A Handbook for Managers of Cultural Landscapes with Natural Resource Values Conservation Study Institute
San Francisco Bay, California, photo by Nora Mitchell
San Francisco Bay, California, photo by Nora Mitchell
Executive Summary
Introduction
An Overview of Cultural Landscape Preservation
Methodology
Findings
An Overview of the Case Studies
Gathering and Utilizing Information
Communications: Getting Staff to Work Together
The Management Planning Process
Working with Others Outside the Site
Needs Assessment
Bibliography
Appendices
Findings Golden Gate Bridge, photo by Nora Mitchell
View Case Studies

Communication: Getting Staff to Work Together


NPS photo
Park staff from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP plant trees as volunteers in the local Woodstock, Vermont, community.

Sites that contain cultural landscapes with both natural and cultural values require a decision-making process that is viewed as fair and reasonable by all parties. This process can include various professionals such as historians, archaeologists, wildlife biologists, foresters, hydrologists, ethnologists, landscape architects, architects, engineers, interpreters, and maintenance staff. The process should include steps that establish and maintain communication between managers within different divisions at the site. One important role of the site manager is to create a team from an often diverse group of people. Even if staff in different divisions do not get along or work well together, it is the manager's job to make sure the staff is communicating about all key management issues. The process may also involve bringing together representatives of different disciplines through special committees or work teams.

Tools and Approaches

Project Review Process Using a Team Approach

Management of the complex and diverse natural, cultural, scenic, and other values of cultural landscapes requires consistent information flow, active communication in planning, and participation in decision-making among multiple staff members, often from different disciplines. One common observation by both natural and cultural resource managers interviewed was that they were frequently unaware of projects until the actual work was begun. Because of this, they were not able to be involved in the decision-making process while their input might still affect the outcome. Their sites had no comprehensive list of proposed or funded projects, or there was no mechanism in place for their involvement in the planning or priority-setting process.

The Blue Ridge Parkway's Resource Planning and Professional Services Division has developed a project review process that minimizes conflicts between cultural resource and natural resource managers. Previously, anyone proposing a project at the park would carry out the planning and design phase on their own, then send out the plan for others to review. At that late stage in the process, reviewers might be reluctant to ask for any major changes. As part of the pre-implementation phase of the new process, all players who will have an interest in a proposed project review that project in the field before any design work begins. This generally happens in the spring for all projects proposed for that year. The group first identifies all the natural and cultural resources that will be affected, then designs solutions that consider all natural, cultural, and scenic resource concerns. This is the point where negotiation takes place on planning and management issues. The team stays together throughout the course of the project, with the Resource Planning and Professional Services Division acting as the coordinator. Park planning and resource management staff believe this new process works well and effectively integrates natural and cultural resource concerns.

Compliance Committee

This is an interdisciplinary team that meets at regularly scheduled intervals to assess the compliance requirements of various site activities. At Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the compliance committee meets once a month and includes a representative from the superintendent's office, three division chiefs, and professional staff at various levels from all the major disciplines. The committee chair is responsible for making sure that all important resource-related issues are addressed. Although these meetings are not always easy, they provide an opportunity for all of the various participants' concerns to be "laid out on the table."

At Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the compliance committee has yielded several valuable benefits that further the park's goals for resource management and environmental leadership:

  • The existence of the committee has raised awareness throughout park staff that planning and compliance reviews should be considered for a variety of park activities, not just major development projects.

  • Having a recognized committee that meets regularly provides a structured process for development of standard operating procedures for compliance reviews. The information is then available to any staff member responsible for coordinating or managing a park activity. This structure has eliminated the need for staff members to determine on their own who needs to be contacted and make those contacts individually.

  • Regular meetings of interdisciplinary or interdivisional groups of coworkers create a real sense of teamwork that is invaluable when discussing problems and finding solutions to challenging compliance issues.

  • Regular compliance meetings make more efficient use of staff time, because up to eight different projects can be reviewed at one meeting. Formerly, each project would have required an individual meeting, meaning that the same staff members would have had to attend up to eight different meetings to accomplish what is now done in a single session.

Natural/Cultural Resource Management Staff Integrated Work-Days

One cultural resource manager arranges staff work-days with both natural and cultural resource staff members working side-by-side on a project requiring physical labor. Chosen work sites have both natural and cultural resource components. Working together tends to break down barriers and promotes a better working relationship back in the office. Volunteers from the local community often participate as well.

Organizational Structure

Although there may be many ways to achieve an integration of interests in management at a site, several interviewees indicated that one method they felt worked well was to place all staff responsible for cultural and natural resource management within the same division. This allows for daily interaction and increases the likelihood that everyone will have at least some information on various projects before any work actually begins, and will know enough about the projects to know when they should be involved at some level. Several interviewees suggested that integrating natural and cultural resource staff within the same division forces staff to work together at an overall management level, rather than an individual project level.

Placing all resource management staff within the same division also allows for value-laden philosophical discussions to take place over an extended period of time in a relaxed, nonconfrontational atmosphere, rather than during project management negotiations when tensions can be high. It allows for an exchange of ideas and an educational process so that everyone reaches at least a basic understanding of and appreciation for the importance of all the resources at a site.

Another reason suggested for creating a combined division is that the cultural and natural resource staff members then feel they are at an equal level when trying to achieve integration during the decision-making process. By placing all staff within one division under a single division chief, the chief ultimately becomes responsible for integration. If that individual does his or her job well, the atmosphere within the division promotes discussion and learning from one another across disciplines. Staff members need to feel the freedom to express their opinions openly without the fear of criticism or censure, and should understand the importance of listening to and considering the concerns of others. Staff members also need to appreciate their responsibility for airing their concerns openly. Frank debate among all the staff allows them to work together as a team to resolve issues.

Advice from Interviewees

The Importance of Leadership

Several interviewees expressed the importance of supervisors creating a "safe" environment for resource management staff, in which all members feel comfortable in expressing views openly and honestly without fear of recrimination. Staff members also understand the importance of listening to and considering the concerns of others. Staff meetings should be seen as the time to get concerns "out on the table." In order to create this atmosphere, supervisors need to develop leadership skills.

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