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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley


Parks Stewardship Forum delivers interdisciplinary information and problem-solving techniques across all topics relevant to the world’s parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other forms of place-based conservation. The journal represents all areas of inquiry relevant to understanding and management of parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other forms of place-based conservation, including but not limited to the natural sciences, cultural resources-related disciplines, social sciences, and interdisciplinary perspectives. 

Boundary Thinking Transformed

Issue cover
Cover Caption:A red fox on the clay cliffs above the city of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. Photo by Peter Mather.

Our theme this issue aims to explore the idea of boundaries in the context of protected areas. We explore what boundaries are for people who have experienced them as part of their lives. We tackle what “across boundaries” might mean, and what “crossing boundaries” might look and feel like. The aim is to learn more about boundaries, how they affect us, and how might they be changing—or be changed themselves.


Points of View

The Once and Future Advisory Board

In this "Letter from Woodstock," our columnist makes the case for why a revived and substantive National Park System Advisory Board is so important for the US National Park Service and the National Park System as a whole.

Climate Change Challenges and Science-Based Optimism

The first edition of the new “Climate Change Solutions” column concisely reviews the latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and reasons for hope, if you help with one meaningful carbon solution.

Featured Theme Articles

Boundary Thinking Transformed

The Guest Editor introduces the theme papers in this issue, and adds his own thoughts and experiences.  As he says: "Created by imagination, and made real by imaginary borders, parks and protected areas invite passionate debates about fundamental human rights, and individual rights and freedoms."

Rethinking Boundaries in a Half-Earth World

The author of "Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth" provides an introduction to the Half Earth idea: that "up to half of the earth’s land and water must remain permanently available as living space for other species." The goal, he continues, "is not to exclude people or banish people’s activities, but create a series of shared spaces where people will tread lightly." Doing so will "keep 90% of life and awareness alive."

Blurring boundaries: An invitation to the imagination

The author shares her personal journey of meeting, pushing through, and overcoming boundaries in many guises: as an outdoors and wilderness enthusiast, an engineer, a park administrator, and, now, a photographer and mixed-media artist. She asks: "I wonder if we can blur boundaries of protected areas and re-imagine parks and PAs? Can boundaries of PAs be vague enough to ignite creativity and imagination? How might these re-imagined boundaries achieve protection in perpetuity?"

Courageous Conversations: Risks, Race, and Recreation in the United States

The narrative remains unchanged. The racial and ethnic demographics of the United States are changing, yet the agencies that manage our protected areas have not figured out how to prepare for these changes. Researchers and agencies working within protected areas are concerned with one simple question: How do we increase visitation and participation among communities of color? Several studies have focused on issues of constraints and barriers. Initiatives have centered on marketing strategies. Agencies have conducted surveys to examine their hiring practices. Sadly, these have not led to the desired outcomes. So, what are we missing, what ideas have we not explored, what are the appropriate next steps towards closing the perceived gap? It is the position of this paper that researchers have prioritized research questions and methodologies with which they are most familiar and comfortable. Collectively, we have failed to take on the hard questions and processes that are necessary to truly unpack the meaning and impact of Race within the United States. Overcoming the difficulties associated with investigating Race and recreation in protected areas requires courage on the part of researchers. Courage to challenge the research findings and practices of their colleagues, expectations/goals of funders, and, specifically for White researchers, the recreation preferences of their peer groups. Through personal stories and analogies, this paper presents three areas in which researchers need to practice the virtue of courage if we are truly to create safe spaces within our protected areas for Racially Marginalized Communities (RMCs).

Moving transboundary conservation from Indigenous engagement to Indigenous leadership: Working across borders for a resilient Cascadia

As the number of transboundary conservation initiatives continues to grow in response to the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, so too have calls for Indigenous-led conservation that recognizes Indigenous rights and supports Indigenous land and wildlife stewardship. And yet, because many transboundary initiatives have historically been settler-led, such efforts are now contending with how best to pivot toward models of more meaningful Indigenous engagement and leadership. Here, we describe the Cascadia Partner Forum’s recently completed Blueprint for a Resilient Cascadia, a collaborative strategy for supporting large-landscape resilience in the transboundary region of Washington and British Columbia. We reflect on the history of the Cascadia Partner Forum, the collaborative process employed in its development of the Blueprint for a Resilient Cascadia, and its commitment and ongoing effort to ethically and effectively engage with Tribes and First Nations. We pay particular attention to a transformational shift that occurred during Blueprint development: a move from an initial goal of “Indigenous engagement” toward one of “centering Indigenous leadership,” and describe the resulting effort to provide a space for leadership by Tribes and First Nations while supporting the capacity such leadership requires. We hope our reflections can help inform other transboundary conservation initiatives working to move away from what has been a predominantly colonizing model of conservation to one promoting Indigenous-led governance.

One Beat in the Infinite Heart of Haida Gwaii

The authors begin this essay with these remarks: "There’s a phrase in X̱aayda Kil, the Skidegate dialect of the Haida language, that describes the horizon when you can’t tell where the ocean ends and the sky begins: 'Ḵuuya ḵaagan ad siigaay G̱ud gii ts’ahlsgiidan Sky and sea glued together.' Which is to say that the distinction between even the most immutable of boundaries can be blurred. As we approach the tipping point to catastrophic climate change and the world sits precariously at the edge of a potential shift away from respectful co-existence towards intolerance, what lessons can the examination of these liminal spaces offer us? For decades, people have looked to Haida Gwaii for some of these lessons."

Invisible boundaries

In the essay prefacing this portfolio of his work, photographer Peter Mather says: "There is nothing we like more as a species than creating boundaries. Boundaries for our yards, our city, our friends, our work, our nations, and our landscapes. It is so interesting to see how animals adapt to, and sometimes ignore, our boundaries. I find that wildlife, whether bears, foxes, or ravens, all have their own personalities, much like us as people, and that every individual animal has a different set of boundaries."

New Perspectives (Non-Peer Reviewed)

Obstacles to removing non-native species from a national park

Throughout its history, the National Park Service has sought to eliminate or control non-native species within its units. The growing influence of science in natural resource management has made this mandate ever more imperative. Removal of invasive vegetation has proven extremely difficult and may never be complete in many parks. Efforts to eliminate domesticated animals and feral or wild invaders have met many obstacles as well. Channel Islands National Park has managed to get rid of sheep, cattle, pigs, burros, horses, deer, elk, rats, cats, rabbits, turkeys, Argentine ants, and European honey bees. In the process, park managers have had to work through or overcome eight types of impediments as well as virulent opposition. Lessons learned from these campaigns can inform other park managers facing the same types of problems.

Advances in Research and Management (Peer-Reviewed)

Direction for interpretive programming from Alberta Provincial Park management plans

Park management plans provide strategic direction for the future management of specific parks. These plans set goals and strategies for many park management concerns, including ecological integrity, visitor services, facilities, boundaries, and resource allocation. Understanding interpretive goals, topics, and strategies will help a park or park system develop a coherent approach to interpretive planning, delivery, and evaluation. This study determined how interpretation was prioritized in Alberta provincial parks’ management plans. We analyzed 32 management plans based on length (average of 80 pages), age (average of 14 years), goals, topics, and strategies. Overall, 84% of the plans addressed interpretation, devoting an average of 3% of their length to interpretation. The most targeted interpretive goals were “learning,” “increasing positive attitudes,” “behavior change,” and “enjoyment.” The most frequent interpretive topics were “heritage,” “culture,” “conservation,” and “flora or fauna.” The most common interpretive strategies were “signs,” “general personal interpretation,” and “guided hikes.” Even though interpretation received a low emphasis, newer plans provided more emphasis, expanding on conceptualizing and evaluating interpretation compared with older plans. By summarizing the priorities of management plans for interpretation, this study may help park staff set interpretive goals, evaluate progress, and promote consistency between the goals of park staff and outcomes for visitors. In turn, this information may help park planners and practitioners to better align interpretive goals, strategies, and outcomes.

Open to change but stuck in the mud: Stakeholder perceptions of adaptation options at the frontlines of climate change and protected areas management

In recent decades, the literature on climate change and biodiversity conservation has proposed numerous climate change adaptation options; however, their effectiveness and feasibility have rarely been evaluated by those involved in frontline decision-making. In this paper, we use data from a two-day climate change adaptation workshop held at Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park, in Ontario, Canada, to understand stakeholder views on different types of adaptation options. We found that most (45%) adaptation options identified by participants were “conventional” (i.e., they are already in use and are relatively low risk and familiar to practitioners) and oriented towards directing change (i.e., they aim to help species and ecosystems respond to change and transition to a desired future state). These options also received higher effectiveness and feasibility ratings than “novel” ones. The remaining options (55%) were either “conventional” and aimed towards resisting change, or else were “novel.” Our results suggest that practitioners are open to working with change; however, there is some management resistance to more dynamic “novel” options (e.g., adjusting species assemblages), which in many instances will be required to effectively deal with inevitable climate change impacts. By focusing on understanding the factors that influence the prioritization and feasibility of adaptation options at the regional scale, and by providing practical recommendations to enhance organizational capacity to adapt to climate change, we address key implementation gaps identified in the literature.

Hug a tree, hug a building: Reflections on the management of natural and built heritage

A veteran forester refuses to cut down a mammoth, millennium-old Douglas fir on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. The city council in nearby Victoria designates the stately Empress Hotel as heritage property. The former was an act of environmental conservation; the latter, of built heritage conservation. This essay looks at the two events in the contexts of forest management, historic preservation, climate change, and sustainability. It describes the increasing threats to old-growth and heritage trees, discusses the mitigative tools that are available, and reflects on analogies between safeguarding natural heritage and built heritage. A new management and legislative approach is needed, one that balances science with Indigenous Traditional Knowledge. Until then, advocacy will continue to lead the way. The theme may have been expressed best by an Aboriginal writer from Australia, who reacted to a proposed freeway’s threat to destroy dozens of 800-year-old trees: “Their survival and our fight to keep them alive and safe are a cultural obligation and an assertion of our sovereignty.” The present article unpacks the issues, focusing on stories from British Columbia and California, while looking at parallel experiences elsewhere.

The Photographer's Frame

A Solution to Existential Climate Crisis: RTFM

This visual essay in "The Photographer's Frame" says that he first step to resolving humanity’s greatest existential threat, the current climate breakdown, may be as simple as “read Earth’s operating manual.”

Verse in Place

Sun of Honey

A poem in the "Verse in Place" section of Parks Stewardship Forum.