Let me start my overview of the recent report Revisiting Leopold: Resource Stewardship in the National Parks (August 2012) by the Science Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board with a fan letter to the George Wright Society. The organization’s mission is to advance scientific and heritage values of parks and protected areas and to promote the best in research and resource stewardship. It is my experience that whatever the issue, the society is always on the cutting edge.
So it is no surprise that the most recent issue of the George Wright Forum: The Journal of Parks, Protected Areas & Cultural Sites (Vo. 29 No. 3 2012) is dedicated to reprinting the Revisiting Leopold report in full and providing some excellent commentary by Rolf Diamant and Mary Ellen Hannibal. The original Leopold Report, officially titled “Wildlife Management in the National Parks,” was published in 1963 and was a first in articulating an ecosystem approach to managing natural resources in national parks. For fifty years it has had a major influence on park resource management. But times change and the new report was commissioned to update the science and the philosophy behind it. Revisiting Leopold recognizes that managing parks in an unimpaired and unchanged state is unrealistic in the face of environmental change and a growing and diverse population.
For those who are committed to the large landscape approach Revisiting Leopold says all the right things. It notes that every park unit is “embedded in larger regional and continental landscapes influenced by adjacent land and water uses and regional cultures.” It gives the role of culture an equal seat at the table and decries the artificial division between the two disciplines. It calls for the management of resources that is informed by scholarship and science. However, as Rolf Diamant points out in his George Wright Journal article, the new report falls short in the most difficult challenge – How to empower park management to envision and experiment with what these new ecosystems may look like and How to meet the most pressing need for all large landscape efforts to gear up and sustain partnering efforts for the long haul. Diamant asks that we go beyond science and calls for building ”…capacity in social science, cultural competencies, community planning, new models of governance, and sustainable development. “
In conclusion, this is why I am a George Wright fan. For those who just want to understand where resource management and research is trending for the world’s protected areas then read the George Wright Journal or attend the society’s content packed Biennial meeting. For those who want to shape this world, then write for the George Wright Journal and organize a session at the conference.
This year the conference will In Denver CO March 11-15. This is the gathering I most look forward to attending so come and join the club!