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
An Overview of Cultural Landscape Preservation
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
Findings Golden Gate Bridge, photo by Nora Mitchell
View Case Studies

Gathering and Utilizing Information

Adequate knowledge of the cultural landscape is critical to information-based decision-making. Required knowledge includes identification and understanding of the natural resources, cultural forces, and historic evolution that have shaped the landscape existing today, including the cultural resources that represent land forms, land uses, and human activities over time. A multidisciplinary approach is essential to addressing the diverse and complex aspects of cultural landscapes. The first step may be to develop a framework for gathering and evaluating information on resources. The second may be to develop a process for analyzing the significance of the cultural landscape and its resources in order to inform management decisions. The tools and approaches for gathering information can be divided into those used for documentation-driven decision-making and for counsel-driven decision-making.

Tools and Approaches


Cultural Landscapes Inventory
The cultural landscapes inventory (CLI), developed by the National Park Service, identifies the cultural landscapes at a site and provides information on their location, historic development, landscape characteristics and associated features, and management. It is useful if baseline information provided in the CLI is available at the time a cultural landscape report (see description below) is undertaken. The CLI was implemented throughout the National Park Service in 1997, but inventories were initially carried out on relatively small-scale sites. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a test case for creating a CLI on a large (nearly 70,000-acre), parkwide scale. (See Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area case study.)

photo by Nora Mitchell
Carriage Road in Acadia National Park

Cultural Landscape Report
The cultural landscape report (CLR) is used by the National Park Service as the principal management (treatment) document for cultural landscapes. The CLR summarizes a site's history, documents existing conditions, and evaluates the landscape's historic significance. A CLR guides management decisions for a landscape's physical attributes, biotic systems, and uses based on an understanding of historic significance. The Guide to Cultural Landscape Reports: Contents, Process, and Techniques was published by the National Park Service in 1998, providing procedural and practical information related to preparing a CLR.

Historic Character Study
A historic character study evaluates the "characteristics and features that define and illustrate the significance of the landscape" (Guide to Cultural Landscape Reports: Contents, Process, and Techniques). Mapping of these features provides a tangible illustration of cultural values, and, if mapped at the same scale as natural resources, allows for multidisciplinary discussions and the identification of opportunities for protection of a mix of values. This tool is particularly valuable for sites more than several hundred acres containing large areas of natural systems. (See Presidio Forest case study.)

Geographic Information System Database
Geographic information system (GIS) mapping can be used to see how character-defining features of the landscape have changed over time. Historic aerial photographs can be scanned and known points such as road intersections identified. The first layer created from the old photographs can then be overlaid on a second layer created from the current image, within the same view and in the same coordinate system, to identify changes in features such as field patterns, forests, and structures. (See Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area case study.)

Another use of GIS is to map resources and compare overlays of natural and cultural resources. The natural resources might include soils, wetlands, vegetation types, and wildlife habitats. Cultural resources might include historic structures, archaeological sites (both prehistoric and historic), and Native American burial sites. Color-coding can be used to allow resources of highest priority for protection to stand out. By analyzing the GIS maps, the resource management staff is able to identify areas where natural and cultural resources might be managed in concert, and where there are potential conflicts that will need to be resolved.

Historic American Landscapes Survey
The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) program was established by the National Park Service in October 2000 as a sister program to the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). HALS is intended to document significant historic landscapes throughout the United States with narrative history, drawings, and photographs. Guided by HALS professionals, teams of students in landscape architecture, architecture, planning, horticulture, and related disciplines, as well as interested professionals, conduct fieldwork for HALS through short-term projects. The teams record significant historic landscapes nationwide through measured and interpretive drawings, large-format photography, written narratives, and other documentation techniques. HALS encourages partnerships with private, governmental, and educational institutions to develop landscape documentation and encourage landscape preservation. Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park served as a pilot site for the HALS program in 2002.

Outside Experience


NPS photo
Charrette to gather input for forest management plan at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.

A charrette, a form of organized brainstorming, is a workshop with a physical design component. It brings together experts from various disciplines, allowing them to consider important issues together over a short period of time. In general, a charrette is most useful to generate ideas for a more in-depth planning process. (See Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park case study.)

Expert Panels
Many sites have used an expert panel composed of a multidisciplinary team to gather advice and define the scope or data requirements for developing management plans. Panel members can share information and perspectives gleaned from years of experience or research at a variety of sites. The use of an expert panel can reduce the time and cost necessary for gathering this information. Panel members can also identify gaps in knowledge and help determine how these gaps might be addressed. In order to reduce the amount of time consumed by this process, the panel can be charged with specific tasks or questions. (See Tallgrass Prairie National Park case study.)

Advice from Interviewees

Integration Across Disciplines

Many sites are beginning to look for input from many divisions within the park as well as outside experts as a means to make certain that all perspectives are represented in discussions and considered in planning and management actions or decisions. This approach allows resource managers to gather a greater amount of data and expertise. It is important that when using this multidisciplinary approach gathered from many sources, that the resource management staff ensure that the information is integrated.

Ensuring Adequate Information

Because cultural landscape documentation methodologies are relatively new, this information may lag behind that for natural resources. Several cultural resource specialists within the National Park Service felt this disparity was a serious concern and a barrier to cross disciplinary integration. As a result, they believe it is critical that there be commitment to gathering cultural landscape documentation in parallel with natural resource information.

The Importance of On-going Documentation

On-going documentation is an important role for resource managers and maintenance staff so that any changes made at a site are recorded and may, if necessary, be reversed at some point in the future. It was suggested that this is most often recognized by the maintenance staff who deal with historic structures, but that those who manage natural or cultural landscapes may not view documentation as a priority. Interviewees noted that it is important at every site to develop a procedure for documentation of changes made to all resources, and to make sure that all staff members understand the procedure and follow it for every project.

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