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The Trouble with Naturalness: Rethinking Park and Wilderness Goals

Gregory H. Aplet and David N. Cole
Created: 2/28/2010 - Updated: 3/14/2019

Abstract

From global climate change and invasive species to pollution and land fragmentation, anthropogenic stressors threaten park and wilderness values and raise serious questions about what it means to preserve our natural heritage. We cannot preserve parks and wilderness by drawing a line around them and leaving them alone. Protecting an area’s beauty, heritage, and biodiversity entails thoughtful stewardship and, at times, active intervention. But active intervention presents a new set of challenges. Do park and wilderness managers have the policy guidance they need to be effective land managers in this changing context? In this book we explore the goals that guided the conservation of large protected areas in the twentieth century, most of them related to the concept of naturalness. These goals were appropriate a century ago, when the struggle was one of protecting land from development and exploitation, and they retain iconic meaning and value today. But over the past century the world has changed and the pace of change has accelerated. The most certain characteristic of the future is uncertainty. The stewardship issues of the twenty-fi rst century will be more nuanced, with solutions that are less clear cut, less black and white. Consequently, it is time to think beyond naturalness, to articulate park purposes in terms that are both more specific and more diverse than naturalness and to adopt a wider array of management approaches to achieve these purposes.

Published On

Monday, March 1, 2010