This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Barbara Wyatt: All right, so I already introduced Susan. She’s with the Parks Cultural Landscape Program. Thank you.
Susan Dolan: Thank you, once again. Barbara asked me to speak about climate change response and cultural resources in the National Parks Service. I’d like to just touch upon this subject very quickly and then just move into a little segue back to cultural landscapes. So, Barbara asked me to talk about a policy and guidance framework that the NPS is using to respond to climate change and to protect cultural resources, and also the tools the NPS is using to identify impacts associated with climate change phenomenon on cultural resources.
The National Parks Service established a Climate Change Response Program in 2007 and the person that really should be doing this presentation is Marcie Rockman. Dr. Marcie Rockman is our cultural resources coordinator with the Climate Change Response Program. They have a website and you can reach out to Marcie; firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or ask me. The program created a service-wide climate change response strategy in 2010 and there’s four basic tenants of this strategy for the whole NPS in climate change, and that is- science, adaptation, mitigation and communication. First of all, we’re conducting scientific research to support adaptation, mitigation and communication. We’re implementing mitigation by reducing our carbon footprint in the operations of National Parks Service and we are developing the adaptive capacity to protect natural and cultural resources within a changing climate, and we are providing affective communication about climate change to our partners and to the public.
Overall, we have this four pillar climate change response strategy for all that we do in the National Parks Service, including natural and cultural resources management. We’ve done a lot of thought about how cultural resources management can fit with this four pillar strategy- science, mitigation, adaptation, communication. Science is where section 110 inventory work comes into play. Mitigation is where we implement rehabilitation treatments, perhaps to conserve energy and now operation of historic properties. Adaptation, we might implement more sustainable operations, increase the resilience of properties, and communication of course, we have to have climate change literacy to be able to communicate effectively with the public and partners. The kind of impacts that are occurring are cultural resources.
We also have a brand new climate change and stewardship cultural resources policy in the National Parks Service, that the director signed on the last year. It focuses our work on research management practices and encourages us to have an approach that’s flexible, that integrates the significance and unique characteristics of the resources in our decision making. It integrates cultural and natural resources data in research, planning and stewardship, and also asks for managers to use discretion to be able to just respond to emerging threats rapidly, and to incorporate cultural resources into sustainable operations plans. It also encourages us to engage fully in cooperative conservation and civic engagement, and also to refocus our inventory efforts on the lands that haven’t been inventoried and the lands that are the most vulnerable, and to try understand the fullest range of climate change effects, including those that are perhaps more difficult, slow and insidious to recognize and are less dramatic.
Also here, the director talks a little bit about loss and the fact that we must recognize that some of our decision making may involve loss. A quote here about collaborating together, that we must move forward before we have all the information, but based on the best available information, that we integrate more information as it becomes available to us. There’s also a Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy. You saw a National Parks Service Climate Change Response Strategy; well there’s now in development a Cultural Resource Climate Change Strategy. The draft document includes this flow chart, I think it will be available to you relatively soon. It divides our process into research, planning and stewardship and that’s how we think about cultural resources management in the service. We have policy and guidance for how we do research, planning and stewardship. If we break this down into the research, the top part of that flow chart, this is really about using climate change projections, using vulnerability assessments on a landscape scale to prioritize the areas to be inventoried in the ground that haven’t been inventoried or are already under water.
What we want to come out of this first effort is a prioritization of resources that need action. In the planning stage, we developed goals for vulnerable resources, we identified a range of adaptation options and we filtered those options through constraints and opportunities. In the stewardship stage, we adopt and implement actions on a cyclic basis typically, with preservation maintenance. But we monitor and we continue to make adjustments if necessary. But if conditions on the ground change, we return to the planning stage, or if climate projections change we return to the research stage again. So this is a climate change cultural resources strategy that hopefully will be available fairly soon.
Tools that we’re using to identify cultural resource impacts on climate change on a service-wide scale include stepping up and refocusing our use of inventory, our section 110 work; we do inventories for historic structures, archeology, cultural landscapes, and we reassess condition on a periodic cycle. So we do an inventory and then we go back and do it again. We update it, we do a condition reassessment. Now we’re using vulnerability to climate change impacts as a driver to identify the interval at which we will redo the condition assessment. We have adopted a more extensive range of condition impacts to select from, in documenting the condition of the cultural resources. These are a bunch of standardized impacts that we can pick from in our inventory work to identify and condition. The reason why we pick from a pick list, there are 40 impacts we can pick from, is so that we can query a service wide database of cultural landscapes and understand where there are patterns of familiar types of impacts occurring. So we’ve added some impacts recently that are particular to climate change phenomenon.
Also, the Climate Change Response Program in National Parks Service is working on a new tool that’s a resource vulnerability assessment framework, and the underlying philosophy behind it is the vulnerability of a resource to climate change impacts is based on the climate change phenomena and the amount of exposure that the resource is getting to those phenomena, minus it’s adaptive capacity. Capacity to adapt- either our ability to adapt it, or its own inherent ability to adapt. This is something that is being worked on in FY16. Also, there’s about half the national parks, about 408 units, about half of those, now have climate projection models for each park on a park scale that can be integrated in our research and planning and stewardship efforts.
Something that’s brand new as of this past week that is under internal review will be going out to all agencies and the public in probably 2016, is a coastal adaptation strategies handbook. So this has just been released for internal review, but it’s a 24 case studies of National Parks adapting to climate change and the report highlights how climate change will impact infrastructure, cultural/natural resources in these park units. The report is not prescriptive but it illustrates examples of potential actions that other parks might take with similar circumstances in response to climate change. It includes this map that shows trends in sea levels, up and with isosatic rebound in Alaska, southeast Alaska, both sort of parents of more elevation of land relative to sea. The report contains compelling case studies, like this one is actually in Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, showing a historic cabin cluster. It’s a threat to be inundated by lake waters and talks about the reasons for that and what adaptation options the park is exploring. It also identifies that 111 units out of 408 National Parks are vulnerable to sea level change.
So now this is where I sort of segue and go a little bit rogue, but Barbara has sanctioned it. So that climate change information, you’ll find it at NPS, climate change or get to the Climate Change Response Program, you can find all of that. So since all that time I was having yesterday, and that’s why I was a bad girl and didn’t get my thing in the Drobox at the right time to have it show up here. So we have National Register property types, of course. Object, structure, building, site and district. The National Parks Service has cultural resource categories- archeology, historic structures, museum collections, ethnographic resources and cultural landscapes. So for the National Parks Service and the program that I manage, a cultural landscape is a category of cultural resource, kind of a counterpart to archeology. Not one in the same, but distinct from. But sharing some overlap, obviously. Considerable overlap. For us in the National Parks Service, a cultural landscape must be something that is eligible for the register as a site of a district. When we name a cultural landscape, we do so in concert with the DOE from the SHIPO and that basically says it’s eligible for the Register and it’s going to be eligible as a site or a district.
Our world has to fit into the sieve, the filter of the National Register framework and cultural landscapes are eligible as sites or districts. Of course historic structures have a very unique fit, objects structures and buildings. Museum collections, if they’re nominated they’ll go in as objects. Ethnographic resources can find themselves in any of these property types, which is really fantastic and fluid. But archeology and cultural landscapes of course both share this phenomenon of being listed on the register as sites or districts. In the National Parks Service, cultural landscapes are not the same things as the universal definition understanding of what cultural landscapes are. We have crossovers and great thinkers that thought of cultural landscapes as any lands, any place in the globe where there is an imprint of humanity. That is not what we mean in the National Parks Service by a cultural landscape in the cultural landscapes program. When we use that term in cultural resources management, we’re meaning lands that are eligible for the National Register as a site or a district. It’s sad but true. So this is a small piece of the pie, properties with historic significance, integrity, they’re eligible for listing on National Register places and we do it as sites or districts.
We try and do it with a little bit of a twist, an expansive twist, but I think it’s something that is endorsed by the National Parks Service and the National Register. We work well with Barbara and her colleagues. We use a typology of landscape characteristics for identifying and evaluating the integrity of landscapes. Those are a system, landscape characteristics are patterns that are both historic and still exist. Paleo still exists. They either influenced the use for development of the landscape historically and they still exist today, is the kicker there. So we use these as a mechanism for seeing integrity in the landscape. We organize a National Register Nomination by including these landscape characteristics and their associative features in section seven and section eight of the National Register Nomination. The description of the property and the statement of significance. The point is to build the case though these characteristic patterns on the ground. Tell how they belong to the historic context and how they are still evident today. It’s very important that they appear in section seven and eight and they be reinforced, in the description of property but also in the statement of significance.
Even though these don’t end up in that contributing resources count, they are there. They are what is within the boundary of the site or district, all of these things, and they are included in the narrative of the nomination. The downside of this approach, of course, is that these features are not specifically counted in that list of contributing resources that appears on the second page of the nomination. Possibly nationwide, recognition of landscapes is something worth preserving, maybe undermined by using the vocabulary ‘site’ or ‘district’ to refer to a landscape. Landscape is a more comfortable term for everything, but we use site or district as sort of this abstract concept. It’s not possible to count districts within districts, within sites within districts; it sort of limits our granularity of analysis somewhat. But on the positive side, we do have landscapes listed on the National Register as sites and districts, and natural/cultural features can be included in nominations in those narrative sections.
So once again, if I go back to here, we have natural systems and features. The natural systems are those phenomenon that shaped the development or use of that landscape historically, and the response of those is still evident today. So we can include natural features, clearly, in nominations of sites and districts. They don’t end up in that countable contributing resource count, but they are there. We need better guidance from the National Register. Improved, enhanced guidance and bulletins. We need the SHIPOs to get on board and understand that sites and districts do represent landscapes and they are matrices of historic patterns, interwoven. We need to write more quality nominations, more holistic, and write them well enough to justify what it is we are nominating. Final thought here is that every National Register Property, those five property types, they all can have a setting- setting is one of the aspects of integrity. So, objects have a setting. The setting of an object is outside of it’s boundary, but it’s the setting. The site of the structure, a building, they have a setting. Sites and districts can have a setting beyond their boundaries.
We can talk about the integrity and the historic context of that setting. So some of this stuff, these ideas that we feel frustrated can’t necessarily be brought in within the description of a site or district boundary, can be included in the nomination narrative, in the explanation and description of setting. This could lead to buched easements, conservation easements, zoning and planning codes, design guidelines that could potentially protect these things. It’s not as if a waste of effort to identify some things as setting. It can be leveraged for great planning work. So, thank you very much for that.