Challenges and Dilemmas in Protecting Natural and Cultural Environments in the Twenty-first Century
We need a convergence of interests and efforts if we want to be successful in protecting land, water, wildlife, and historic and cultural resources. Every protected natural place also preserves an historic site, because no natural area is so remote or so wild as not to retain vestiges of human presence. In this Anthropocene era there are effectively no “natural areas” in the United States that lack signs of human culture—that are without human imprint. Understanding this fact (and learning to read the cultural history of a “natural” landscape) raises hope and opportunity for more effectively combining forces to conserve and protect areas possessing both natural and cultural resources and legacies. National Heritage Areas are relatively recent examples of collaborative recognition encompassing the conservation of natural and cultural resources.
In this time of profound and prolific human effects, special dilemmas and challenges arise as we work to preserve nature. There is debate over the value of protecting smaller scale natural areas versus focusing on broad landscapes. Nature is dynamic and the effects of human activities are so pervasive; no tract of land can be completely protected from human interference, history, and the flow of time. Land conservation programs must recognize and respond to the realities and challenges of influencing land use and guiding the conservation and protection of critically important environmental resources. Land conservationists, like historic preservationists, must move beyond the comparatively “safe” and non-confrontational strategies of simply buying key natural or historic places. We must make major advances and devise creative strategies to conserve whole landscapes with assets of natural and cultural importance—places held dear for both our natural and cultural heritage. Success in protecting the best of our natural and human environment can only be derived by fostering a sense of love and respect for the land. Out of a greater sense of love and respect for land as “home” will come greater public support for the work of land conservation and cultural resource protection.
--by Chuck Roe, President, SCP
Read more of Chuck’s perspective on this subject in his chapter “The Natural Environment,” published in the book A Richer Heritage: Preservation in the Twenty-First Century, Robert E. Stipe editor, University of North Carolina Press (2003). Download a PDF. In the chapter, Roe recounts the growth of concern about natural environments and increase in number of public and nongovernmental land conservation organizations in the U.S. since the late 1960s, the evolving methods employed by private land conservancies, private land conservation accomplishments over the thirty-year period and prospects for the future, the overlap of natural and cultural resource preservation efforts producing common ground of interests and opportunity, special dilemmas in preserving nature, and challenges for land conservation and nature preservation in the 21st century.
Conservation, viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land.
There is in fact no distinction between the fate of the land and the fate of the people. When one is abused, the other suffers.
From the President
SCP President Chuck Roe looked at land conservation along the route of John Muir's "Southern Trek."
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