Yesterday's debut of the new Ken Burns PBS series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, has gotten everyone talking... Well, everyone in the preservation/conservation communities, at least. I'll admit that I didn't have a chance to tune in to the first episode, yet, but having been an avid fan of the National Parks since my first (and, thus far, only) visit to Yosemite more than 20 years ago, it's only a matter of time before I get caught up.
The New York Times, however, is encouraging people outside our community to think beyond the history of the parks to their place in our future. They've asked a variety of authorities -- from land, water, and forestry experts; to a former secretary of deputy secretary of the Interior; to our own Richard Moe, who writes on behalf of historic and cultural resources -- to look at the challenges the National Parks face going forward. While many of us think about these issues regularly, it's a tremendously accessible primer for those outside our profession. And though I can't say I agree, personally, with everything stated, the various pieces are well-done and thought-provoking.
In his essay, National Trust for Historic Preservation President Moe recommends that the historic and cultural resources of the park system be handled with the same vigorous effort being thrown at natural resources:
... The National Park Service should immediately launch a cultural resource challenge to take care of the deferred maintenance needs of historic and cultural sites and increase funding for cultural resources staff to ensure that sites are inventoried, monitored and protected. A similar challenge has recently resulted in a significant increase in staffing and funding for natural resource protection; surely our cultural resources deserve nothing less.
Read the full article online here.
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