University of Vermont

Rubenstein School Seminars Consider the Future of Parks and Protected Areas

Mickey Fearn, deputy director of the National Park Service speaks to the Rubenstein School community.
Mickey Fearn, deputy director of the National Park Service speaks to the Rubenstein School community.

Each spring, the Rubenstein School organizes a series of weekly lectures for faculty, staff and students.  This year, the theme of the seminars is “Future Perfect: Parks and Protected Areas in their Second Century.”  This theme references the fact that the U.S. Forest Service celebrated its centennial in 2005 and the National Park Service will mark its first one hundred years of existence in 2016.

What will be the future of parks and protected areas in their second century and how can we prepare for the opportunities and challenges that are on the horizon?  The 2013 Rubenstein School Spring Seminar Series will explore these questions by inviting presentations from park and protected areas scholars and practitioners from near and far.  The seminar series is conducted in collaboration with the National Park Service’s Conservation Study Institute.

One of the few things we know about the future of parks and protected areas is that it may be very different from the past.  The new mantra in the National Park Service is that “they’re not making any more Yellowstones.”  New parks are likely to be very different from existing parks, and existing parks will face new sets of issues.

For example, parks and protected areas will probably require stronger partnerships between the public, private and non-profit sectors.  Park and protected area managers will have to adjust to embrace the new and more diverse demographic of the country and the world.  Parks and protected areas may require a more landscape scale approach, perhaps involving stronger international cooperation and involvement.

What are the stories and narratives underlying parks that have yet to be given voice?  What is the relevancy of parks and protected areas to youth?  How can we use technology and social media to engage the public in planning and managing parks and protected areas?  How can we most effectively market parks and protected areas?  How will the parks and protected areas of the future be financed?  What’s the relationship between parks and urban areas?    How do we adjust to climate change, both philosophically and pragmatically? And, of course, there’s the eternal dilemma of how and how much we can use parks and protected areas without threatening their ecological and cultural integrity and the quality of the visitor experience.

Rolf Diamant, Superintendent Emeritus of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and adjunct lecturer in the Rubenstein School, presented the first lecture, suggesting that the current era of uncertainty (e.g., declining budgets, partisan gridlock) may bring about innovation in park planning and management, and that this may take the form of enhanced partnerships between management agencies and stakeholder groups.

Stephanie Snyder, a scientist with the U.S. Forest, described an example of this type of innovation – a new park being constructed on a former landfill in the New York City area.

Jessica Brown, chair of the Protected Landscapes Specialist Group of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, offered a wider range of governance models for parks and protected areas.

Walt Kuentzel, a Rubenstein School professor, described his remarkable long-term study of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, suggesting that the changing demographics of the nation will require evolution of park and protected area management.

And Mickey Fearn, deputy director of the National Park Service, challenged the audience to increase the relevancy of national parks to minority racial and ethnic groups.

The remaining schedule of the seminar series is shown below. Please join us at 4:00pm in Room 103 Aiken Center. More information

March 21
Stephanie Clement, Conservation Director, Friends of Acadia

March 28
Nora Mitchell, Director Emerita, National Park Service Conservation Study Institute; Adjunct Associate Professor, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

April 4
Kate Orff, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University

April 11
David Cole, Scientist, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

April 18
Michael Creasey, Superintendent, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and Executive Director, National Park Service Conservation Study Institute

April 25
Panel Session