic development is never easy and to do so on a landscape scale might seem doubly difficult. However, there are good reasons why it is worth a try.

Erie Canalway National Heritage

One element is the benefit of working at scale. Small rural communities simply cannot afford to develop plans and impactful promotional campaigns. Most do not have a critical mass of dining, lodging and attractions to attract and retain sufficient number of visitors. And in some cases, the draw is actually regional in nature, for example a long-distance trail, canal system, or large block of natural areas.

More urbanized regions can also benefit from a landscape perspective, particularly if they wish to focus on a single heritage topic such as the city’s industrial past. In these places, it can be instructive to link seemingly disparate places together by connecting the sites of production, with transportation links, as well as the communities that housed and supported its workers. 

These efforts are particularly beneficial in non-metropolitan areas where small business jobs account for 42% of employment (Brooking Institution). This is a winning strategy for smaller communities as those small businesses are predominately in local ownership and more of the dollars generated stay in the the local economy. According to the National Main Street Center between 2015 and 2019, U.S. towns with populations of 25,000 or less invested more than $20 billion in public and private funds in their downtown cores. These businesses created approximately 106,000 net new full-time and 25,000 net new part-time jobs. Now imagine if you invest on a regional basis in multiple small towns. The impact could be significant. So let’s look at a few case studies.

PA Wilds

One of the most ambitious and now long running efforts in landscape scale rural development is the PA Wilds  launched in 2003. The initiative was centered on a rural region in northern Pennsylvania that is known for its heritage of public lands and small historic communities.  External forces like globalization have caused a decrease in jobs followed by high unemployment rates and population loss with the sharpest decline in the numbers of younger, working-age residents. But the region also had assets – such as 2 million acres of protected land, including 29 state parks, 8 state forests, and the Allegheny National Forest – one of the largest blocks of public land on the east coast equivalent in size to Yellowstone National Park. 

Initially, the PA Wilds focused on outdoor tourism to expand the recreational amenities on these lands, which would increase visitation and lead to economic revitalization The PA Wilds strategy included a new brand name, promotional campaigns, and major investment in public recreational facilities. However, community redevelopment especially on a landscape scale is more complex than just heads in beds. And that is why the work of Ta Enos the CEO and Founder of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship is so important. Her job is to diversify the regional economy by building on local products and industries. The program has expanded from artists and craftsmen to include craft winemakers and distillers. Enos sees local food products as an exciting future branding opportunity. Creating this more complex local economy is critical to the future of small towns. The PA Wilds is hoping to build a network using culture and nature to create sustainable communities framed by forests and public lands. Read a recent interview with Ta Enos here.

Rivers of Steel

Working on a regional or landscape scale can be an effective economic development strategy in urbanized regions as well as rural localities.  A recently released economic impact report  for the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area documented more than $92 million of economic benefit and 922 jobs each year as a result of spending by visitors to Rivers of Steel and its partners. The Rivers of Steel is an eight-county area in western Pennsylvania that recognizes the historic legacy of steelmaking in the region from blast furnaces to worker housing and by telling stories from labor strife to industrial innovation. For over 25 years, the heritage area has invested in restoring National Historic Landmarks like the Carrie Blast Furnaces and the Bost Building in Homestead to reconnecting visitors and residents to the region’s iconic three rivers with trails and riverboat excursions. The work of the Rivers of Steel recasts a former industrial landscape into a postindustrial asset. August Carlino, President and CEO of Rivers of Steel, said the study demonstrates that both state and federal heritage area program “are true economic drivers and worthy of the investments of the public and private sectors.”

Erie Canal

Another repurposing of an industrial landscape is a recent proposal to reimagine the storied Erie Canal in New York State.  Originally completed in nineteenth century as the gateway to the west, it has been updated over the years. However, today the canal’s commercial usage is almost negligible. The proposal issued in 2019, seeks to find other uses for the canal and assist in economic development of adjacent communities through recreation and tourism. The first phase of the effort, a $100 million economic development fund, will support projects that adaptively reuse canal infrastructure to enhance water based recreation, tie the Canal’s new recreational improvements to the Governor’s Empire State Trail, celebrate historic canal structures, and develop unique canal side attractions and activities. The canal’s National Heritage Area status will provide a unified interpretive framework.

What is Next?

Embracing these efforts to revitalize regional economies on a landscape scale has never been more critical. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the nation’s small businesses and its main streets that employ 60 million Americans (about 50% of the entire US workforce).  Despite being the nation’s largest employers, these businesses generally operate on the narrowest of margins. Closure orders, the reluctance of consumers to travel, eat out, or shop in person, and a growing economic downturn, will continue to negatively impact these economic drivers of small towns, rural areas, and rust belt communities. For many communities their economic recovery will depend on even more coordinated and well-funded redevelopment efforts. In a recent article, The US Government needs to save Main Street not just Wall Street Dennis Keleher examines the fragmented nature of federal community assistance programs to small business.  Financial grants and loans are spread between the Department of Commerce, Treasury, and now the  Federal Reserve. Essential employee welfare programs are found elsewhere. He proposes a new Department of Economic Security to gather together these ‘underfunded, uncoordinated and ineffective assortments of programs’.

While creating more government departments may not be the best answer, something needs to be done. Perhaps a better idea would be a purposeful sweep to identify and promote the most innovative regional development ideas that are found in such unlikely places as the Department of the Interior – the National Heritage Areas – and in the Department of Agriculture – Rural Development programs. And let’s not to forget programs at the state level and outside of government like the National Main Street Center. These approaches could then be matched up with the above-mentioned sources of financial assistance for a much more effective outcome. The Appalachian Regional Commission was an experiment in doing just this on a large enough landscape. However, it does not have a mandate to reach outside its authorized programs and coordinate a rescue effort that is both big enough and yet focused on the grassroots level. Again, these are only the glimmer of a solution, but for the sake of the marginalized parts of our nation, let me repeat myself, something needs to be done.


Naturecultures for an Argentinean Perspective

By Guest Observer November 5, 2020

Naturecultures Dialogues

Theme: Naturecultures for an Argentinean perspective

Session 10 with Alicia Cahn, Ana Bajcura, and Cira Szklowin

In our new series of naturecultures sessions that runs from May to September 2020, we followed adifferent format than before. Presentations are pre-circulated, leaving most of the dialogue session open for active discussion. In this particular session we had two separate presentations circulated under the theme Naturecultures from an Argentinean perspective. The abstract, and link for each of thesepresentations are included on the next page. This summary is drawn up from comments that came up inthe dialogue session, and elaborated on in the email discussion afterwards. These comments aregeneral, abstract expressions, and personal thoughts that are not necessarily associated with the view of ICOMOS, IUCN or any other organisation.

Nupur Prothi, as the moderator to this session opened the first round of questions to the panellists that I include here below, as they capture the gist of what you will find in the audio file of this dialogue session.

Throughout Alicia’s presentation it is impressive to see the scale of the cultural route. How do you envisage the future of large-scale landscapes in defining the identity of a region andreiterating the indigenous natureculture vision across South American nations? What role is thissite playing in the Argentinian understanding of their relationship with landscape?

Ana makes some very compelling statements about the South American view of the landscapeversus the transformation with the Europeans. How do you define the future of the landscape profession when you say the profession is rather new but the practice of landscape ornaturecultures is ancient and embedded in the way of life? How can this profession in its education and practice streamline this Latin American naturecultures view in the future?

Cira takes us to the scale of the city and nature within. Please share with us what is the future ofecology that you foresee in the future of your cities. What are the unique approaches that othercities around the world can learn from Latin American cases for their resilient future?

This meeting was conducted in English, although the panellists’ first language is Spanish. Each of thethem walked the extra mile by following up on the questions that came up in the chat box during the discussion with written expressions. This highlighted the deep understanding that comes with language,and the effort that goes into expression your thoughts in another. It was an honour to be invited into their thoughts and perspectives. Nosotras te saludamos!

Participatory management mechanisms

Abstract by Alicia Leonor Cahn Behrend

This presentation is an approach to the “participatory management mechanisms” based on the “ongoing dialogue with the local communities” being conducted within the Argentine section of the Cultural and Serialized Route of Qhapaq Ñan – Andean Road System (WHC.UNESCO 2014). This management is oriented to the reunion of the indigenous peoples with their personal and cultural identity. The Argentine segment is a part of the “Tahuantinsuyo”, which provides its sense of unity and involves the states of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Perú.

In Argentina, the Qhapaq Ñan runs through seven provinces in their Andean region, with a total 118,527 km in length, 13 road segments and 32 archaeological sites associated to the phenomenon of multicultural integrationand the integration ecologic diversities. It develops as a layout of a road system built with a specific and concrete goal, connecting and interrelating geography, goods and people, over a lengthy period of time. The Qhapaq Ñan is a planned and articulated network linked to the longitudinal axis of the Andes mountain range and to rough and extreme landscapes with a great biological and cultural diversity. It is regulated with apragmatic system for the organization and unification of the territory, seeking to link production, administrative, ceremonial centers and their associated populations.

In the Qhapaq Ñan “culture and nature” are unified in an all-embracing worldview. There is no conceptual distinction between both terms. Its nature is its own culture, and its culture is sustained in the interaction with natural components. A heritage asset in which the territory prevails and sets its own rules, without anaesthetics for visitors and with joy and respect for the local inhabitants. Walking down and remaining in it generates an existential change and an immaterial experience in our lives, a process whereby we gain access to our inner silence, stripping ourselves off our personal emotions to connect with the spirit of the place.

Connecting with practice. Abstract by Ana Bajcura:                                   

Looking from here…

To say, “The world is like this¨ means avoid finding the causes.

Nevertheless, it also means to have lost Impatience and to accept the

real construction of true reality.

Let us think that modern world

is quite far from that same attitude”

Rodolfo Kusch

Here, in South America, we feel it is a challenge to be the centre, to be able to think from this place, from our ambiguous reality here. Without even knowing who we are, but … discovering that under this external skin, our own words, signs and shapes are appearing out of a mixture of realism and magic. In addition, our way is a “mystery”, in the Greek sense, as mystés, the guide that leads us through unknown passages (Rodolfo Kusch). The mission that we are learning is to discover where we come from, and to get to accept our reality- My proposal is to create a link between the way of our ancestors and the nature that surrounds us, the nature thatis our support but at the same time is our challenge, with the building of our culture. To achieve this aim, I propose to reinterpret reality considering the theme axes (Ferdinand Braudel’s ideal): geographical situation, time relation in our history, the clash between cultures, and the integration to western culture.

  • vision of the placement of our planet (Image 4)
  • Time relation of our American history to that of other continents.
  • The crossbreeding, clash and interwoven of native cultures and western Latin and Anglo-Saxon cultures (Image2).
  • The meaning of life in native empires and that of the conquering empire.
  • Religion, language, brotherhood (Image 3).

Urban rivers as a city-making landscapes. Abstract by Cira Szklowin

The heritage and landscape fields are undergoing a transitional process of widening the meaning, scope andrelevant sets of relations in the naturecultures spectrum. Progresive diversification in approaches towardscomplex cultural landscapes, are encompassing inclusive community interpretations and participatory evaluations, as well as management contexts effectively linked with planning policies to cope with global processes and climate change.

The presentation begins with an overview of the regional context of insertion of the Buenos Aires MetropolitanRegion in the wetlands corridor along the Parana River, Delta and Plate estuary -a fluvial vertebral landscape and waterscape, intermingling consolidated urban-industrial settlements, infrastructure systems, cultural and natural areas- exploring the modelling influence of the rivers in the development of the cities, their imaginary and landscape.

Then it highlights some features of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Region’s landscape transformation resulting from cultural and developing forces involved in two crucial periods of insertion in world markets (1880-1920, and a century later), illustrated by local mindsets, cosmopolitan attitudes, and values regarding nature and cultural landscape conservation. In the central city of Buenos Aires, erratic sucession of waterfront projects without integral landscape management plan (with the exception of an urban reserve, unexpectedly created by nature on an abandoned landfil frame). In the metropolitan area, dramatic transformation of large extensions of wetlands into urbanized “new natural areas” (inminent wetlands law).

In Argentina, the transformation of traditional conservation management towards an integrated approach faces implementation challenges: natural areas and urban reserves embedded in an urbanized region, are exposed to continuous anthropic impacts and economic pressures on local ways of life, cultural representations andhabitat-territorial control, as well as unplanned regional growth and lack of compliance with laws andregulations. Local management plans in nested metropolitan scales require a different set of conceptual dimensions, increased integration in the socio- territorial structure, and permanent context change monitoring.

We have indigenous people’s cosmovisions to draw nurture and learn stewardship from. They remind us that nature, cultural landscapes and public spaces are common good and not commodities defined by a private sector.


1Alicia Cahn (AC), Panelist14Kristal Buckley (KB)
2Ana Bajcura (AB), Panelist15Marike Franklin (MF), Dialogues Convenor
3Cira Szklowin (CS), Panelist16Maya Ishizawa (MI)
4Diane Menzies (DM)17Mónica Lueng (ML)
5jane Lennon (JL)18Nobuko Inaba (NI)
6Jessica Brown (JB)19Nupur prothi (NP), Moderator
7Je-Hun Ryu (JR)20Steve Brown (SB)


Concluding thoughts by Ana Bajcura, and the scale of South American Landscapes AB: Our landscapes are so huge, so big, and silent…only Iguazu falls is a noisy place. All our placeswith silent, and Invite us to join inside with us, to connect our soul. That is real, that is unique it is the land inside the land inside us. When we walk in the middle of our natural landscape. Not in the city, but in the landscape, our soul is one with the earth.MF add two images that she took a few years ago as a student. These images might relate to thevast landscapes of South America, that Ana describes here. MF notes that landscapes are not silent at all, with the number of stories that it can tell, but understood the silence that AB tried to convey.She was interested to know what these images convey to the rest of the group?  AB, MF
 AB: The images convey me… the first the greatness of the place and the blessing of being alive and enjoying it. It is as the universe is represented in the landscape and it traveled within me, and once there, we would be one. The second is to be one with nature, animals, plants all the earth in me like a huge hug all together. 
Concluding thoughts by Alicia Cahn, the Inca’s and Colonisation AC: I was thinking about the future…shared heritage across the American nations. I believe to study this kind of landscape, that kind of cosmovisions… I think, I believe that we are heading towards thepath of greater respects and human tolerance. All the study to this kind of cosmovision, and to sharedifferent things. I think because the resistance and fear is towards the other… the one who is not like me reflects the fear of the unknown. As soon as we become familiar with foreign cultures the barriers give away. Leaving to acceptance to the generation     of … The dichotomy about the perception occidental in the Andes for example on other cultures … is regarding Perception not only of the landscape but also the western with respect to Andean, or other cultures, yes?In the case of the Andeans, to this day there are in this case there are many left that indulge. And that is a great point of contact for these people who live there… and the dichotomy that must be reduced is in the message, spread this new way of perceiving the environment.  It  is to  understand  different.  In  this case  landscapes  are soulish… before now they have an entity, and have anexistence, and that is why festivals such as Pachamama, as you mentioned before, are celebrated, because they have to do with this sense of soul full of meaning of life, rocks – the forest, life. they all have an identity that persists. The system (landscape) is threatened with the gaze of the western vision. So, it is important to understand and to approach. To keep away the preconceptsSB: The Inca Empire might be considered a colonial situation, so it is interesting to think of the Qhapag Nan a continent-wide identity in the present day. Perhaps it also has multi-identities for different regions. What do you think Alicia?AC: Evidently there were multiple identities prior to the Incas. Each culture and each place had itsown paths and sanctuaries. What the Incas did was re-functionalize and reuse the conquered peoples with a new dynamic, therefore, the archaeological remains refer to a past prior to the Inca.AC, SB
Faced with the candidacy, the different regions left their disagreements to focus on heritage and the Qhapaq Ñan. The six countries pursued the objective of twinning and building a lost link with colonization, the republic, the subsequent divisions of countries, etc. through a time slot.There were disagreements with the name of the candidacy, as Bolivia and Ecuador, due toideosyncratic conflicts with Peru, did not accept that it be named as the Inca Trail. It is then when an agreement is reached with the name Qhapaq Ñan, a name in Quechua, a language  spoken  by  all and  a  vestige  of  the  Inca  moment.  Today the problems of the past are put aside and only remainwith the patrimonial element, the communication routes and the sites, which are part of the QhapaqÑan.SB: It is interesting to think about how regions along Qhapaq Ñan become culturally ‘hybridised’because of their histories – in basic terms for the areas along the route, they have histories as pre-Inca societies, then part of the Inca Empire, and then part of various European colonial empires and the influence of Christianity, before becoming parts of different Nation States and independent countries. When I was working on the excavation in Peru in the early 1980s, the study was of theHuari Empire (pre-Inca) on a remote part of the Andes. In that area, Huari influence was determined to be relatively minimal (as indicated by the pottery styles), because of its ‘remote’ location on the edges of the Huari Empire. 
Concluding thoughts by Cira Szklowin, Pachamama, cultural justice, and language of expression CS: Reading the transcript of my commentary, I feel that it inadequately expressed my thought. I said that in the Buenos Aires region, the influence of indigenous culture is almost nil, meaning that there is insufficient expression of their culture in public spaces and in the media.Even when indigenous communities are recognized in the Constitution and in important national laws,Argentina is a federal system, so the indigenous minority are subject mostly to provincial laws. They amount to 5% of the population, concentrated in some provinces, although never being a dominant community. Apart from those living in communal grounds, they have to abandon their traditional livelihood and be employed in cities as low qualified working labor, as their progress in educationdoes not reach yet the level of opportunities to participate fully in decision-making policies.In Buenos Aires region, we take account of them living mostly in the metropolitan area and in certainparts of the city, as well as working in low qualified jobs and developing cultural activities and celebrations, but there are insufficient communication channels to perceive their traditional worldview.Although they are integrated in civil life, we know much less about their contemporaneous culture and traditional values than we know about the dominant Argentinian culture (hybrid and important European cultures).I also expressed that from the local cosmopolitan view, that indigenous minorities seem to be living ina separate cultural world, not yet fully integrated in the urban cultural landscape. Increasingly –as inLatin America and other parts of the world- we consider them as a moral voice, we respect theircosmovision (gradually being recognized through the spread of ecological thinking). They show the way to Naturecultures integration and stewardship of common goods.In Bs.As. there are three monuments, one park for celebrating the Pachamama, and some cultural centers.DM: This is a question for Ana or Cira but other may be able to help. How can minority Indigenous culture achieve cultural justice thru cultural landscapes in urban areas: techniques, strategies, principles? And a further question, How can we recognise Pachamama in cities?CS: The cultural justice Diana Menzies asked about would be to work toward policies that explicitly recognize their identities as part of a multicultural society, and fully address the representation of theiridentity and cultural activities in focal places of the public domain, so as to be reflected in the urbanlandscape and the social imagery.DM: You are an enormously kind and generous person. Thank you so much for your considered andfull response to the ‘follow up’ question I posed. I was not so kind to you, as I can understand how difficult a response is for such a question in another  language,  with  no  time  to  think  about  it. I had been  asked a similar question  byCS, DM, MI, NP
students in Sr Lanka after a Zoom lecture last week. Last week and am also working on this in New Zealand: and the situation is very similar, although 15% Indigenous in New Zealand rather than 5%. But it is still a struggle, while also dealing with education, low skills and poverty as linked issues. Yes, you are most helpful. Looking to public places for design expression, encouraged by policy, is a hopeful way to go.MI: Answering from the Peruvian not Argentinian perspective, Pachamama is present in the pre-Hispanic sites in all cities, as they have been built over Indigenous groups ceremonial centers and urban centers, for eg. But what are also present in cities are Andean practices carried by migrants (rural-urban)NP:A point that is made repeatedly in the presentations is the dichotomy of the indigenous versus the colonial viewpoint of how nature and culture are perceived (1). How do you see this change in your own work over the years? (2) What is the future of shared heritage that you foresee sharedacross South American nations, but also in the context of indigenous, native and European histories?(3) CS: 1. Dichotomy of the indigenous vs the colonial viewpoint of how nature and culture are perceived. Indigenous communities, inscribed in legal frameworks, lack critical mass and sufficient high education to participate/influence decisions affecting natural and cultural heritage in their common territories, as provincial authorities usually undervalue their cosmovision and act with an utilitarian view of nature assets. Uprooting of these communities from their ancestral places, and the correlative emotional damage, fades to the background of their culture. The nature/culture dichothomy is now somewhat diluted, as indigenous people integrate in contemporary society mostly in a cultural and economic subordinated position, at the cost of their traditional practices related to nature, relegated to private spaces of their lives. Some intangible indigenous heritage is widely recognized, but lacking a knowledge context about their significance in their ancestral cultures and their relation with contemporary ones.2. How do you see this change in your own work over the yearsI see the slow convergence between ecological thinking and indigenous cosmovison, being now accelerated by climate change, global processes and the epidemic panorama. It didn’t directlyinfluence my work, that has been mostly developed in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Region and Parana River urban settlements, mostly established by european immigration. Now that I am involved in urban landscape studies my focus changed to Naturecultures integration, where indigenous cosmovision easily fits in.3. What is the future of shared heritage that you foresee shared across S.American nations, but also in the context of indigenous, native and European historiesI see an acceleration of the transformation of indigenous traditional territories into uses and occupations divorced from their cultural values, simultaneously with their increased articulation with other ecological movements to install their demands in the public agenda. They are increasingly a mobilizing example for and harmonious and integrated approach in managing cultural landscapes in Latin America and other parts of the world.I think that shared intangible heritage would be the driving force across Latin America approaches to cultural landscapes, with indigenous communities, as custodians of nature, incorporated as co-managers of their heritage sites. 
Indigenous/native landscape architectsSB : Ana, in what ways are the perspectives of Indigenous peoples in Argentina being integrated into landscape teaching and learning in Argentina? With particular reference to naturecultures integration.SB: Are there any or many Indigenous landscape architects in Argentina?AB: I am asking the professor of different universities… and to some groups of professionals. some of them told me they don’t know native professionals in landscape architecture.There are a lot of Mestizos landscape professionals in Argentina, but I don’t know exactly how many.SB, AB, CS, MI
Sandra Aguilar (you know her, she was in New Zealand for the 50th WCongress) is architect and specialized in landscape architecture. She works in Land Art.CS: As to your question to Ana about indigenous landscape architects in Argentina, I was told by Lenor Slavsky, who manages the Colloquium of Indigenous Architecture in America, that there are no indigenous architects or landscape architects in Argentina, but there are many traditional constructors…MI: In Peru we do not have a landscape architecture, planning school. I was wondering if the lack of development of this discipline in our region is also related to our understandings of naturecultures…?SB: Maya – so what professionals are responsible for landscape planning in Peru?MI: Architects in general, but we do not have development in this field, it is one of our biggest problems…MI: Even though we have such a rich inheritance from pre-colonial cultures 
Lessons learnt from Latin America NP: Cira, takes us to the scale of the city and nature within (1). Please share with us what is the future  of ecology that you foresee in the future of your cities (2). What are the unique approaches that other cities around the world can learn from Latin American cases for their resilient future? (3) CS: 1. Scale of the city and nature withinSocio-ecological systems as complex and changing system of people and nature, can be a conceptual framework applicable to contemporary cities, integrating ecosystem functions with social dynamics.Urban residents are substantially removed from a direct experience with nature, as it is highly mediated by an intensely built landscape, to the point of a lack of perception of natural dynamicsoccurring within urban systems, including people interactions with green spaces. There is poor a understanding of an urban ecosystem functioning, resulting in an undervalued and largely invisibleecosystem services. Interacting natural and cultural processes, and the services they provide, are notfully perceived at the scales people interact with urban green. They are thus unlikely to committed themselves with nature.There is a need for interaction studies at scales that can be understood and applied by all actors interacting actively with urban nature, so as to elicit specific methods to attract and engage them in conservation an other nature-related activities. Urban landscape ecology should be at the base of these studies, as it deals the interactions between the temporal and spatial aspects of a landscape and its components.Future of ecology in the future of your citiesCities are viewed in urban ecology conceptual frameworks as heterogeneous, dynamic landscapes and as complex, adaptive, socio-ecological systems delivering multi-scale urban and ecosystem services thus linking society and ecosystems. Landscape ecology’s integrated and interdisciplinary approach, focused on ecosystems spatial configuration at all scales, connectivity an functional linkages, is a very suitable approach to manage complex urban areas and cities, as it deals with diversity and complexity in natural and social systems.Another approach is centered on an integrated view of Urban Ecosystem Services (UES), comprisingboth natural and man-mediated services, emerging from interlinked processes at different scales, challenging integral sustainable management approaches. Resilience approaches seem to deal better with the complex net of components and services than sustainability approaches based on long-term steady provisions of each component.Contemporary trends for naturing cities -Nature based Systems (NbS), Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDs), Green Infrastructure (GI) and others- have converging key operative concepts and methods that may increase urban resilience. Climate change and epidemic increased awareness of nature and demands of urban green and open spaces may be seen as accelerators of the process, in the context of uncertain global changes .Unique approaches other cities can learn from LA for their resilient futureLatin American features of cultural resilience processes –some of them derived from traumatic social experiences- may differ from other cities in the world, and perhaps provide hard lessons from negativeexamples.NP, CS, AB
Further studies on flexible, informal processes, way of life and modes of livelihood in Latin America, may contribute to elicit potential qualities for a resilient future in the context of climate change andglobal impacts on local cities and communities.Global financial markets enact a “land-grabbing” strategy of the best located urban and rural territories around the world, to be transformed into capital assets or resources for extractive activities, disregarding ecosystems and people. In LA this process is extremely visible in un-consulted political decisions, and in its environmental, landscape and heritage consequences.NP: What are the unique approaches that other cities around the world can learn from Latin American cases for their resilient future?AB: The Latin American cities, are open, new, rich in their cultural landscape, they are a miscellany of superimposed cultures: pre-colonial, colonial and current. The urban richness occurs in the union of the growth zones that continue to give grids, like a patch work, as well as its architecture and its vegetation. For example, in Buenos Aires the streets have trees planted in a rhythmic way but of different species, like reproducing a gallery jungle. Each neighbor plants what they bring from their province. The houses have their gardens with individual expansion, unlike the European ones that have common gardens. There are neighborhoods that are like little boxes of a particular landscapecared for their neighbors. Those neighborhoods generally remain in places where the urban grid isclosed off. You have to discover them. In the suburbs the people use the sidewalk as an expansion of their homes… like a dining room!!! in “La Boca” (in Buenos Aires) put a little canvas swimming pool in the sidewalk, with wood benches. 
Compared impression of the various charters circulated in the reading list MF: I found this an interesting phase: From the America’s Charter: The understanding of theAmerican landscape comes from a particular identity; the “Americanity”. That is a permanent dialogue between the diversity of the territory and the constant unity in culture. It is in this spirit that we present the Landscape Charter of the Americas.If I think of South Africa, I would actually perceive the landscape as constant and the culture asdiverse. Although all the documents are very different, I enjoyed the comparison. Any other thoughts on this? Some are more specific to landscape architecture (European, America’s), while others relate more to the notion of landscape in a more general sense (Asia pacific, and African).AB: The African charter I think MF’s thoughts about the characteristics of African region are excellent: diversearray of cultures spread across one region.The Asia Pacific charter describes in a sentence the essence of the region.The IFLA Asia-Pacific Region is a part of the world that has been shaped by maritime journeys, vibrant cultural landscapes and economic innovation and is home to a rich tapestry of landscapearchitecture traditions. And the objective, aim, are similar in both charters.For me, The European charter is a legal tool.The other charters sits within a global context and framework which comprises… European one, etcLALI and American Charter are used for information and respect the profession.LALI Convention encourages, promote to work with landscape.American Charter explain, among other things, the Americas roots, the essence.SB: To what extent has the LALI Convention been applied in building resilience in Argentinian cities?And to what extent does the Convention fit with the Historic Urban Landscape approach?CS: Responding partially to Steve Brown about the LALI charterMF, AB, SB, CS
The draft text -which has been worked on for 6 years, drawing inspiration from the European Landscape Convention and the Catalan Landscape Observatory-, has started this week a four-monthcirculation and feedback process, in order to strengthen its concepts and consistency through a participatory enrichment. The feedback will be then analyzed by a team of professionals from the Chilean Heritage and Landscape Corporation and the Argentine Landscape Net, amongst otherparticipants. The LALI project has not been applied in any city in Argentina, and will probably have little chances, like other similar local initiatives, to reach the public policies agenda, let alone being included as a structural part of the local legal system and of the vulnerable territorial planning system. Even if itdoes advance landscape awareness and is included in planning instruments, it will face challengingforces that have only a utilitarian view and use of landscapes, disregarding, if needed, its heritage values. And resilience is a concept that has barely reached the actual urban plans, remaining so far in a discursive plane. AB: LALI Convention is a charter that invites to promote and work for the landscape. Promote therecognition and valuation of the landscape and their actors an executors. Calls for active participation Promotes continuous, broad and multi-level education. Calls for concrete actions andencourages the participation of all citizens, ONG’s, governments, etc.The charter of the Americas describes our roots and our “Americanity”, our essence. The Landscape Charter of the Americas is based on the search for our roots and the reason for our existence, based on the knowledge of who we are and what we possessing as its habitants from our planet theunderstanding of the American landscape comes from a particular identity; the “Americanity”. That is a permanent dialogue between the diversity of the territory and the constant unity in culture. 

Circulated pre-reading:

Additional reading:

  1. Centre for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research, Stockholm University.
  2. Sent by Patricia O’Donnell

This meeting:

Argentinean perspective on naturecultures

Ana Bajcura, Alicia Cahn and CiraSzklowin 31 August 2020 10 PM GMT

Final meeting of the series of Dialogue Sessions: Where to Now?

12 October 2020. 1 PM GMT

  • Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Land Change Science Research Unit, b Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development Dresden, Centre for Environmental Research and Impact Studies, University of Bucharest
  • Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Land Change Science Research Unit


The Role of Storytelling in Landscape Conservation

By Brenda Barrett August 31, 2020
Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas

As someone who started their career as a museum curator and then moved into preserving historic resources, the concept of using cultural resources as a way to convey a story is not new or foreign territory. However, most of my early experience was with interpreting objects or site-specific historic places. The idea of telling stories on a landscape scale never crossed my mind. 

It was not until I began working with Heritage Areas and the United States National Heritage Area (NHA) program, in particular, that I saw the power of this approach to build partnerships and unify a region. 

The importance of storytelling for the NHAs was a striking finding in an extensive evaluation conducted by the National Park Service. The review of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future (2005) found that understanding the story of the region was a call to action for the partners.  And further noted that:

Numerous partners describe the story as “the glue” that holds the region together. Thus, understanding the story not only helps to create a meaningful context for Corridor projects, it also serves as an organizing concept for the myriad groups and interests in the Valley. Another partner described how the story provides a way for different people and organizations to engage each other around a shared sense of history. In this way, the story has the potential to transcend time and culture, and become a unifying theme within the valley.’

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Photo: National Park Service

The evaluation of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, appropriately titled Connecting Stories, Landscapes and People (2006), also highlighted the importance of communicating the vision and telling stories to connect people and community throughout NHAs 160-mile corridor in Pennsylvania. A more recent set of NHA evaluations found that education and interpretation of the human-made and natural landscape was a high priority for residents and visitors alike. These evaluations showed that on average 26% of programmatic dollars went into this activity (2013).

With the increasing adoption of a large landscape approach for natural resource conservation, there have been efforts to identify the critical components for the success of such a strategy. Storytelling has emerged as a significant factor. The National Academy of Science’s report, “An Evaluation of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives”, concluded that a landscape approach is needed to meet the nation’s conservation challenges. It went on to identify ‘a unifying theme or story’ as a key element. The report noted this can provide stability in an inherently fragile system. 

Pathways Forward. Network for Landscape Conservation

The Network for Landscape Conservation, an organization with the mission of advancing collaborative, community-grounded conservation at scale, gathered experts together in 2017 to share best practices and prepare an agenda for the future.  In the follow-on report, Pathways Forward: Progress and Priorities in Landscape Conservation , a whole section was devoted to communication and engagement. It specifically called out the “connective power” of storytelling as playing a central role connecting people to each other and the land.

United States Colored Troops Photo:Pennlive

This is all good news, but it is only a start. If it is based on authenticity and integrity, storytelling can also contribute to our engagement with diverse communities and help build a more inclusive conservation movement.  This is more challenging than it sounds. Places that are significant to Native peoples and people of color may not be visible to the uninformed eye.  One example is the findings of the Pennsylvania Hallowed Ground project,  which seeks to preserve African American cemeteries. These sites are particularly vulnerable. Many of the rural cemeteries have been forgotten as populations shift and families move on to new opportunities, while their urban counterparts have fallen victim to changing land use and financial downturns. For conservation practitioners to “see” these overgrown and forgotten places requires listening to community members and digging more deeply into the historical records. This is just one example of places that need to be seen and conserved. We are only just beginning to uncover all the stories that landscapes have to tell. 


Naturecultrues Dialogue: Rural Landscapes and Integrated Management

By Brenda Barrett August 30, 2020

Session 9 with Brenda Barret, Jessica Brown and Mary Laheen

In our new series of naturecultures sessions that runs from May to September 2020, we introduced a different format. Presentations are pre-circulated, leaving most of the session open for active discussion.

In this particular meeting, we had two separate presentations circulated under the theme Rural Landscapes and Integrated Management. The abstract, and link for each of these presentations are included at the end of the article. This summary is drawn up from comments that came up in the dialogue session, and elaborated on in the email discussion afterwards. These comments are general, abstract expressions, and personal thoughts that are not necessarily associated with the view of ICOMOS, IUCN or any other organisation.

As the discussion began, Maya summarized the two presentations as follows:

Your presentations illustrate very clearly how in rural landscapes, the interlinkages between nature and culture are evident. Jessica and Brenda have given an overview of different systems and initiatives which, at international and national levels, recognize a heritage value to rural landscapes, as these are fundamental for food security, biodiversity conservation and cultural continuity.

Mary has illustrated these important values of rural landscapes with an example from a traditional farming system in Ireland, where communities see the landscape in a more holistic way, and which is resilient to the passing of time and socio-economic changes. As a start to the dialogue, we went back to the presenters’ own personal journey through the nature-culture divide in their work on rural landscapes. 

I had a very dynamic discussion, and I add a quote from Monica Luenga that I think is quite admirable: “It was 2009-2010 when we began, thanks to your clever insistence (Lionella Scazzosi), with the Rural Landscapes Initiative. I must say that at that moment there was not much interest in ICOMOS (except for our ISC Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA) for the subject. I only took 10 years to make our organization believe it was something to take into account as cultural heritage!”

It is a great reminder of how small change and consistent hard work really can bring change. Well done to many great efforts that play out in this group.

Abstract by Brenda Barret and Jessica Brown: 

Integrative approaches to nature and culture in rural landscapes 

As places where nature and culture intersect in myriad ways, rural landscapes have much to teach us about taking integrative approaches to conservation that bring together diverse values, disciplines and aims.

Spanning a vast area of the planet’s surface, these landscapes and waterscapes serve as the foundation of economic livelihoods and food security worldwide, while encompassing an array of tangible and intangible cultural heritage values that are interlinked with natural values such as biodiversity, agrobiodiversity and ecosystem services. Traditional practices of cultivating and gathering food in rural areas embody the entangled dimensions of nature and culture. 

This overview presentation will explore the role the global heritage community has played and can play in recognizing and conserving rural landscapes, with an emphasis on traditional agricultural landscapes. Drawing on experience from diverse regions, it will highlight lessons on how the multiple values of these places can be better managed for more sustainable outcomes and resilience in the face of global challenges including climate change.

Noting the role of international, national and regional/local designations – such as UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscapes, IUCN Category V Protected Landscapes and Seascapes, Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and National Heritage Areas – it will briefly review examples of different approaches to management and governance of agricultural landscapes.

The important contribution of community-based strategies for stewardship, such as Landcare in Australia, and the emergence of global networks such as the International Partnership of the Satoyama Initiative, will be flagged up. Finally, the presentation will discuss progress in the emergence of converging understandings of key elements in the stewardship of rural landscapes. Recently ICOMOS has taken the lead by developing the World Rural Landscape Principles (adopted 2017). The opportunity for deeper engagement by nature conservation organizations calls for potential collaboration going forward.

 The case study that will complement this overview presentation is “Farming with Nature.’ In the Backstairs landscape the Republic of Ireland demonstrates the multiple challenges of landscape management and the opportunities that lie with community-based approaches.

Link to Presentation HERE

Abstract by Mary Laheen: Farming with nature in the blackstairs 

A group of upland sheep farmers are involved in a collaboration of their own design to find ways to support threatened fauna and flora in a designated landscape, while making their own farms viable for their families and future generations. This is taking place in the Blackstairs Mountains, Na Staighrí Dubha, in the southeast of Ireland.

The presentation will describe the landscape and how the farmers work and organize themselves collectively in the commonage areas of the mountain. It is a place that has been farmed and inhabited for 6000 years, the landscape shows the marks of the last Ice Age – about 12,000 to 14,000 years ago here – with land formations and glacial debris. Field monuments and other archaeological artefacts are dispersed throughout, reaching back to pre-history, and continuing up to the 19th century. Intangible and tangible cultural heritage exists in the land division system, which is known as the townland matrix, and has roots in the medieval and possibly pre-medieval period. Traditional farming practices continue to exist but are threatened in the current generation. Present-day farmers are aging and younger people are less inclined to continue with an agricultural livelihood. 

The Blackstairs Farming Group has been inspired by and has learnt from other models for the management of landscape in Ireland, such as, the High Nature Value Farming schemes of the Burren – a limestone plateau landscape in County Clare -, and the drystone wall field boundary landscape of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. The presentation aims to describe the emergence of the group and take a look at the progress of the management scheme which is still in its early stages of development.

Link to Presentation HERE


1Alicia Cahn (AC)14Mary Laheen (ML), Panelist2Ana Bajcura (AB)15Marike Franklin (MF), Dialogues Convenor3archer st.clair harvey (AH)16Maya Ishizawa (MI), Moderator4Brenda Barret (BB), Panelist17Mónica Lueng (ML)5Cira Szklowin (CS)18Nicole Bolomey (NB)6Anna Gaynutdinova (AG)19Nobuko Inaba (NI)7Greg De Vries (GdV)20Nora Mitchell (NM)8jane Lennon (JL)21nupur prothi (NP)9Je-Hun Ryu (JR)22Patricia ODonnell (PoD)10Jessica Brown (JB), Panelist23Priyanka Singh (PS)11Kristal Buckley (KB)24Raffaella Laviscio (RL)12Lionella Scazzosi (LS)25Rohit Jigyasu (RJ)13Liz Morgan (LM)26Steve Brown (SB)  27Bansal Suramya (BS)


Working in Silo’s PoD: The “silos” of nature and culture practice- job titles, legislation, planning, knowledge and more- are highly entrenched. How to overcome this separation and integrate more effectively. NP: what is the way forward for policy and legislation at a national and provincial level? where do we see our role in this?RJ: Rural landscapes should be seen not in isolation but how these are influenced by changes in the larger territory including urbanization process…ML: Do you agree that in the sense of improving communities’ lives, GIAHS from FAO are probably better focused than World Heritage. The first ones take into account much more sustainability and the wellness of communities than World Heritage that is still much more addressed to simple heritage conservation?RJ: I totally agree with you Monica…World Heritage is so obsessed with OUV (outstanding Universal Value) business that it tends to ignore the larger linkages with sustainability.PoD: ICOMOS IFLA ISCCL 2019 ADCOM Symposium- “Rural Heritage- Landscape and Beyond” addressed the full range of society-economy-environment sustainability issues. Certainly not aesthetic qualities as primary.PoD: Certainly a the 2030 Agenda- UN SDGs- are a solid touchstone.PoD, NP, RJ, ML
Aesthetic view of rural landscapes in terms of World Heritage RJ: I think it is very important to move away from a purely an aesthetic view of rural landscapes and link it with larger issues of social and economic sustainability. In this context, it is important that heritage is not viewed by the larger audience as an elitist sector but more as a sector that will improve the quality of lives of rural inhabitants.SB: I agree Rohit. Seeing heritage as part of sustainability, resilience, etc. is essential as a way to engage with communities and the host of actors engaged in rural landscapes. SB: Agro-ecology seems to be also represented by ‘regenerative agriculture’ – in Australia at least. See Charles Massey’s book Call of the Reed Warbler’ on thisRJ, SB
Evolution, transformation, and the scale of rural landscapes SB: Interesting phrase ‘landscape of the poor’, Mary. I know you mean financially poor, but rural dwellers often have diverse and rich lives in other contexts (connection to landscape & community connectivity, for example).RJ: Maybe we also need to consider evolution of rural landscapes…we cannot expect farmers to continue with ancient agricultural practices when needs, climatic conditions and economy is undergoing global change. So, in the light of these, what is the future of rural landscapes that we envisage…certainly not as pristine landscape as we have known to appreciate. We must address ways of managing the change in rural landscapes.ML: I agree with the interest of the phrase. In my country it would be, on the contrary, the landscape of the rich, as most of the land, except in a few regions; it is big landowners’ estates. Thanks Mary, exactly what I was writing!AB: In Argentina the scale of rural landscape is huge, all is huge… We have some similar points with Ireland politics: the pour people live in the landscape. When I visited Ireland, I saw a little scale of landscape as a jewel… the owners of more than 100Ha’s live in the town or the city.  AG : In the context of strict institutional division on the national level between culture and nature conservation and protection in the sake of better protection and introduction of holistic approach into the management system of the site which was inscribed on the WHL as a cultural heritage property, do you think, is it essential to re-nominate this site as a cultural landscape or mention of the natural component as a value in the Statement of OUV is enough?BS: To add on, rural spaces may or may not exist in absolute isolation, they are connected to broader geographies be it other regional spaces or other urban ones. Also, we need to look at the rural-urban continuum, where the state of being is always dynamicPoD: A conceptual isolation would be artificial- In the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape Recommendation discussions, the issue of territorial relationships- the daily interactions of town/city and countryside. With the pandemic there appears to be movement from large cities to smaller communities, a future trend we may see more of with rural settlements increasing. SB: “What is in transformation is difficult to protect”. I agree Lionella, and is part of the thinking around limits of acceptable change. But acceptable to who?ML: Mary, exactly, nobody is speaking about heritage in rural landscapes. Why? Partly, I think, because they are afraid that this will imply the “conservation” or “freezing” of their way of life, techniques, etc.. So, first thing would be to make the communities that considering heritage regarding rural landscapes means on the contrary, sustaining their way of life in a sustainable way!SB: There is a move in Australia to ‘Make Australia Make Again’! That is taking the products of agriculture and using them locally for greater community benefits and employment.PoD: There are communities that are well informed and value their rural cultural landscapes. The characterization of the heritage field as the sole voice of evolved rural CL is I suggest self-focused and incorrect. We have and can continue to find local voices and values in this work. SB, RJ, ML, AG, BS, AB
Rural Landscapes Initiative – in need of specific tools to manage rural landscapes ML: Exactly Lionella, it was 2009-2010 when we began, thanks to your clever insistence, with the Rural Landscapes Initiative. I must say that at that moment there was not much interest in ICOMOS (except for our ISC Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA) for the subject. It only took 10 years to make our organization believe it was something to take into account as cultural heritage!ML: As regards to World heritage, the main problem with rural and productive landscapes is authenticity. How to accept this change Lionella has mentioned with authenticity of OUV? Many evaluations for WH (world heritage) productive landscapes do not accept changes and pretend these landscapes should be freezed in the past with farmers living like in medieval or prehistoric times.RJ: Very much agree with views of LionellaAB: Some crops are sustainable and others no., It’s economic production. There are controls but not enough. Different scales and different problems. There isn’t cultural landscape awareness. I agree with Lionella.RL: So we agreeAG: I totally agree with Monica, and if the site is inscribed as cultural heritage it is even less possible to approach to it as something evolving and dynamic (and WHL is full with such so to say hidden or latent cultural landscapes)NP: Honghe Hani terraces showcased many of the stresses, challenges mentioned above. but World heritage rural landscapes also offer an opportunity for showcasing good practice of resilience where we can showcase the way forward.RL: So, we agree that we need specific tools to manage rural landscapes remembering that they are heritage. What we can suggest?AB: I agree with Mónica that rural landscape is a production/economic issueML: Monica this is fundamental problem with WHC…the concepts of authenticity and integrity that originated from the overarching perspective of ‘protection’ are applied across the board. How do we apply or redefine these ‘jargons/concepts’ for landscapes that are always in flux in essence? I would also argue that may be these concepts are not relevant anymore…I sometimes wonder, why don’t we include sustainability as another dimension in the operational guidelines that may qualify heritage values rather than only authenticity and integrity.PoD: “Rural Landscapes are productive” as Monica says- the point is both agriculture and forestry- we think of crops as fields, not woodlands- which need to be integrated. Both are economic in part. Also, now these hectares/acres are also engaged in global conservation- in Vermont in 2019 a first large reserve with carbon credits exchange. Another recent vector to consider.ML: Totally agree with you Rohit. Sustainability is only considered in WH issues in the management plans but not as a “pillar” of the system… We should perhaps re-think the whole of it?… Patricia, absolutely agree also, woodlands in WH, for example, are only considered if they are part of a cultural landscape that is mainly crop fields, like in the Honghe Hani terraces.PoD: By 2022 ISCCL review of the Rural Principles is scheduled. Raffaella notes an invitation to engage. This is one aspect of that participation.ML, AB, RJ, RL, AG, NP, PoD
What is the Covid 19 Pandemic showing us as issues in the field, and what can we each do as individuals I am interested in the way that the COVOD-19 pandemic is showing up issues in many fields, including the fields of heritage and rural landscapes. I thought that the points made by Monica and Rohit about World Heritage (and beyond) were apposite – that the focus on authenticity and intactness needs to be supplemented with deeper considerations of sustainability and well-being (of land/waters and people). To some degree this already happening through the WH Sustainability Policy. I also thought the observation by Patricia was interesting – a movement from urban to rural areas; I am not sure we see that in Australia, but it may well be a medium- to long-term consequence of the pandemic. I mentioned in Chatbox that there is a move to ‘Make Australia Make Again’. My understanding is that this arose because someone was looking to buy a cap / baseball-style cap that was fully made in Australia and was unable to do so (and then started making them). The point is that so much Australian manufacturing happens off-shore and this has highlighted a position of vulnerability and risk in Australia – e.g., lack of masks and other personal protective gear. An interesting example of adaptability in this regard happened with many vineyards in eastern and southwestern Australia. The catastrophic bushfires over the summer of 2019-2020 caused many grapes to be smoke-affected and therefore unsuitable for wine making. Quite a few vineyards, from March this year, turned to producing hand sanitiser with the alcohol produced by the grapes, thus filling a manufacturing need in Australia. I think this is a great example of ingenuity and creativity in the rural sector. Finally, I agree with Jane and others asking what can the ISCCL – and each of us individually – do to support the idea of rural landscapes as heritage. I think this is a difficult ask, and there is no one and no simple answer. However, to be engaged and active is vital. There is so much great work being done generally, and tapping into this is necessary – thanks Brenda and Jessica for reminding us of the huge range of actions already happening around the world. LM: I was particularly interested in the discussions on sustainability by Steve et al “seeing heritage as part of sustainability” and the importance of improving communities’ lives in Agri-environmental schemes, which GIAS appears to take more seriously than WH site OUV.In Ireland people in the Irish Department of Agriculture have been looking for many years at ways to use E.U. funds to conserve traditional environments with sustainable farming practices. This has led to a number of very good Agri- environ-mental schemes. As Mary highlighted in her presentation on the Backstairs -locally led results-based incentives along with the autonomy of management methods devised by farmers were important for successful engagement. While these schemes are mainly devised to enhance and protect biodiversity, (and usually apply to protected natural landscapes such as SAC etc), project management initiatives can and do include cultural landscape support for farmers to understand and conserve cultural heritage along with natural heritage in their rural landscapes. It is important to promote awareness that the wider “everyday” rural landscape places require similar appreciation of their natural and cultural heritage values as SAC, ANOB, etc and provision of appropriate support to improve communities’ livelihoods.Natural heritage awareness has some advantages over cultural landscape awareness.  In Ireland each city/county council has to have a Biodiversity Action Plan – using simple tools and messages to inform the general public. Perhaps we could learn from these plans to help raise awareness of how the rural landscape heritage interconnects with biodiversity and how, together, they form a valuable resource for the future.  SB, LM
Comparison of Session #5 to this session #9 on integrated management CS: I agree with Rohit Jigyasu’s emphasis that landscapes do not stand in isolation, but are influenced by evolving links with its territorial context and processes, although the suggestions that heritage be a part of sustainability -or sustainability be added in the operational guidelines as another dimension to qualify heritage values- may arise some conflicting issues (e.g. regarding sustainability and resilience related to climate change).I wonder if Monica Luengo’s observation that GIAHS from FAO are more focused on sustainability and people, implies that their effective consideration may diminish the visibility and consideration of heritage conservation values, or turn their respective objectives not totally congruent.I also agree with Suramya Bansal to consider the rural-urban continuum (in Latin America we include peri urban, a rural-urban interface of unplanned spill over of urban growth into rural areas). The importance of their evolving links is not much taken into consideration, as Patricia O’Donnell’s mention of daily territorial interactions.It seems to me that consideration of contexts and scales is much more important now to the management of rural landscapes, as they can provide a more resilient, knowledge-based framework for conservation.   The stability of a contemporary cultural landscape embedding familiar or small productive systems, providing habitat, livelihood and attachment, can be more dependent of the economic vicissitudes of markets and  their regional contexts -as opposed to large landowners or corporate agricultural systems, whose performance are linked to factors affecting global markets, producing local impacts (changes in land uses, way of life, landscape).  It was interesting to me to relate some of the issues in this # 9 session, with those in the # 5 session with Jane Lennon.·         Marike Franklin, regarding adaptive landscapes and how much change is acceptable asked whether the “missing link to the management of cultural landscapes is the notion of ‘landscape character’…which is not limited to land use but looks at the range of elements that give it its character”·         Jane Lennon dealt with principles, uncertainties and issues related to integrity and authenticity, governance, and the need of a new approach to “understand not only change but also continuity in the rural landscape as habitat”LS: I said, when we work on rural landscape nature culture interconnection is evident, in the past as in the present, for each place having rural functions and characteristics. Not only outstanding places but all places. And always we can find historic traces, more or less evident and well maintained. The idea to conceive heritage coming from rural landscapes as resource is strategic for the future. My idea is that we could work more and deeply on tools, analysing international tools as UNESCO sites and GIAH’s, but also some regional and national tools to understand better potentialities and problems. Actually, many suggestions have been given during the meeting!!! The organisation of this type of meeting is really excellent and effective!! It could be used also to go deeper on rural landscapes. CS, LS

Circulated pre-reading: 

Reading by Brenda Barret and Jessica Brown: 

Nora J. Mitchell & Brenda Barrett (2015) Heritage Values and Agricultural Landscapes: Towards a New Synthesis, Landscape Research, 40:6, 701-716, DOI:10.1080/01426397.2015.1058346 (attached)

Jessica Brown (2015) Bringing Together Nature and Culture: Integrating a Landscape Approach in Protected Areas Policy and Practice, Nature Policies and Landscape Policies, Chapter 3 of Springer International Publishing Switzerland (attached)

Reading by Mary Laheen: 

Laheen, M and Fitzgerald (2014) Granite Dry Stone Walls and Ditches of the Blackstairs in South Carlow, a Chomhairle Oidhreachta; the Heritage Council Ireland (attached)

Additional reading: 

Jessica Brown (2018) A Few Short Journeys Along the Nature-Culture Continuum: Reflections on community-led conservation. Landscape Magazine, Volume 7 Issue 1 p35 (attached)

ICOMOS-IFLA Principles concerning Rural Landscapes as Heritage, Draft (2017) for GA 2017 6-3-1 – Doctrinal Texts (attached)  

This meeting:Rural Landscapes and Integrated Management

Brenda Barret, Jessica Brown and Mary Laheen

The next meeting:Argentinean perspective on naturecultures

Ana Bajcura, Alicia Cahn and Cira Szklowin

31 August 202010 PM GMT


Exploring the Landscapes of the Caribbean

By Guest Observer August 28, 2020
Hidden memories and invisible landscapes on the island of Grenada. Photo: Neil Silberman

Gently swaying coconut palms. Crystal-clear turquoise waters. White sand beaches. We all know the idyllic landscape images of the Caribbean endlessly promoted in TV commercials for cruises and resorts. And there’s another, wilder Caribbean landscape familiar to eco-tourists: the nature reserves and National Parks that have been established throughout the region to protect against development and preserve distinctive local biomes. 

Yet the landscape perceptions of many of the region’s residents do not mesh easily with the others. When asked about the significance of the protected landscapes and national parks of his own country, a respondent from Antigua and Barbuda told us that local residents do not see them as a part of their own cultural and natural heritage. They see them mainly as tourist attractions, serving cruise ship tourists and yachties. So if the protected landscapes were not theirs, why and for whom were they being protected? And how could the landscape perceptions of local residents be understood?

For the past eight years, my colleagues, Gustavo Araoz and Angela Labrador, and I coordinated a regional heritage project for the Organization of American States in thirteen English-speaking nations in the Caribbean. The main goal of the project was to promote community identification with heritage of all kinds—including the sites and landscapes that lay beyond the officially-recognized tourist routes. But a question that challenged us early in the project related to community values. How could we identify the elements that distinguished the day-to-day sense of place of local communities from that of international visitors—and from the images of the Caribbean reflected in vacation ads on TV? How could we elicit the sense of place privately held by local residents? 

I have to admit that I’m far from an expert in cultural landscapes or landscape values. My professional experience has always been in site interpretation, usually along the carefully demarcated paths of individual sites. Over the years I’ve done hundreds of interviews and collected just as many oral histories as part of interpretive planning and as material to be used in site presentation. So adding the landscape dimension was new to me; I had to use my experience to go beyond memories of individual sites, buildings, and historical events to begin to understand the much wider place perceptions of the communities with whom we worked.

Map of mobile oral history routes on the village of Willis, St. George’s Parish, Grenada Photo Neil Silberman

That’s how we developed the idea of mobile oral histories as a way to capture perceptions of the landscape that were widely shared by community members but rarely written down. Of course, the methodology of “walking interviews” has been used by urban planners for decades, as a means of understanding the perceptions of place held local residents as a tool in the formulation of development plans. But we were not looking to build roads or situate housing projects. Our goal was to encourage local communities to cherish and protect their own memories and values about the landscapes they lived in, even if their particularly town or village was not on the “official” heritage list. So along with other participatory ethnographic methods—like focus groups and photovoice programs—that we used to elicit heritage values and identify all kinds of local heritage resources, we began to recruit two-person mobile oral history teams to interview people of all ages, walking with them through the landscapes of our first project locale, on the island of Grenada and its smaller federal partner to the north, Carriacou.

Former principal Henry Stiel evokes the landscape of schooldays on Carriacou, interviewed by Alison Caton.  Photo: Neil Silberman

The results were quite amazing in the unexpected insights that they revealed. With one of the mobile oral history team conducting the interview with a small hand-held recorder (later we simply used smartphones) and the other taking notes and sketching out a map of the walking route, we found that a mix of personalities and generations yielded some colorful and insightful conversations about the landscapes they traversed. One of the interviewing teams was a retired church deacon and a hip hop producer. Among the subjects were a retired school principal who reconstructed the landscape of colonial schooldays, a fisherman who walked along an isolated beach where the huge seine nets were once thrown, but no longer are; a worried mother who described the geography of gang warfare in her village; and an ambitious small-scale organic farmer who envisioned how she wanted the landscape of Carriacou to become.

Mr. Sonnell Allert, at the place where the fishermen’s huge seine nets were once flung, now just a beach for tourists and vacationers.   Photo: Neil Silberman

The beauty of the mobile oral histories, in contrast to the other standard oral histories I had done, was that the interviewee was not restricted to answering prepared questions, but was also encouraged to bring up subjects, memories, and associations as they walked along. The later replacement of handheld recorders by the interviewers’ own smartphones loaded with free apps that allow georeferencing, photos, videos, and sound recording provided an affordable suite of tools for every team.

Ms. Veronica Adams tends her organic garden and dreams the surrounding brambles and brush away. Photo: Neil Silberman

After Grenada, we repeated the mobile oral history studies of the landscape in Guyana, Jamaica, and St. Lucia with equally rich results. They proved to be a kind of collective self-ethnography that not only documented local landscape perceptions, but also encouraged lively discussions about the landscape elements that each community cherished and did not want to lose. This local sense of place is obviously just as important as the tourist and protected landscape perspectives, for it can document the vision and values that the local residents deeply identify as their own.

For more information on this project, see

The author of this post Neil Silberman is the founding president of the ICOMOS International Committee on the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Sites. He is now a partner in Coherit Associates, an international heritage consultancy that specializes in community engagement.


This Land is My Land: Rebellion in the West

By Eleanor Mahoney August 17, 2020

Over the past forty years, disputes over federal land management in the western United States have changed dramatically in both scope and scale. What were once largely local and regional conflicts centered on the land itself have now gone national, with actors and implications that extend well beyond the realm of public lands policy – indeed, that encompass questions over the very legitimacy of government itself

Last month, the Living Landscape Observer featured a series of articles on current public lands policy debates, highlighting the challenges facing public lands managers and advocates as the U.S. approaches a presidential election. One piece, for example, highlighted a startling juxtaposition from this past summer – passage of the ground-breaking Great American Outdoors Act, which included full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with the continued sale and promotion of oil and gas leases on large amounts of public lands acreage throughout the West.

How did we get to this moment? To gain insight into the complex and ongoing history of U.S. public lands, the Living Landscape Observer interviewed Dr. James Skillen, author of the newly published This Land is My Land: Rebellion in the West. Learn more about the book’s content and organization here.

Dr. Skillen is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Calvin University in Michigan and has written extensively on federal land management. In addition to his most recent book, he is also the author of The Nation’s Largest Landlord: The Bureau of Land Management in the American West and Federal Ecosystem Management: Its Rise, Fall, and Afterlife.

During our interview, Dr. Skillen emphasized the links between public lands controversies and other issues of federal authority or oversight, including gun control, religious expression, and private property rights, noting that “public lands decision points are connected to a national political debate over the validity of federal authority.”

He also explained the interplay between passage of new environmental and public lands laws in the 1970s, including the Federal Land Management and Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and the emergence of the Sagebrush Rebellion movement. Listen to an excerpt below.

Over the past decade, there have been several armed stand-offs between citizens and federal law enforcement officers in states throughout the West. The origins of these at-times violent disputes are also treated extensively in Dr. Skillen’s book, as is the resulting national and, indeed, global media coverage. listen below to learn how one event in 2014 helped inspire him to write the text as well as gain insight into the periodization of public lands conflicts over the past 50 years.

For land managers and others seeking to understand the roots of contemporary conflicts – as well as how the issues they confront are connected to a whole array of other political debates – This Land is My Land is an incredibly useful and engaging read. Learn more about the text, including chapter summaries here.


Forum on Public Lands in Utah and the United States West

By Eleanor Mahoney August 4, 2020

This forum brought together eight scholars who recently contributed to a special issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly. Each presenter offered brief (5 -7 minute) comments on the topics outlined below, followed by a general discussion on public lands history.

The conversation ranged from the early creation of National Parks and National Forests to contemporary conflicts over the role of government in the rural West. Speakers considered how the meaning, use, and management of public lands has changed over time and jointly reflected on what the future might hold.

Speakers (in order of presentation):

Jedidiah S. Rogers, editor Utah Historical Quarterly, introduction and overview of special issue

Leisl Carr Childers, Assistant Professor of History at Colorado State University, “Understanding Cliven Bundy: Using Narrative, Geographic, and Visual Empathy in Public Lands History”

James R. Skillen, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Calvin University, “Public Lands Rebellion” 

Elizabeth Hora, Public Archaeologist for the Utah Division of State History, “Utah Lake Rock Imagery: An Intersection of Public Lands, Recreational Shooting, and Cultural Resources”

Eleanor Mahoney, NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow, “From Skepticism to Support: National Heritage Areas in the West”

Thomas G. Alexander, Professor Emeritus of Western American History at Brigham Young University, “After a Century: National Forest Management in the Intermountain Region in the 21st Century”

Benjamin Kiser, Teacher of Early American History at Wayne Carle Middle School, “Bucking the White Elephant: Utah’s Fight for Federal Management of the Public Domain, 1923 – 1934”

Laura Alice Watt, Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Planning at Sonoma State University, “The Return of Uncertainty: Public Lands in an Unpredictable World”

Forum recorded on 6/15/2020

Wild Horses on Public Lands

By Jane Lennon August 3, 2020
Mustangs at Watering Hole Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

The USA and Australia share a problem with wild horses causing environmental damage to conservation areas in large landscapes -both public lands reserved as national parks and rangelands.

Mustangs symbolise the American West but an explosion in the wild horse population is threatening to overwhelm public lands. Every year helicopters lead mass roundups of mustangs and burros but the fight is being lost. The Bureau of Land Management caught 7300 mustangs in 2019 but estimate that 17,000 foals were born adding to 100,000 already on public land. More than 49,000 animals are in the care of BLM and absorb two-thirds of its wild horse program budget.

BLM believes that its lands can only sustain about 27,000 but Congress has historically refused to approve a cull. In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act designated them ‘living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West’ and protects them on BLM and Forest Service land in 10 western states. [Ben Hoyle, ‘Running wild,’ The Weekend Australian Magazine, 2020-04-04:26]. 

Feral Horses Running across the Australian Alps
Photo courtesy of Victoria National Parks

Brumbies in Australia occupy a similar niche. In the Northern Territory and Western Australia, where the majority of the estimated 300,000 feral horses in Australia can be found, they are routinely shot from helicopters as part of aerial culling that also targets other introduced species such as pigs, buffalo and donkeys.

But in the high country straddling the border between New South Wales and Victoria, including the alpine national parks, wild horses are revered, embedded in folklore and Australian literary history, from Banjo Paterson’s poem The Man From Snowy River to Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby children’s books. The associate cultural value of this folklore is listed as part of Australia’s national heritage for the alpine national parks.

In 2018 the NSW government scrapped a recommendation from its own environment department to cull brumby numbers estimated at 6000 in Kosciusko National Park by up to 90% and instead introduced legislation to formally recognise their cultural and heritage significance and ensure they are protected as an ongoing part of the park’s landscape. The deputy premier, John Barilaro, whose electorate of Monaro includes the national park, told Parliament: ‘If we accept that the brumby has a right to exist in the Snowy Mountains region – a right that this bill encapsulates – and we recognise the brumby’s unique place in Australian history, then we must find ways to preserve a sustainable population in a way that minimises harm to the environment.’ 

It is the first time a government has ever mandated the protection of an invasive species within a national park, and conservationists say it establishes a worrying precedent, compromise the environmental values of the park. 

Kosciuszko National Park covers 6,900 square kilometres on the NSW side of the Australian alps and is contiguous with the Alpine National Park, on the Victorian side of the border. It was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1977 and is home to a significant number of threatened species. The NSW threatened species committee of scientists committee cited damage to streams and fragile sphagnum bogs caused by the horses’ hard hooves, the spread of weeds and an overall change to the density and diversity of the woodland structure caused by horses ring-barking trees or nipping off buds. 

Feral horse damage a swampy area as they trample over important wetlands
[photograph: Meg McKone]

However, over summer this year large areas of the alpine parks were burnt severely in the wild bushfires. NSW Minister for Environment announced that brumby numbers in Kosciusko National Park will be reduced substantially, with as many as 4,000 out of an estimated total of 20,000 horses due to be rehomed or culled, to control horses in the sensitive areas, which is necessary to protect the environment as it recovers from the fire. The number of brumbies killed in the fires is not known but the fires that burnt 35 per cent of the park appear to have pushed the horses into a more concentrated area, increasing the trampling of wetlands, habitat of critically endangered species like the northern corroboree frog and the stocky galaxias fish. Approximately 57,000 ha have been prioritised for control in three northern parts of the park which were severely impacted, including Nungar Plain, Cooleman Plain, and parts of Boggy and Kiandra Plains. Horses are also returning to burnt areas following the recent rains. This will cause irreparable damage to burnt peat bogs and recovering alpine and sub-alpine vegetation.

Meanwhile on the Victorian side of the State border in the Alpine National Park, there is change. The Federal Court has given Victoria approval to trap and cull brumbies in the high country. The landmark ruling has implications for both Victoria and NSW, where the effect of the catastrophic bushfires on unique alpine ecosystems has placed pressure on state governments to tackle the soaring numbers of feral horses. The Australian Brumby Alliance took Parks Victoria to court last year to prevent it trapping, removing or ‘otherwise interfering’ with brumbies from the Bogong High Plains and Alpine National Park, arguing feral horses were part of the cultural heritage of the Australian alps, and their removal should be referred to the federal Environment Minister.

Victoria’s high plains will now be protected from feral horses
[photograph: Don Driscoll]

But the judgment delivered on 8 May, ruled that prohibiting the removal of brumbies was appropriate, and their removal would not have a significant impact on the national heritage values of the Australian alps. This decision clears the way for Parks Victoria to begin a contentious new culling program deploying small teams of professional shooters, overseen by veterinarians, to cull horses in remote areas at night using thermal imaging and silenced guns.

Parks Victoria says there is a pressing need for feral animal control following the bushfires, with many parts of the alpine region heavily burnt and only tiny areas of green fringing waterways. Injured or sick horses have previously been euthanised but this is the first time free-ranging horses will be culled. Even the location of the culls will remain secret to prevent confrontation with brumby lovers, who say the feral horses are an integral part of alpine cultural heritage.

Dr Mark Norman, chief conservation scientist at Parks Victoria, says the native plants and wildlife in the alps — which represent just 0.3 per cent of Australia’s landmass — occur nowhere else on Earth. In addition to rare plants and herbs, the mountain plains are home to unique and endangered Australian animals such as alpine frogs, skinks and spiny crayfish. This fauna has taken millions of years to evolve and in the last couple of hundred years, introduced horses and deer are trashing the ecosystem.

Healthy alpine meadows in summer

When the Australian Alps were added to the National Heritage List in 2008, the listing noted the stories, legends and myths of the mountains are part of Australia’s national identity. But Dr Norman says the reality is that native species are in a dire predicament in the wake of the fires. ‘Climate change is making it harder for endangered animals – you’re getting pushed off the top of mountains [by the warming climate] and getting stomped on by invasive animals.’ (Mimi Perkins, Court decision clears way for brumby culls, The Age, Melbourne, 8 May 2020).

The endangered Southern Corroboree Frog lives in alpine bogs
[photograph: Michael McFadden]

While any killing of animals is difficult, in this case it is to protect many vulnerable species of flora and fauna. The fragile landscape must be conserved along with evidence of its Aboriginal occupation for 25,000 years. The more recent European cultural values can be celebrated by other means such as festivals, literary events and an annual recreation of cattle droving by horses along travelling stock routes which connect the historic homesteads in the alpine parks. Brumbies rehomed to private farmlands can ‘run free’ but many graziers see them competing for their grass and prefer them in national parks and public lands.

The federal court ruling upholds the obligations on Australian governments to conserve native species and ecosystems in protected areas, and have helped restore sensible park management. The Australian public expects national parks exist to conserve native Australian ecosystems and species, particularly as extinction rates in Australia continue at unprecedented rates.

Jane Lennon. 8 June 2020


Naturecultures Dialogue: Connecting Practice

By Brenda Barrett August 3, 2020

Session 8 with Gwenaëlle Bourdin, Leticia Leitão, Carlo Ossola, and Nupur ProthiKhanna

In our new series of naturecultures sessions that runs from May to September 2020, presentations are pre-circulated, leaving most of the dialogue session open for active discussion. In this particular session we had four separate presentations circulated under the theme Connecting Practice. The abstract (overview of Connecting Practice), and link to these 10-16minute presentations is included on the next page. This summary is drawn up from comments that came up in the dialogue session, and elaborated on in the email discussion afterwards. These comments are general, abstract expressions, and personal thoughts that are not necessarily associated with the view of ICOMOS, IUCN or any other organisation.  

The objectives of this particular dialogue session were to:

  • Share information on the Connecting Practice project – its origins, aims and approach, and current status 
  • Share and discuss lessons learned to date from Connecting Practice project and individual World Heritage properties rich in naturecultures values
  • Discuss the implications of lessons learned for conservation practice today – and some of the important challenges remaining for naturecultures integration 
  • Discuss how to best share lessons learned more broadly and how best to encourage continued dialogue on naturecultures integration


Since 2013, ICOMOS and IUCN have been conducting ‘Connecting Practice’ – a joint project aimed at developing new methods and conservation strategies that recognize and sustain the interconnected character of the natural, cultural, and social values of World Heritage sites. A short-term goal of the project is to develop practical strategies for a more integrated conservation approach and to improve coordination and deepen collaboration between cultural and natural sectors to achieve better conservation outcomes. In the longer term, the more ambitious goal is to gain a deeper understanding of interconnections of culture and nature and influence shifts in the conceptual and practical approaches for values assessment, governance and management within the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and beyond. This approach is intended to “bridge the divide” that is often observed between natural and cultural heritage — overcoming the many unintended adverse outcomes that can result. This collaborative project is designed to learn from current practice by having interdisciplinary project teams work directly with staff and partners from World Heritage sites that illustrate the inter-linkage of cultural and natural heritage. In this dialogue session, four professionals will share their experience and lessons they learned from their involvement in the Connecting Practice project. They will also reflect on shifts in their own perspective and their observations on recent changes in conservation practice. We invite your participation in the dialogue on recent innovations in practice and reflections on lessons from your own experience with conservation of places rich in naturecultures values. We also invite your suggestions on ways in which the Connecting Practice project and lessons learnt might be shared with other members of the ISCCL and beyond. 

Link to Presentations by the four panellists, the reading material, and recording of the dialogue session:  HERE


1Alicia Cahn (AC)21Maureen Thibault (MT)
2Archer St Clair Harvey (AH)22Mary Laheen (ML)
3Ana Bajcura (AB)23Maya Ishizawa (MI) 
4Anna Gaynutdinova (AG)24Meetali Gupta (MG)
5Aurelie Fernandez (AF)25Monalisa Maharjan (MM)
6Bansal Suramya (BS)26Monica Luengo (ML) 
7Brent Mitchell (BM)27Natali Bolomey (NB)
8Brenda Barrett (BB)28Nancy Pollock Elwand (NPE)
9Carlo Ossola (CO) Panelist29Nora Mitchell (NM) Session Co-Organiser 
10Cira Szklowin (CS)30Nupur Prothi (NP) Panelist 
11Cari Goetchus (CG)31Patricia ODonnell (POD)
12Darwina Neal (DN)32Paul Jurcys (PJ)
13Gwenaelle Bourdin (GB) Panelist33Priyanka Singh (PS)
14Helen Wilson (HW)34Rohit Jigyasu (RJ)
15Jessica Brown (JB)35Sanaa Niar (SN)
16Je-Hun Ryu (JR)  36Steve Brown (SB) Moderator; Session Co-Organiser
17Kate Lim (KL)37Supitcha Sutthanonku (SS)
18Leticia Leitao (LL) Panelist38Tim Badman (TB) Respondent
19Kristal Buckley (KB) Respondent39Tomeu Deya (TD)
20Marike Franklin (MF) Dialogues Convenor40 


General comments on the session and Connecting Practice SB: This dialogue provided the opportunity to reflect on what has been learned from the Connecting Practice project; and to consider what has begun to change and where challenges remain and more effort is needed.  CS: I think that this project was admirably conceived, in the sense that it provides the basic conditions for a built-in process of interdisciplinary, multi-actor, system-based discussions that connect practices. This evolving process will eventually lead to a conceptual and operational integration of naturecultures and perhaps to institutional convergence.  The on-going results from the project, and future initiatives/actions, has the capacity to evolve, grow in complexity and embody an interactive framework.  Matching the conceptual, evaluation and conservation/management aspects involved in the naturecultures value integration. The change has begun. KB: Some wonderful points were made – and the materials that were uploaded in advance were really thoughtful. It’s a complete pleasure to join such well-organised and thoughtful discussions. The cause continues – but for me, it has been incredibly encouraging and inspiring to see this become a topic of more ‘mainstream’ discussion in ICOMOS SB, CS, KB
Education NPE: We divide culture and nature institutionally, in policy, governance, across disciplines, field, etc. It seems if we are to improve the divide, we need to change our approach in terms of education — I would be interested to know the panelists’ ideas on how we may change our educational approaches to accommodate a more integrated view of nature and culture.   RJ: Terminology from nature and culture sectors…Have you come across terms that are understood/defined differently in the two sectors…How did you reconcile these differences?TB: Yes agree with this Nancy Pollock Elwand’s though we need to challenge the “we” here since that term I think comes loaded with assumptions and part of the reality, at least in terms of international practice, is that many cultures, and most communities, don’t separate nature and culture (or even have words for the terms, but have played too little role in the discourse, and defining standards, methods etc.  One place to see an IUCN take on this is that we have an resolution from 2008… Recognition of the diversity of concepts and values of nature.It is also striking to me that indigenous peoples, and in particular indigenous youth, have been speaking out in the Convention on Biological Diversity on the importance of culturally appropriate education, considering how the transmission of traditional knowledge is inseparable from education in local and traditional languages.  We need to see conservation and education as inseparable.Regarding the broader point then I think changes in international courses could include a particular focus on integration in course syllabi for some of our key disciplines, and this would include both the inclusion of more anthropology in ecology courses, and more ecology in courses concerned with landscapes.  And I think all people who work internationally should be able to demonstrate some cross-cultural understanding of how different languages and cultures frame the people/nature/culture relationship … to push back on a discussion that is about diversity, but only happens in few languages, and especially in English.  Finding courses that are leading by example in this space and promoting them would be a practical thing to do, and something that ICOMOS and IUCN could team up on.  There are relations to build with UNESCO here too, in their education sector.MG: I personally don’t agree with targeting the ‘marginalised society’ (reference to NP’s comment in session). The exercise might work even with school kids in general. One of the Indian design studios has been doing it.NP: Thanks MG for your observation. Working with the marginalised communities was a mandate of the project. We just experimented and decided to work with children and youth instead of adults.CS: It seems to me that one of the worst problems of this institutional divide -resulting from an anachronic sectorial organizational and a correlating culture dealing with single aspects of the naturecultures reality-, is the generalized disregard of interactions and transversal links. I think that between this failing institutional state and educational approaches there is room to experiment/create new arrangement based on projects –like this ICOMOS/IUCN one, a replicable model for other complex domains- involving different professional disciplines around a complex task, building in time a common vocabulary (and hopefully an articulated set of approaches), by working together and in interactions with institutional and community actors.LL: Regarding NP’s question on how to change educational approaches to accommodate for a more integrated view of nature and culture, my first reaction is that this is a really large and complex question and we should be very careful of coming up with “simplistic solutions”. As argued by Yuval Noah Harari, in Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, “For 300 years the world has been dominated by humanism, which sanctifies the life, happiness and power of Homo sapiens”.  In my view, we are talking about ways of thinking and organizing societies that have evolved over centuries and this will be very difficult to change. Tim (TB) rightly mentions that certain cultures do not separate humans from nature. However, in my opinion the prevalent “world view” is one where humans don’t think of themselves as one species among many but as a superior species, which controls nature. Whether we like it or not, more and more we live in an interconnected world, where different cultural groups are blending into a single global civilization.   To grasp the disconnect between this way of thinking from that of a cultural group that perceives humans as part of nature, I invite you to have a look at Alessandro Pignocchi’s book called “Petit traité d’ecologie sauvage”. I have it in French and I am not sure if it exists in other languages.   On a more positive note, and a concrete example on changing the educational approach, I suggest you read the article from the Guardian’s columnist George Monbiot’s on “Coronavirus show us it’s time to rethink everything. Let’s start with education”, RJ, TB, CS, LL, MG, NP
Natural and cultural values that are in continues flux RJ: How do we understand natural and cultural values in continuous flux…always evolving and changing? We may understand them, how they existed in the past…but the interrelationships have changed in the present context….and they are going to further change in the future. Reconciling this change/evolution is a challenge especially in the light of exponential climate change.TB: Yes, fully agree. We need to understand exactly this point.  It is axiomatic for nature conservation approaches since ecosystems are always changing.  But we need to be better at really understanding past change, time depth in landscapes and including the timescales, cycles and the socio-economic interactions and legacies.  Contested histories, past injustice, long term impacts of colonialism, national and community narratives, and migration all intersect in this space in ways that can be fundamental in moving to just and inclusive conservation practice.  There are also tools and methods that we can share and learn from here … the impact assessment is all about this, climate is a hugely important focus with both the combination of new science and local knowledge, plus methods like “Limits of Acceptable Change”.CS: Auto organized systems permanently change to adapt to, and evolve with their contexts, while at the same time, maintaining the basic set of interrelationships related to its core identity. I agree that the challenge for us is how to understand the core interdependent values, and dynamic thresholds to configure a naturecultures system adaptive capacity for conservation.LL: I agree with RJ’s views as well as with TB’s point that we need to be better at understanding past change. But I also think that we first need to acknowledge past change, that is, that heritage (natural or cultural) is the result of cumulative layers of change and evolution over time and that it is normal that natural things will continue to change. That said, it is critical to understand the speed and the scale of that change and when the effects of that change will be felt. This is particularly important in relation to climate change because the effects of actions taken decades ago will only be felt fully decades from now. In systems thinking these are called delays.  There are both perceptions delays (identifying and recognizing the effects) and response delays (actually act on it and starting to see the results of the responses) … while in the meantime the system might have changed again and the responses might be insufficient or inadequate!    RJ, TB, CS, LL
Systems ThinkingPOD: Carlos mentioned systems drawn from ecological work. Leticia noted in her video about systems as arising all at once, not sequentially and recognizing these as a “eureka” in connecting practices. Any comments?   TB:  I think Leticia’s paper brilliantly makes this point, and the intersecting points regarding interdisciplinary approaches, and RJ’s above point is also connected … plus also the point we got to in the seminar that we need to bring a levelling of specialists and communities (viz science and traditional knowledge, viz empowering locally led solutions ahead of top-down thinking, viz empowering diversity in conservation…  The challenge here is to find ways of working that can recognise systems thinking, without getting paralysed by rational-comprehensives, or by finding that we talk the talk about systems, but leave out the human and social dimensions because of lack of inclusion, or because we have gaps in data or approaches that favour quantitative science.  I think the dialogue pointed to several ways that Connecting Practice is finding solutions in practice to this question.TD: Stakeholders should be on the decision-making site board and not just in participative groups as consultants.CS: A system can arise/emerge as a new one when it is pushed over the limits of its existential context, or when it reaches a basic auto organized state.  Also, the meaning of an image or the perception of a visual landscape is grasped in a sudden and interconnected way, as opposed to the sequential eliciting of the meaning of a text. And Patricia’s interpretation (“eureka”) of Leticia expression (“arising all at once”) is also an attribute of a complex, multilevel, nonlinear system.AB: When the systems as arising all at once, the connection is to connect with our inside, with all the senses and feelings at the same time: touch, smell, sights, sounds, temperature. Because “nature” is so complex and amazing and will always surprise us. When it succeeds all at the same time, we have a real connection with all our world. After this Session, and reading/watching the presentations again, it allowed me some thoughts:We work In nature and not with nature. Because In means inside, wrapped in it, that “nature” is bigger than us … for us to be inside nature.If we work “with” Nature, it is like we work with another person … at the same level. We can share with them at the same level, in the sense of taking it, being on par. The rules are those of nature, not of what we want. I think when the authorities can understand and recognise this difference, this world begin to be better.BS: Self-reflexivity and ground-truthing will definitely make a huge difference in realizing and understanding inherent and localised wisdom and knowledge.TB: Totally agree with this point, change needs both a large reflection, but roots in diverse local realities.POD, TB, CS, AB, BS

Lessons learnt and Phase 4  SB: I understand that there is funding available for Connecting Practice Stage 4. If so, it would be great to know what the objectives of Stage 4 will be. Gwenaelle and Leticia – do you know what these are, please?I also have a broader question for the group, especially those not familiar with the Connecting Practice project. What do you think are the best ways to share the lessons learned from Connecting Practice? At present this is done through publishing reports on the ICOMOS and IUCN websites; through presentations at conferences; and through publications. What other ways could be used to share with broader audiences the lessons learned?MF: Do you think looking at an integrated management plan is a good starting point in sharing an outcome of the connecting practice project? Seeing a tangible product which encapsulates the lessons learnt on a particular site would certainly be interesting to look at. From the Connecting Practice chapter as part of the reading (Leiticia et al; 2019 p 6) on the Drakensberg Case Study in South Africa:Being part of the Connecting Practice offered park management a unique opportunity to realise a need to develop one all-encompassing and ‘genuine’ Integrated Management Plan for the Park which will allocate equal significance and equal status to both the natural and cultural values of the Park.Has this Integrated Management Plan been done already? If so, perhaps that’s a good one to share with the group? LL: Regarding the question on the integrated management plan for Maloti-Drakensberg, I would expect the plan to have been completed by now and even started to be implemented, since I saw a draft of it almost two years ago. That said, I would be careful on promoting it as an example (as I am each time that people ask me for good examples of management plans!). To me, more than the content of the management plan, what was important was the will to come up with an “encompassing” plan because it was a first step (and major step) to bridge existing institutional divides. It meant that two different institutions agreed to work together in a planned organized way with shared objectives. 

Circulated pre-reading: 

Recommended reading: 

Buckley, Kristal, Gwenaëlle Bourdin, Maureen Thibault, Leanna Wigboldus, Luisa DeMarco, and Tim Badman. “Connecting Practice: operationalizing concepts and strategies for integrating nature and cultural heritage in the World Heritage Convention”. In N. Mitchell, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the US/ICOMOS International Symposium Forward Together: A Culture-NatureJourney Toward More Effective Conservation in a Changing World, 13-14November 2018, The Presidio, San Francisco, California, 2019. (Attached as a pdf)

Leitão, Leticia, LeannaWigboldus, GwenaëlleBourdin, Tim Badman, Zsuzsa Tolnay, and Oscar Mthimkhulu. “ConnectingPractice: Defining new methods and strategies to further integrate natural and cultural heritage under the World Heritage Convention.” In Bas Verschuuren and Steve Brown (Eds.)Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature in Protected Areas,Governance, Management and Policy, 151-163.London and New York:Routledge, 2019. (Attached as a pdf)

Further reading: 

For an overview of the three phases of Connecting Practice project, see the attached pdf and presentation on the Connecting Practice project, given by Maureen Thibault of the ICOMOSInternational Secretariat at the CultureNature Journey Webinar organized by the ICOMOS EPWG (Emerging Professionals Working Group) on 16 May 2020. Please refer to minutes 18:45-51:17 for Maureen’s presentation.

Leitão,Leticia, Gwenaëlle Bourdin, Tim Badman, and Leanna Wigboldus. Connecting Practice Phase II: Final Report. ICOMOS/IUCN, 2017. (available in English, French and Chinese), see

This meeting: Connecting Practice

Nupur Prothi Khanna, Leticia Leitao, Carlo Ossola, and Gwaenelle Bourdin 

29 June 2020 8PM GMT

The next meeting: Integrative Approaches to Nature and Culture in Rural Landscapes

Mary Laheen, Brenda Barrett, and Jessica Brown

27 July 2020 1 PM GMT


US Public Lands: Where to Now?

By Brenda Barrett August 3, 2020

The government of the United States of America owns about 640 million acres of land or about 28% of the total land mass of the country. This is our great legacy of public lands. However, especially for those who do not live among them, these lands are subject to many misconceptions.  For example, I am always surprised that even my graduate students think that most public lands are National Parks when actually they are only 3.7 percent of the country.  Many people do not know the difference between the Forest Service and the Park Service. They think that all National Monuments are National Parks. They have never even heard of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), let alone its multiple use mission. No wonder getting everyone’s attention on the issues facing public lands is so hard. 

Want to learn more? REI, the recreational equipment company, has developed a handy, dandy guide to understanding public lands.  

Courtesy of USGS

Once you grasp the scope of the public landscape, then those interested in landscape conservation might want to wade into the weeds of what is really happening on our public lands. As we head towards the 2020 elections, this is very important and here are just a few issues we need to keep an eye on.

Some good news

Caring for our public lands takes money and, over the past decades, there has been systematic disinvestment in maintenance and improvements of our public resources. However, with the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, there is finally some good news. For the first time, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will be permanently funded at $900 million annually. The act also established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund and provides dedicated funding to address the deferred maintenance at the National Park Service and for other public lands such as the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Specifically,  it would queue up $6.5 billion for the National Park Service to use in tackling backlogged maintenance work.

How will the money be distributed across the 419 units of the National Park System? Well, according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Yosemite National Park alone had roughly $645 million in backlogged maintenance at the end of FY18, Yellowstone’s tally was $585.5 million, and the National Mall and Memorial Parks had nearly $655 million. Those three units could use the first $1.5 billion installment. That does not even count the staggering cost to rebuild parkways, roads and bridges throughout the National Park System. So, the money will go fast, but, all in all, this is very good news.

Not So Good News

The current administration has been pushing energy development through an aggressive leasing program particularly for oil and gas on public lands usually under the control of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This action will, in effect, will lock up these lands for one use – energy extraction- for often ten or more years. It also will have an adverse effect on the cultural and natural resources on BLM lands as well as on the landscape of adjacent national parks. Just one example, in the fall of 2020, the BLM plans to offer 110,000 acres for lease adjacent to Canyonlands National Park in Utah. For more information listen to the National Park Traveler’s interview with Erika Pollard staff at the National Parks Conservation Association.

Courtesy NPCA

One of the most controversial actions of the administration has been the reduction of the boundaries of our national monuments.  Two of the national monuments, in particular Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in southern Utah were reduced by nearly two million acres. Lands rich in archaeological, paleontological, cultural, and natural significance are now open to open to uranium mining, oil and gas drilling, road construction, and the use of mechanized vehicles. In February 2020, BLM finalized plans to open lands formerly in the two monuments to oil and gas leasing. 

The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is that public lands are under greater threat than ever and the next six months will be crtical. 

Where to Now?

Now is the time that many who care about our public lands and landscape scale work are thinking about transition. What might the next four years look like. Depending on the outcome of the national elections, it may be more of the above. Or if there is a change in leadership, what are a few ideas for the future?

Reform the system of oil and gas leasing – The Oil and Gas leasing system on public lands is one hundred years old and needs to rethought.  Legislation has already been introduced to require the BLM to issue all oil and gas leases through competitive auction, ending inefficient noncompetitive leasing. These leases are commonly purchased by speculators and tie up public lands for up to 10 years. In addition, safeguards should be put in place to prevent leasing around National Parks and other heritage sites. Action on these issues and more is needed

Roll back bad decisions – Some candidates include the boundary reductions for National Monuments and National Marine Reserves, the changes to the National Environmental Policy Act that reduce transparency and public involvement, and the many policy decisions that reduce protection for endangered species and their habitat. And of course, adopting adequate budgets. The National Park Service will not be able to tackle needed maintenance and repairs without the staff to do the work.  While this sounds straight forward, it is a big lift.

Partner with State Conservation Agencies – Over the past four years former landscape scale initiatives at the Federal level like the Collaborative Conservation approach and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives have been abandoned and defunded. However, many states have continued some form of landscape scale work. In addition, states will now be benefitting from significantly more money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. National conservation efforts should reach out to states as full partners and recognize their important role.

Focus on equity and inclusion – As the country grapples with the difficult issues of race and class, so too has the conservation movement. Conversations are happening all over the country and there are no easy answers. One step in the right direction is the work of the Network for Landscape Conservation’s Catalysts Fund, which reserves some of its funds for indigenous led conservation partnerships. Also, being proposed are ideas for pandemic recovery efforts such as investing in green infrastructure in disadvantaged communities and workforce development.

In August 2016, the Living Landscape Observer published an article titled Landscape Conservation the Next Four Years. It has been interesting to look back on its predictions. One of which stated that “The greatest divergence between the two parties (Democrats and Republicans) is the protection of public lands.” It went on to say, “it is a fair to read the Republican platform as saying that public lands might receive a lot less protection.” This has turned out to be true. Let’s see if we can do a better job in the next four years. 


Interview with Dr. Marcy Rockman

By Eleanor Mahoney July 2, 2020

Dr. Marcy Rockman is an archaeologist with experience in national and international climate change policy. Her research focus is how humans gather and share environmental information, especially during colonization and migration, and she’s used this to address situations as diverse as cultural resource management in the American West and homeland security risk communication in Washington, DC. From 2011-2018 she served as the US National Park Service (NPS) Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator for Cultural Resources. She is now working with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) as Scientific Coordinator for a project to improve incorporation of heritage in reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She also works with the non-profit Co-Equal in Washington, DC to provide climate change research for the U.S. Congress. Dr. Rockman holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona, and B.Sc. in Geology from the College of William and Mary.

LLO: What is the ICOMOS Climate Change and Heritage Working Group?

MR: Briefly as background, ICOMOS is the International Council on Monuments and Sites. It was founded in 1966 for the purpose of fostering and coordinating heritage conservation and preservation around the world. It is headquartered in Paris and now includes national chapters in 107 countries, these are known as national committees. It also has 28 International Scientific Committees and six International Working Groups.

ICOMOS established the Climate Change and Heritage Working Group in 2017 in order connect all of these different parts of ICOMOS with action on climate change that is most relevant for them, and more broadly mobilizing the global heritage community for action on climate change. Projects of the CCHWG includes (but are not limited to):

  • piloting methods for documenting World Heritage sites at risk from climate impacts such as through 3D laser scanning and making digital site models publicly available;
  • publication of Future of Our Pasts report, which is a major outline for the global climate and heritage communities that shows how cultural heritage aligns with major areas of action under the Paris Agreement;
  • and working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to improve integration of information from and about cultural heritage in future IPCC reports.

LLO What role can heritage play in adapting to and addressing climate change and How does cultural heritage preservation intersect with the goals laid out by the Paris Agreement?

MR: I’m going to answer these two questions together.

My starting point is that there is a two-fold connection between cultural heritage and climate change: heritage is affected by climate change and it also holds information and other capacities that are essential to addressing climate change.

When I worked at the National Park Service, climate change work was organized into four primary areas or pillars: science, adaptation, mitigation, and communication. Those two connections of cultural heritage to climate change (impact and information) apply across all four of these areas. I’m used to showing this as a big chart with four main sections, and with each section divided into two columns (one for impacts and the other information), but let me see if I can explain this in words. What this chart would show is:

First section is for science – there are scientific approaches to studying the impacts of climate on heritage, such as effects of drought or more intense rainfall. And adjacent to that, there are also ways of using information from and about heritage places to help inform climate science, such as paleoenvironmental information from bones or shell or landscape change from placement of sites or buildings.

Second section is for adaptation – there are steps to take to adapt management of heritage to climate change, such as monitoring for new or increased environmental stresses or taking steps to make heritage places more resistant or resilient to these environmental stresses, such as elevating buildings, stepping up maintenance, putting in flood protections, and ensuring the site is well documented and has disaster management plans. And adjacent to this, there are ways of learning from heritage about all the ways in which human societies have responded to environmental challenges through time. Key for this section is being able to ask ourselves- what do we see or expect as a successful response? How do we recognize stress?

Third section is for mitigation – there are many actions to take to ensure that the historic built environment and landscapes are part of changes in energy efficiency and transition to renewables. For example, as Carl Elefante has so eloquently said, the greenest building so often is the one that already exists, so making best use of buildings we already have is important for reducing emissions from construction. And next to this, there are ways to be inspired to create new approaches to contemporary mitigation through traditional lower carbon methods of land use and architecture.

Fourth section is for communication – there are diverse ways of building trainings and networks to share information and link together practitioners, communities, researchers around issues in science, adaptation, and mitigation for heritage in relation to climate change. And next to this – perhaps most profoundly, there is the process of developing stories and new understandings of ourselves and the present time from heritage that can shape, inform, and inspire action in all areas of climate change.

While these descriptions aren’t exhaustive, I hope they give you a sense of the range and scope of connections between cultural heritage and climate change.

As it turned out, the Paris Agreement also sets out four main areas of work: Mitigation, Adaptation, Loss and Damage, and High Ambition. High Ambition may be the most unfamiliar term here; it means generating the social and political will and scientific power to meet and exceed the targets of the Paris Agreement.

Having set out the eight areas of connection between cultural heritage and climate change above, it doesn’t take much more work to align all of them to the Paris Agreement goals. First, shift some of the networking aspects of communication to adaptation, and some of the capacity to learn from heritage from science and adaptation to communication. Then, keep the labels Mitigation and Adaptation the same, and change the science section to Loss and Damage and communication section to High Ambition. And that’s it!

What this final alignment shows is – heritage must be part of what the world considers as being lost and damaged by climate change. Under the 2013 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Warsaw Mechanism for Loss and Damage due to Climate Change, it already is. But it’s important for the heritage community to continue to explore and explain what this means and how such loss and damage, which is not solely economic, may be addressed. As described, heritage has roles to play in adaptation and mitigation. And what I think may be most important, through the stories and creativity heritage holds, it has roles to play in inspiring increased commitments to address climate change, from the community to global scale.

LLO: How do you think climate change will most affect the management of heritage sites? Are any institutions, sites, or countries doing especially well at planning for these impacts already?

MR: I’d like to morph this question a bit to include intersections of Black Lives Matter, climate, and management of heritage sites.

From a practical physical climate standpoint, management of heritage sites will need to recognize that many environmental stresses any given site is already experiencing are likely to continue, but more so. Climate change is bringing changes like greater swings in temperature and more intense rainfall (and sometimes that more intense rainfall comes after more intense drought). New environmental stresses are likely to show up, such as changes in wind patterns and invasive species, longer droughts. Maintenance and ecosystem health have always been important, but they’re even more important now. Damage patterns from events such as Superstorm Sandy show that sites that are in good repair are more likely to survive shocks than sites that are already struggling. Repairing roofs, cleaning gutters, and keeping healthy soils don’t sound sexy, but in a changing climate they are more important than ever.

It is also important for site managers to keep eyes out for what is changing. Each heritage site is unique and how climate change is affecting or will affect it can be hard to predict. So I think careful and thoughtful watching is a crucial part of our toolkit. As is the recognition that we won’t be able to save everything. We never have been able to. So it is important for site management to have firmly in mind: what is most important here? What stories have we been telling here? What stories have not been told but could be? What is essential to conveying the significance of the site and the full range of stories it has to tell?

This is where I confess that for most of my time working on climate change and heritage, I had only looked at its connections to race and justice through the impacts side of climate work (see response to questions 2-3 above). Certainly places significant to Black communities and other communities of color will be affected by climate change, and as these communities are likely to be more vulnerable and in more climate-vulnerable locations, so too will be many elements of their heritage. And absolutely these communities should have key roles in decisions about adaptation and management of these places. But I had not looked closely at connections between climate, heritage, and race from the information side. Now, I see the connections so blazingly clearly. I want and hope for all of us to see them.

One aspect of climate change that I think does not get nearly enough attention either in the broader climate science and policy realms or in the heritage community is that climate change itself has a history. While the temperature targets of the Paris Agreement are phrased as limits of 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, we don’t seem to like to talk about what has lead to our current industrial levels. They didn’t suddenly manifest when we began to measure carbon dioxide levels in the 1950s; rather, they are the outcomes of centuries of intertwined technological, economic, political, intellectual, philosophical, and cultural trends.

In my research on how humans learn unfamiliar landscapes, I’ve looked closely at the English settlement at Jamestown in the early 17th century. Jamestown wasn’t founded on ideas of religious freedom like the slightly later Plymouth colony. Jamestown was founded because investors in London thought they could make a profit from it. And the reason they thought they could make a profit was because of what they thought they understood about the North American climate. They expected the climate at Jamestown to be similar to Spain, which is at about the same latitude, and so it would produce similar ranges of products. This was not the case. While there is much more detail that could be added, the outcome of this was that it was a group of men dependent on continued investment based on a misunderstanding of climate who formed the representative government in 1619 that has ultimately lead to our current government. 1619 is also the year the first slave ships arrived in North America from Africa; indeed, at least some of those first enslaved people were brought to Jamestown.

I’m not the first person to make this connection, and I apologize I don’t have the reference for the person I recently heard it from— the perspective that the environment is foremost a commodity is the same perspective that can set a person as a commodity. And the social and political approaches that come from that that see it as acceptable to sacrifice portions of the environment, whole species, and the atmosphere for the sake of the economy are the approaches that also set it as acceptable to sacrifice the humanity of whole sections of our society for the sake of the economy. As we’re now seeing in the Black Lives Matter protests, we are not going to be able to deal well with systemic racism until we recognize its deep history. And I think the same is true for the history of climate change.

To come back to your original question, what does this mean site management? When I was with the NPS, I set up a project called “Every Place has a Climate Story.” This project set out four themes (change in the material world, change in life ways and experiences, insights from the past, and origins of modern climate change) and a scientific storytelling method that were designed to help park rangers connect heritage, climate, and place in any park. I maintain this is true, including for heritage sites that are not in parks! While I originally designed this project to support interpretation, I think this can also be a useful tool for site managers to work through the elements of their sites that are most important for conveying their stories and, in so doing, identify the ones that should be prioritized for climate vulnerability assessment, careful watching, and adaptation.

In terms of examples of colleagues doing this well, I can’t say enough good things about SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion,, out of the University of St. Andrews. They have been and are doing innovative and essential work with communities to hold conversations about values of and for local heritage and what techniques are most preferred to address climate impacts on local heritage, and then take action with those techniques. The Florida Public Archaeology Network is also running citizen science programs for heritage affected by climate change is working to bring some of the SCAPE-format discussions to the US. In another approach, the Smithsonian and ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) both run rigorous courses in first aid for heritage sites in times of crisis, which is also valuable training.

LLO: Can you point those interested in learning more on this topic to key resources or reports?

MR: I’m pleased to say this literature is growing, but it’s still not nearly enough. ICOMOS is working on a major bibliography of resources, so for the moment I’ll mention just a few.

First the ICOMOS Future of Our Pasts: Engaging cultural heritage in climate action report(2019) is a valuable resource for major linkages between heritage and the Paris Agreement.

This feels like shameless self-promotion, but I need to mention the NPS Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy(2016) as it was designed for site managers and has some practical approaches for assessing vulnerability, thinking through adaptation options, and some approaches for site interpretation too. It also includes a major multi-page chart of climate impacts by type of cultural heritage (archaeology, landscapes, buildings, ethnographic resources, and museum collections). It is available online here:

I’ll also recommend websites of Historic Environment Scotland and Historic England as they have published several major reports, guidance documents, and action plans on climate and heritage.

And finally, I pull Public Archaeology and Climate Change (2017), edited by Tom Dawson, Courtney Nimura, Elías López-Romero, and Marie-Yvane Daire, off my shelf regularly for inspiration in approaches for climate heritage interpretation and communication.


World Rural Landscapes Principles: Communicating and transmitting the heritage and Values of Rural Landscapes

By Jane Lennon June 28, 2020
Bring Back the Bush

In this final issue on these principles, we consider the essential need to communicate with the general public about the principles showing how heritage values in rural landscapes have been identified and protected through collaborative planning, research and action on the ground with all the stakeholders involved.

Transmitting historical information through archival, academic and local history research is a basis together with scientific studies by many disciplines and informed, observant local knowledge. State government departments of agriculture are working with farmers and academics to test new methods of using the land from soil moisture measurements to new varieties of cops to withstand the drying climate effects. Field days and country radio provide much information and meetings of like-minded farmers sharing information are key events on rural social calendars. 

Community tree planting along the Bellarine Rail Trail Credit: Jane Lennon
D. 1. Communicate awareness of the heritage values of rural landscapes through collaborative participatory actionssuch as shared learning, education, capacity building, heritage interpretation and research activities…that involve civil society, private organizations, public authorities, and amongst both urban and rural inhabitants.

 Case Study: Bellarine Rail Trail The Bellarine Rail Trail in Victoria contains patches of remnant vegetation with rare flora species, but that diversity is under threat from weed invasion. With over 5,000 kms of rail corridors across Victoria, VicTrack supports Landcare to maximize their on-ground conservation activity by sponsoring Landcare’s Grassroots Program, which protects and restores native grasslands in and around the railway corridors. Many of these corridors are unused now and have heritage values. A partnership between Bellarine Catchment Network, VicTrack and Landcare is removing weeds allowing the natural regeneration of native species. Community and school engagement have been a key to the success of this project replanting degraded areas with native species including seedlings from the endangered vegetation community ‘Coastal Moonah Woodland.’
Bellarine Rail Trail Credit: Jane Lennon

D. 3. Support shared learning, training, and research using diverse tools, approaches and cultural practices involving stakeholders, such as local communities, heritage specialists, professionals of various disciplines, schools and universities, and the media.

Field Day in Western Australia demonstrating new soil protection techniques. Credit: Jane Lennon

Landcare has been an enthusiastic promoter of field days to apply practically research as shown in many of the above case studies. Tree planting techniques are taught on site especially on community days involving people of all ages and backgrounds. Australian national television has a high rating weekly program called Landline. Each State has a weekly rural newspaper covering weather conditions, events, sales, and applied research into animal husbandry, cropping, soil protection, new techniques and applications. There is no shortage of academic and popular information, but the challenge is changing habits and mindsets about the compatibility of farming and conservation in a rapidly changing world of climate variability, fuel sources, market prospects, new crops and a social licence to farm.

Bring Back the Bush – Young Scholars at work! Credit Jane Lennon

Naturecultures Dialogues: The theory of naturecultures integration

By Guest Observer June 28, 2020

Session 7 with Je-Hun Ryu and Fran Han

In our new series of naturecultures sessions that runs from May to September 2020, we followed a different format than before. Presentations are pre-circulated, leaving most of the dialogue session open for active discussion. In this particular session we had two separate presentations circulated under the theme Theory of Naturecultures Integration. The abstract, and link for each of these presentations are included below. 

As opening to the discussion Maya summarised the two presentations as follows: In both presentations, Je-Hun and Fran point at the problem of using the concept behind World Heritage “cultural landscape” in Korea and China respectively, because it follows a modern Western-European idea of nature, as separate from culture. They both explained the historical background in their own contexts of an undivided nature-culture paradigm, and where humans are understood as part of the natural world. Je-Hun points at a regional particularity of understanding landscapes in Asia, while Fran focuses on the environmental ethics as applied in a Chinese context. She recalls the Confucionist and Taoist philosophies which are complementary and underpin Chinese peoples’ relationship and interactions with the non-human. As opening question, Maya asked Je-Hun and Fran to share how they confront this Western naturecultures divide in their own work. When approaching it from a different cultural and philosophical background, how they reconcile these two worlds in their discourse and practice.

Abstract by Je-Hun Ryu: 

Bridging nature-culture dualisms in the conservation circles: A Perspective from cultural landscape 

Since 1992, those landscapes, which were thought to have outstanding universal values in terms of interaction between people and their natural environment, have been protected as World Heritage Cultural Landscapes. However, even if the term cultural landscape is now widely circulated internationally, its use in Asia still presents problems. There is a need to look closely at regional values and their inextricable connection to the continuing process of landscape creation in Asia. I will review “the rise of cultural landscape” as a means of bridging the nature-culture dualism in the conservation circle, while drawing an example from my research experience in an area called Wando Archipelago in Korea. Then, to conclude, I will propose several theoretical issues to be considered in recognizing and protecting the values of cultural landscapes within the Asian context. Theoretical issues to be proposed for our discussion are like the following: cultural ecology, environmental aesthetics, landscape as a way of seeing, and landscape phenomenology. 

Link to Presentation HERE

Abstract by Fran Han:

Cross-cultural confusion

The presentation aims to explore the root of the debates in the field culture-nature related conservation from environmental philosophical perspective. Five value-based central questions of environmental philosophy are interpreted and the philosophical and religious root of the dichotomy of culture and nature in the West are explored.  The Chinese traditional philosophy of Oneness with Nature provides an eastern perspective of culture-nature relationship and to understand the human-nature intertwined Chinese landscapes. The presentation calls for the awareness and understanding of the intrinsic and instrumental value of nature, and learning from each other through multi-cultural dialogue in naturecultures journey. 

Link to Presentation HERE


1Alicia Cahn (AC)13Ken Taylor (KT)
2Ana Bajcura (AB)14Leticia Leitao (LL)
3Brenda Barrett (BB)15Marike Franklin (MF) Dialogues Convenor
4Carlo Ossola (CO)16Mary Laheen (ML)
5Cira Szklowin (CS)17Maya Ishizawa (MI) Moderator
6Fran Han (FH) Co-chair and Presenter18Nora Mitchell (NM) 
7Gabriel Caballero (GC)19Nupur Prothi (NP) Co-Chair
8Greg de Vries (GdV)20Patricia ODonnell (POD)
9Jane Lennon (JL) 21Steve Brown (SB) Co-chair
10Jessica Brown (JB)22Tim Badman (TB)
11Je-Hun Ryu (JR) Presenter23Tomeu Deya (TD)
12Jon Weller (JW)  


Naturecultures integration/separation?  SB: Fascinating point that ‘interaction between nature and culture’ is predicated on the belief or philosophy that these things are separate in the first place. SB: I was fascinated in the discussion by the challenges to come to grips in all parts of the world with the need to understand what is meant by ‘interaction’ between people and the environment – as the basis for understanding the idea of cultural landscape. As I said in a ‘Chat’ comment, ‘interaction’ necessary presupposes that there are pre-existing separate entities (in this case of cultural landscapes, these entities are nature and culture). So, no wonder it is problematic in China and Korea to apply the notion of ‘interaction between nature and culture’ if, in these countries, these constructs are not viewed as separate. In my writing and thinking on naturecultures, I have promoted the idea of ‘intra-action’. Thus, while INTERACTION assumes that nature and culture are separate domains or ‘silos’ and agencies that precede their interaction; by contrast, INTRA-ACTION (or entanglement) recognises that distinct agencies do not proceed, but rather emerge through, their intra-action (i.e., naturecultures) (cf. Barad 2007, p.33)[1]. In other words, nature and culture are not separate or even linked domains, but rather they are mutually constituted; and nature culture have always evolved one with the other in ways that are so intertwined as to be impossible to meaningfully disassociate. I think the idea of intra-action may make more sense in conceptualising cultural landscapes in different cultural contexts.     A second point I would make is that the nature / culture separation is often framed as a Western construct, which it is. However, within the Western world this thinking or practice is not universal; and particularly in local contexts. Fabrizio Frascaroli and Thora Fjeldsted (2019) have a great chapter in this regard – looking at traditions of agriculture, animal husbandry, and craftsmanship in mountainous areas in Italy, where Christianity and spirituality are mingled with local folk beliefs and pre-Christian heritage. That is, the ‘spiritual values of nature’ are expressed in material practices and rituals by ‘local and rural communities – even those living in apparently modernised, Western settings’. I am sure many of us can think of and have observed other such examples. LL: What If we don’t always think of cultural landscapes as a symbiotic or harmonious relationship between humans and nature but as destructive? We have recognised many cultural landscapes in the World Heritage list, such as mining landscapes, that are actually the result of the destruction of the nature over the years.SB, LL
Different categories for the inscription of properties on the World Heritage list? PoD: For Korea – How is JeJu inscribed? As a Mixed Property? We might say that it is an inscribed cultural landscape. FH: Do you see the Chinese Scenic and Historic Scene Interest Areas as always equivalent to the WH construct of cultural landscapes? FH: Now in China many cultural landscapes are from ordinary landscape (rural landscapes…) GC: From my understanding, the classifications are sometimes also a practical question of challenges on inscription in world heritage. For some countries it is depending on what is easier to submit. The focus of a cultural landscape (mainly following the cultural criteria, with natural values) vs natural heritage (with some cultural values) are evaluated and written differently by the stakeholders who craft the message. JB: These examples you are citing (JR) might be categorized as IUCN Category V? Or consistent with this. Note that the definition of IUCN Category V- Protected Landscapes and Seascapes- includes specifically this element of interaction. An area of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the interaction of people and nature over time has produce dan area of distinct character with significant aesthetic, ecological and/or cultural value, and often with high biological diversity.Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional interaction is vital to the protection and evolution of such area.  JL: Australia was a major player in getting the 1992 change to criteria which introduced the cultural landscape categories. We had recognised by then, despite our colonial eyes, that as for Indigenous people there is no separation of nature and culture and the land is a living entity – it is them. So, our landscapes are deeply entangled and the Aboriginal English word is ‘country’ which signifies all this. This concept has been appropriated by government programs such as Caring for Country[2] and it helps us all here to do away with artificial boundaries, except for the legal titles of land as in private or public reserves.
    The spiritual value of nature through European immigrants agricultural and horticultural practice in colonial lands is another avenue of research in intangible heritage in South Australia, as is the Aboriginal-European interaction and adoption of each other’s practice in colonial Tasmania in the first two decades of 19th century with a kangaroo economy[3].     With the current lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic many urban people are longing to connect with nature -at least in wide open spaces and parks.
‘Western’ naturecultures Dualism SB: Important point about ‘high culture’. This is the situation in the Western naturecultures dualism. Things can be very different at local community levels.  BB: Agree with SB, so the struggles we have in wrapping our arms around the concept and management of rural landscape is so important.  ML: I feel that the question of dualism and non-dualism in our approach to cultural landscape is so much at the core of our work and our thinking, that it is a discussion which will permeate our discussions as we go forward into the summer with these on-line sessions. I appreciated hearing about the philosophical underpinnings of non-dualism in the approach of China and Korea to Nature-Culture. The concept of ‘cultural landscape’ may be a Western concept, but it is also true to say that ‘the West’ in this regard wears a multi-coloured coat, and there is diversity in the culture of the West with regard to Nature, which Steve and others have already touched on. Perhaps it would be true to say that Genesis and Descartes are at one end of the spectrum, and there are many calibrations in-between. I think of Shakespeare’s – Mid-Summer Night’s Dream – in which the spirits and the humans, the flowers, and the Moon herself seem to speak in a multiplicity of voices that are at the same time one voice, in a circular swirling motion that transports us from nightfall to morning. Or, St, Francis of Assisi who sang to the birds and wrote the Canticle of the Sun.      While 13th century Italy and Elizabethan England were at the heart of the European cultural world of their times, here in Ireland in those centuries we were at the edge of the world. The Celtic hegemony, which had once held throughout most of Europe, had continued in Ireland for more than a thousand years after it had been overcome elsewhere by the invading Romans. Consequently, and especially, when we look at our landscape, we see traces of the Druidic and Celtic culture that responded to Nature in a somewhat different way to the Classical World. It is a landscape that even today is ‘replete with field monuments’ from the Celtic past, and manifests a land division system devised, probably in the early Medieval period and perhaps before. Of course, the landscape also shows traces of the years of colonisation and more recently, modernisation, and therefore changing attitudes to the Nature-Culture amalgam. I suppose that as we work with landscape, we begin to realise that as Steve says nature and culture “are mutually constituted; and nature / culture have always evolved one with the other in ways that are so intertwined as to be impossible to meaningfully disassociate”     Here, in my study of Irish rural landscapes I have found the work of the Australians, learning from indigenous peoples and their relationship to ‘country’ which JL references, very helpful. That is not to say that Irish farmers and rural dwellers have the same relationship to the landscape as the Aboriginal people of Australia, but, neither are they Descartes! They live to a large extent with and from the land, and their relationship to it is different from city-dwellers like myself who come to write and think about it! I’m working with this now as I look at a rural landscape of upland hill farmers, which I hope to share with you later in the summer. POD: Thanks for your well stated and interesting commentary from an Ireland viewpoint with a complex Celtic, Druidic history. I find it interesting as well because my viewpoint is both urban and rural- city born, rural dwelling and land based. KT: I was hoping to offer some comments on country and culture and landscape and culture and that landscape is about people and ideologies, not things. SB, BB, ML, PoD, KT
Language and perspective CO: It would be interesting to know better the linguistic and translations of the term cultural landscapes. Even in European languages we have very different terms, that leads to incomprehension.  NP: On the point about language – There are different understandings for the word ‘cultural’ and ‘landscape’ in Eastern (Asia-pacific) and Western cultures. In Asia there is confusion about what Cultural Landscape really means (Han 2018, p70). Not being able to express a lot of the thinking, terminology and values that goes into our cultures, in many cultures it is complicated on a colonial layer as well. Here we have another layer to contend with, where we have to start thinking about nature about beauty. NP: What we see in practice because of our education is not what someone else sees stakeholder/community/dweller. A lot of times we see chaos, dirt and filth and they see something else. That has always been difficult- how do we learn from them.  MF: I was reminded of Tension 2 Observation/Habitation in the introductory section of John Wylie’s (2007) book: Landscape on page 4-6.  What also came to mind was a project we engaged with as students in an informal settlement in South Africa. We launched a ‘I Love Alaska’ photography competition, as an alternative analysis strategy (inspired by Nabeel Hamdi) to understand our site, and to eventually respond with an infrastructural development framework. We asked some of the youth that we met on the streets to take pictures (portable cameras) of what they saw as positive; ‘loved’ about Alaska. Alaska is the name of the informal settlement because it was so far removed from the main centre of Pretoria. What came back was a set of pictures that pointed to all the issues of the site. Dangerous, exposed overhead electrical cables, poor sanitation, litter etc etc. The one picture we thought reflected at least the one positive feature of the site (apart from those that had friends/people in them) was the beautiful view… When we engaged with this picture, we got a resounding ‘no’ it reminds us how far removed we are from any opportunity. This situation taught us about our own pre-conceived ideas (often involuntary) that we enter a site with and how important it is to always find a way to test/deconstruct our own perceptionsCO, NP, MF
Charters and diverse lenses FH: Chinese traditional perspective is only one cultural perspective in the world. All nations have their own perspectives. That’s cultural diversity.  AB: I think that it’s important to “meeting diversity”. Maybe it’s interesting to think that each one finds his one identity, his differences, looking inside his one naturecultures and based on this …. being able to explain the differences between European, Asian, African, pacific and American that make this an enormously rich world. If we can understand our differences, we can understand our coincidences, equalities, too. We can learn to walk between diversity. Latin-American people hasn’t the same occidental naturalcultural/ landscape concept that Europeans has. Because their indigenous/ European/ Spanish people, geography, climate, language, religion, etc. I am proud of Landscape Charter of The Americas, because it really identifies me. (and it isn’t the same of the European one).FH, AB
What should we take forward from these presentations? NP: What can this group do on their second life, building onto the presentation. What would the presenters like this group to take forward? NM: You both mentioned the importance of talking about value as- can you imagine a way forward that we can find ways to encourage mor of this dialogue? JL: My take-home points from our two presenters were:
Fran Han
Environmental lessons to be learnt from Indigenous people -live in harmony, return to the land to alleviate estrangement from nature
Je-Hun Ryu
Gap between international framework for universal CL values and the establishment of a set of regional values firmly embedded in rich SEA and EA cultural processes -rich heritage of CLs of Asia Experiment with set of theories to connect OUVs with regional values embedded in Asian CLs -cultural ecology, environmental aesthetics, landscape as a way of seeing, landscape phenomenology 

Circulated pre-reading:

Reading by Je-Hun Ryu: 

Je-Hun Ryu, 1998, “Regional Human Ecosystem and Cultural Adaptation in Rural Korea,” Journal of the Korean Geographical Society, Vol. 33, Special Issue, pp. 697-707. (Attached)

John Wylie, 2007, Landscape, London and New York: Routledge. (downloaded from, and the PDF attached)

Peter Howard et. al. (eds.), 2013, The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies,London: Routledge. (an extract of Peter Howard attached)

Reading by Fran Han: 

Light, A. and Rolston, H. I. ed.  (2003). Environmental Ethics: An Anthology. Malden, MA, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Han, F. (2008) Cross-cultural Confusions: Application of World Heritage Concepts in Scenic and Historic Areas in China. In The Wilderness Debate Ranges On: Continuing the Great New Wilderness Debate, Ed. Michael P. Nelson, J. Baird Callicott, P252-263.University of Georgia Press. Georgia: USA. (Attached.

Han,F.(2018).World Heritage Cultural Landscapes: An Old or a New Concept for China? Built Heritage.No.3 Volume 2.pp68-84 (Attached). 

[1] Karen Barad, 2007. _Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Fabrizio Frascaroli and Thora Fjeldsted, 2019. Exporing spiritual and religious values in landscapes of production: lessons and examples from Italy. In: Bas Verschuuren and Steve Brown (eds), _Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature in Protected Areas: Governance, Management and Policy_, pp. 264-277. London and New York: Routledge.

[2] ‘Caring for Country’ in Graham Fairclough, Ingrid Sarlöv Herlin, Carys Swanwick [eds], Routledge Handbook of Landscape Character Assessment: Current approaches to characterisation and assessment, 2018, Routledge, London, pp. 203-16

[3] See Van Diemen’s Land, James Boyce, 2008, Black Inc publisher. 


Stemming the Tide: Global Strategies for Sustaining Cultural Heritage Through Climate Change

By Brenda Barrett June 26, 2020

On March 5, 2020 the Smithsonian Institution, along with other partners, sponsored a symposium,  Stemming the Tide. It tackled two sides of the climate crisis on the world’s cultural heritage – the threat to the resources themselves and potential value of these resources as a source of resilience to address climate change. The event brought together a lineup of inspiring speakers to empower cultural heritage authorities, managers, and advocates to pursue more ambitious engagement and collaborative approaches to this global threat.

Climate Change and Natural Resources

Since the 1990s, research on climate change and efforts to reduce its impacts has expanded and grown, linking many fields. Early on, natural resources were identified as both at risk from climate change and as offering effective nature-based solutions to it. National and international nature conservation organizations made tackling this issue a priority.

In 2009, recognizing the threat would be best tackled on a landscape scale, the Department of Interior (DOI) launched the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC). The intent of this program was to bridge jurisdictional boundaries across agencies within DOI as well as across other federal, state, and tribal agencies and private lands. The LCCs consist of 22 individual, self-directed conservation areas that cover all of the U.S. including islands, and parts of Canada, Mexico and Pacific Islands. One of the primary goals of the effort was to create “An ecologically connected network of landscapes and seascapes adaptable to global change—such as climate change—with the ability to sustain ecological integrity and health to meet the needs of society at multiple scales.” (For more information on the LCCs see the article on a National Academy review of the program in the Living Landscape Observer) 

Other agencies whose missions include natural resource conservation developed more targeted plans.  In 2010, the National Park Service issued a Climate Change Response Strategy stating unequivocally that global climate change was the greatest threat to the integrity of the national parks. The report focused on four integrated components: science, adaptation, mitigation, and communication, all primarily based on climate changes’ impacts on natural resources. 

Climate Change and Cultural Resources

Interestingly, it was the Union of Concerned Scientists that sounded the alarm on the threat to cultural resources with its 2014 report, National Landmarks at Risk: How Rising Seas, Floods, and Wildfires Are Threatening the United States’ Most Cherished Historic Sites.  Focusing on iconic and historic sites at risk from Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California’s César Chávez National Monument, the report  concluded that these sites and thousands of other face a perilous and uncertain future. 

In the same year (2014) the National Park Service issued a policy memorandum, Climate Change and Stewardship of Cultural Resourcesit outlined the agency’s response to the impact of climate change on cultural resources. The agency followed this in 2017 with the release of Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy  as the next step in implementing the stewardship and preservation program mandates of the earlier policy memorandum. 

More recently the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) released a report, The Future of Our Pasts:  Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action (2019),  that summarized the work of both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in recognizing culture and heritage. The report noted that these documents gave unprecedented recognition to the role that these values can play in helping guide the world toward a transition to new patterns of living, production and consumption. The report emphasizes the need for the work of the cultural community to be both participatory and people centered.

The symposium, Stemming the Tide: Global Strategies for Sustaining Cultural Heritage Through Climate Change, is the next step in enlisting cultural heritage in our efforts to address our changing climate. As one of the speakers concluded “Culture is critical as this is a human problem and will take us as human beings to solve it,”  All of the speakers’ presentations are available on a YouTube playlist and are worth watching. Additional proceedings from the second day breakout sessions on the six categories of cultural heritage identified by the ICOMOS will be available in the future.

Want to learn more and make a difference? Consider joining The Climate Heritage Network a voluntary, mutual support network of arts, culture and heritage organizations committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.


While We Were Not Watching, Part II

By Living Landscape Observer May 17, 2020
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Image: NPS

Across the world, daily life has been completely upended. Millions and millions of individuals are living under quarantine, limiting social interaction whenever possible. Unemployment has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. And yet, despite such unprecedented conditions, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is continuing to make significant decisions on land use across the American West.

One the most visible examples concerns Chaco Culture National Historical Park and nearby lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has refused to extend the public comment period (set to end May 28) for the Draft Farmington Resource Management Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement for the area around the park. The Department has proposed further oil and gas leasing and drilling in the region, which is causing significant concern.

In response to complaints, including from the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, the administration has only agreed to “virtual” public meetings – this despite the fact that many of the constituencies most affected, including the Navajo Nation and nearby Pueblos, lack widespread access to high speed internet and are experiencing one of the most intense outbreaks of Covid-19 in the country. Read an op-ed from U.S. Representative Deb Haaland. Interested in the plan or want to see the web interface for comment, click here. In addition, here is a list of the “virtual” public meetings.

Meanwhile, in Utah, the DOI is continuing with plans to auction off leases for oil and gas development on more than 110,000 acres of land near three Utah national parks, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. Public comment on these actions opens on May 21st, in the midst of a pandemic. Other lease sales have gone ahead in North Dakota, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Public comment on federal actions is critical to the continued protection of natural, historic, and cultural resources – it is also the law. The processes established by NEPA and other 1960s and 1970s-era legislation are already under extreme threat, as we reported last month in our interview with Dr. Tom King. These recent decisions reveal a troubling pattern, which we will continue to call attention to in the coming months.


The Impact of the Pandemic on Agricultural Landscapes

By Brenda Barrett May 13, 2020

Storm Clouds over Iowa Farm Credit Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area

Everyone agrees that the world will look very different after the current crisis. One change that should have been foreseen, but was not widely predicted was the impact on agriculture. The underlying structural problems facing the farming community worldwide are well known, but under appreciated. The World Rural Landscape Principles  identified these threats as an aging farmer population, critical labor shortages, global market forces, urbanization, and, of course, the climate change. 

Eat the view

In 2002, Natural England launched its Eat the View campaign. It aimed to harness the power of the market to encourage greater production and consumption of products to help protect and enhance the iconic English countryside. This idea that rural landscapes have value is shared around the globe. Working landscapes are seen as a treasured heritage resource for the food they produce, but also for their sense of place, their scenic beauty, and, in some cases, their outstanding universal value. It is estimated by the World Heritage Center that more than 13 % of all World Heritage inscribed sites contain an agricultural component. For cultural landscapes, the number is much higher – estimated at over 75%. Designated sites range from tea growing landscapes in Asia, pastoral landscapes around the Mediterranean, sites of early agriculture in Papua New Guinea, to wine producing regions around the globe. 

These landscapes are seen as deserving special heritage designations and, in Europe at least, as deserving special consideration as protected areas through programs such as the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Britain and Parc Naturels Reginaux in France. Even in the United States a recent review found that close to 90 national park units allow some form of agricultural production and/or traditional subsistence activities or roughly 1/5 of all national park units. These agricultural features are often an integral part of the interpretation of the park landscape. 

No Farms No Food 

In many ways, the most valuable aspect of these agricultural landscapes is what the land produces and the people and communities that make it possible. Food is not just about calories per bushel, but is the embodiment of a region’s living heritage.  Food ways are recognized by UNESCO as part of its list of Intangible Heritage  and food is an integral part of national identity and community life as well as an important element of the economic driver of travel and tourism. 

Every crisis brings its own unique problems. And while it was obvious that the current pandemic would have a serious and global impact on all kinds of markets, Americans, at least, were assured early on that food supplies would not be a problem. A March 15, 2020 article in the New York Times   reassured readers that ‘There is Plenty of Food in this Country’. At first that was true and the only shortages were caused by an ill-informed desire to hoard toilet paper. Then, with remarkable swiftness, the pandemic attacked one of the weakest links in the chain – the agricultural labor force. The Wall Street Journal reported on April 21, 202O that “Borders Closed by Virus Imperil European Farming”. The article noted that the dependence of the European Union on seasonal labor from poorer nations and the need to transport goods to cross border markets were all adversely impacting the agricultural sector. 

Industrial Farming Credit Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area

The Journal went on to say somewhat smugly that the situation United States was less acute because famers have embraced automation and grow more bulk crops. Of course, this statement was looking at agricultural production in the aggregate not acknowledging that harvesting field corn and soybeans requires very different techniques than crops grown for human consumption. These crops require lots of hand labor provided by over 1 million laborers of which between 50-70% are undocumented immigrants who face increasing uncertainty about their status.

The US has other problems, which are now assuming disastrous proportions. Farm sales depend, in large part, on Industrialized large-scale food production plants that market to institutions like schools and chain restaurants. As these buyers closed down during the pandemic, processing plants have found it hard to retool for individual consumption. Then the virus struck giant meat processing facilities across the country.  In late April 2020, three processing companies Tyson, JBS, and Smithfield closed 15 plants, each of the plants employ thousands of workers and process thousands of animals. The closures devasted rural communities and threatening the nation’s supply of beef and pork. 

Some of the highest infection rates in the US are now found in rural areas with such factories. By early May 2020, over 10,000 employees had tested positive for Covid-19 and meat production was down 25%. Farmers accustomed to raising beef, pork, and chickens in vast quantities on a just in time delivery schedule were stuck with no buyers.  

While the US Department of Agriculture has set aside $19 billion to provide immediate relief funds for critical support to farmers and ranchers and maintain the integrity of the food supply chain, agriculture already weakened by the current administration’s trade war with China is struggling.  This is, as the press likes to say, a “developing story.” Most recently the US President used his executive powers to order food processing plants to open. However, workers, many undocumented with no health insurance, sick leave, or other protections, are wary of the crowded assembly lines and high risk of infection.

With surprising speed, the weaknesses of our global food supply have been exposed. While some of the central issues are our dependence on poorly paid seasonal labor and equally poorly treated workers in the food processing industry, change will only come if we look at our whole food production in a new way. Is it safe? Where did it come from? Who prepared it for the table? Will it always be available?

Food Coop Decorah Iowa

 “When this is over”

This phrase is a charm to reassure everyone that this is temporary and that soon we will go back to the world as we knew it.  Restaurants will be offering fast food cheap, supermarkets will be packed with the usual items, and we all will forget this moment. Or will this be the launching pad for a new food system – one that has been struggling to emerge for decades? While these questions have global relevance, the answers are most pressing in the United States. 

  • Will locally grown food become a bigger share of the market and of the consumer diet? Already growing on the East and West Coast and in pockets across the nation, the eat local movement has been given a huge boost by the pandemic. Families are concerned about the safety, the availability, and, as more cook at home, the quality of their food. In Europe, they are already talking about looking at the value chain used to ship goods across the continent. How can communities expand local close-to-home production as more sustainable and resilient? As the European Union Agricultural Commissioner said in the Wall Street Journal on April 21, 2020 “we need to shorten the distance from Farm to Fork.” In the US, local farm markets and small grazing operations report having a door busting year and the season has hardly begun.
  • Will the number of close to home processing and food hubs increase? In the past, one of the biggest barriers to the success of small family farms as a going business and for the consumer to access fresh local food was making the buyer-seller connection more efficient. Yes, Community Supported Agriculture schemes, local farm markets, and other direct sales options were a good start. However, now new small-scale regional distribution systems are growing rapidly and take distribution to the next level. These ‘food hubs’ act as low-cost middle men and allow farmers to focus on growing not selling. New online sales platforms for farmers like Local Lines have been growing exponentially to meet the need. The small-scale butcher shops and slaughterhouses are suddenly local treasures. 
  • Will the agricultural landscape that has been an endangered resource for years become a valued part of our heritage? The answer to this question is the most unknowable. The traditional American landscape of family farms and ranches have been eroded for generations through consolidation, abandonment and urbanization.  Programs such as the ones in Europe that support the retention of the countryside just do not exist. In general, agricultural landscapes have not been seen worthy of preservation as part of our national heritage. But maybe if we rebuild our connection to the food they produce, the people that produce the food, and the places themselves, there will be change of heart. Perhaps, as in other parts of the world, these iconic cultural landscapes will gain the recognition they deserve.  

A recent article on the Pandemic wondered if the future of food will bring a time when:

“Linear supply chains are replaced by circular ones, agriculture is transformed from an extractive to a regenerative activity, and ecosystems are treasured for what they truly are — the source of all life — rather than for just the economic services they provide.”

Only time will tell.