Paradigm Shifts in Land Preservation and Conservation: The Essential Modern Discourses
Mechanisms for protecting land in the United States transitioned from fee-simple government purchase to non-profit management through private ownership and conservation easements. Instead of creating large national parks as untouchable museums of ecology, the modern land protection paradigm channels public funding, creative partnerships, and an emerging understanding of the working landscape and complex ecological processes. On a macro scale, the paradigm shift seems to be successful: funds are raised and more land is being protected. However, management decisions are being dictated by complex and often tenuous interdisciplinary relationships.This paper examines the objectives and challenges faced by three integral players in the modern land protection paradigm: the academic, the executive director, and the land steward. Optimal land management is achieved through land stewards executing best management practices on protected land. These practices must be informed by research from the scientific community. And, executive directors must obtain funding for land protection and land management. Thus, successful stewardship of land depends on the collaboration of these disparate professions through education, participation on boards, open discourse, and a commitment to public outreach. Therefore, a variety of discourses in land protection must be in dialogue to appropriately safeguard land for people today and tomorrow.