Discovery 2000: The Park Service Studies Itself
By Cat Lazaroff
ST. LOUIS, Missouri, September 8, 2000 (ENS) - Starting Monday, veteran park managers, watchdog groups and public interest groups expect to tackle the principle philosophical issues behind the management of lands controlled by the National Park Service. The discussion will occur in 35 workshops at the five day Discovery 2000 Conference in St. Louis.
"Discovery 2000: The National Park Service General Conference," is the first such conference held in more than 10 years. National Park Service (NPS) Director Robert Stanton called for the meeting to address the future expectations of the 84 year old agency.
The conference will feature four topical tracks, including Cultural Resource Stewardship, Natural Resource Stewardship, Education and Leadership.
CULTURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP
On Monday, sessions will focus on how to define and connect the historic and prehistoric places the NPS works to preserve. Dr. John Hope Franklin, professor emeritus of history at Duke University Law School, will offer the keynote speech.
One session will discuss cases in which the NPS is asked to preserve relics of the "recent" past, outside what is traditionally considered to be historic. "How do we identify and preserve the best and most meaningful remnants of the new past?" asks the session description.
NATURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP
On Tuesday, keynote speaker E.O. Wilson, a Harvard professor and author who has championed the preservation of the nation's biodiversity, will kick off a daylong emphasis on natural resources.
Topics will range from how to adopt a more active resource management effort, science based decision making, non-governmental conservation efforts, appropriate park uses and how - if ever - to justify impairment to natural resources.
Current operations applications, trends, policies and arguments will be highlighted in these workshops, such as the impact on natural resources of the agency’s fire management program, off road vehicle use, jetski and snowmobile bans, overflights, carrying capacities, invasive plant control and endangered species programs.
One role the NPS can play is in advancing scientific knowledge of natural resources on NPS lands. A recent inventory in Great Smoky Mountains National Park revealed two new species of amphibians: the eastern spadefoot toad and the mole salamander. These species are not just new to the park - they are new to science.
At the Buffalo National River in the Ozark Highlands of Arkansas, the NPS is working to restore the Buffalo River bands to a more natural pattern. After surveying the river channel, crews anchor revetments of cut cedar trees to halt erosion and help heal the scarred banks. Native hardwoods will be planted along five miles of the River to help bind the soil and restore natural stability to the riparian area.
This year the NPS will put new emphasis on exotic plant management. Invasive exotic plants have gained a foothold and are now infesting large areas in many parks. The agency has established four Exotic Plant Management Teams that will begin to control or, when possible, eradicate non-native plant species. The first four teams will work in the Hawaiian Islands, Florida, the National Capital Region and the Chihuahuan Desert/Short-Grass Prairie.
Some parks are already leading the way in education programming. At Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, students across the country can participate in an interactive field trip via live satellite broadcast. Prior to the broadcast, students "meet" a real life soldier on the internet, follow him through the battle, and write their own Civil War journals, some of which are posted on the park website.
The non-profit Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center at the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in Ohio immerses 4th through 6th graders in environmental ethics through a five day residential program within the park. Children learn to be good environmental stewards for their neighborhoods and the planet.
On Thursday, Dr. Peter Senge of Massachusetts Institute of Technology will give a keynote speech on leadership in the NPS.
Most workshop events and all of the keynote speakers will be at the Conference hotel, Regal Riverfront, 200 S. 4th Street, St. Louis, Monday through Friday, September 11 - 15, 2000.
Complete information about Discovery 2000 is available at: www.nps.gov/discovery2000.