Society & Culture

National Park Service turns 100—UGA has experts to discuss

Cari L. Goetcheus  

Athens, Ga. – On Aug. 25, the National Park Service will turn 100 years old. When President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the NPS, it was part of the Department of the Interior and was responsible for protecting the existing 35 national parks and monuments.

If you’re a member of the media looking for a different angle for a story about this NPS milestone, the University of Georgia has experts to give you insight about cultural landscape issues, the non-economical values of the parks, and a dose of Gross National Happiness.

Cari L. Goetcheus
Associate Professor
College of Environment and Design

Goetcheus teaches in the graduate Historic Preservation Program. With training in both landscape architecture and historic preservation, Goetcheus’ expertise lies in cultural landscape research, documentation and management.

Prior to her academic career, Goetcheus worked as a historical landscape architect with the National Park Service in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., with the Cultural Landscape Inventory program. In Washington, D.C., she further worked with NPS regional colleagues to assist the then 396 national parks with a variety of cultural landscape issues. She continues to do cultural landscape projects with her students for the National Park Service.

“Because a cultural landscape is the combination of two systems, an environmental system and a human system, it is imperative in the process of conserving and interpreting a cultural landscape to the public via the NPS, that a cultural landscape expert, who has been trained in a variety of topics (environmental studies, history, historic preservation, horticulture, geography, landscape architecture, architecture, etc.) be available to assist that work. Like an architect who focuses on a building, or a wildlife specialist who focuses on a species, a cultural landscape expert focuses their energy on understanding, interpreting and protecting cultural landscapes for the public.  

“There are a variety of issues in the national parks today that affect cultural landscapes – everything from lack of simple identification of historically significant cultural landscapes and their component parts such that they can be protected, conserved or rehabilitated to once  the bounds and contents of a cultural landscape are known, protected and interpreted, what decisions need to be made to address how things like climate change, sea level rise, or other environmental or human impacts will be ameliorated to continue to conserve the cultural landscape into the future.”

Michael A. Tarrant
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources

Tarrant works in the human dimensions of natural resources, especially in environmental values and attitudes, environmental justice, and protected area management. Much of his research has been conducted in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and has led to the development of management tools including carrying capacity models for national rivers and state parks, and interactive databases and systems. He also has an interest in expanding our understanding of how people relate to, and value, natural resources from a non-economic perspective, with a specific focus on recreation, forests and wildlife. He currently directs UGA’s Discover Abroad office offering short-term programs to Antarctica, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Tahiti, and the United Kingdom on the theme of sustainability.

For 10 years he taught in a forest ecology and measurements summer camp program for Colorado State University in the Rocky Mountains and since 1993 has led an annual field program to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the University of Georgia.

“Our national parks not only depict a rich natural and cultural history of our country but they are the keeper of stories-they illustrate our core values of who we are as a people and a nation. In essence, they have shaped our understanding of the meaning of progress in American society.

“For too long, we have concentrated on growing economic prosperity at the cost of our happiness. However, the true sign of a progressive society is not one that is captivated by an ever-increasing GDP (which grows as a result of, amongst other things, higher incarceration rates and an unhealthy population) but focuses on fostering a spiritual wealth and Gross National Happiness that comes from a nation at play, not necessarily one at over-work. In this regards, national parks represent one of the greatest playgrounds on the planet.”

Brian Drake
Senior lecturer
Department of history

Drake specializes in environmental history, a discipline that explores the intricate ways in which nature has affected human history and vice versa. His recent research focuses on the postwar American environmental movement, particularly its relationship to postwar politics and ideology, and on the environmental history of the American Civil War. The University of Washington Press published his book, “Loving Nature, Fearing the State: Environmentalism and Antigovernment Politics Before Reagan,” in August 2013 in its Weyerhaeuser Environmental Series.

“The national parks are important for a lot of reasons, both to my discipline and to American history writ large. The United States has a long tradition of aggressive and often destructive use of land and resources, accompanied by the dispossession of natives and many others. Indeed, America has arguably been among the most ‘anti-environmental’ nations in modern history. Yet from the United States also came some of strongest desires and best methods of environmental protection.

“The parks are fabulous examples. Here, the nation deliberately chose *not* to develop land, timber, water, wildlife, etc., in the tradition manner. Here, we recognized that nature has many non-economic values, that it has spiritual and ethical and ecological ones as well. Our national identity is deeply rooted in our relationship to the land, and in the parks we acknowledge that as well, that American nature has shaped the American people. The parks are by no means perfect -like environmentalism as a whole, they are not free from conflicts of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and so on-but they are a great example of our culture’s ability to think deeply about nature and its place in our lives.”