A Handbook for Managers of Cultural Landscapes with Natural Resource Values Conservation Study Institute
Parque Nacional Lauca, Chile, photo by Barbara Slaiby
Executive Summary
An Overview of Cultural Landscape Preservation
The Evolution of Cultural Landscape Preservation in the United States
International Recognition of Cultural Landscape Preservation
Definition of 'Cultural Landscapes'
An Overview of Cultural Landscape Preservation Parque Nacional Lauca, Chile, photo by Barbara Slaiby
View Case Studies

Definition of 'Cultural Landscape'

As would be expected from this widespread recognition and interest, there are a number of definitions for "cultural landscape" in use by different agencies and organizations in different parts of the world. The definition currently used by the U.S. National Park Service is:

a geographic area, including both cultural and natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein, associated with a historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values. (Cultural Resource Management Guidelines, NPS-28)

The National Park Service recognizes four descriptive types of cultural landscapes that are not mutually exclusive and are relevant to properties nationwide in both public and private ownership. These four types are historic sites, historic designed landscapes, historic vernacular landscapes, and ethnographic landscapes. (See definitions in Appendix B.)

photo by Nora Mitchell
Canyon de Chelly National
Monument, Arizona

The definition for cultural landscapes used by the National Park Service is of particular interest in this handbook since both natural and cultural resources are recognized as important and integral to the concept of a cultural landscape. It is this multidisciplinary aspect of cultural landscapes that creates current management challenges. These challenges arise from our traditional, rather discipline-oriented, approach to resource management, which has created a dichotomy between nature and culture. This dichotomy has proven to be a barrier to developing an integrated approach to landscape management because the resources most valued in certain disciplines may not be fully understood or appreciated by others. Cultural landscapes, rooted in the interaction of human activity with the natural environment, are the middle ground where the two traditions come together. A major challenge in some vernacular and ethnographic cultural landscapes is that there often are living populations who inhabit the land and have contemporary needs and ambitions. The scale of many cultural landscapes, which may stretch over thousands of acres, presents another challenge. The diversity of the resources—typically diverse cultural resources as well as diverse natural resources—must also be understood and managed. It is now clear that managing cultural landscapes relies on a holistic approach—one that encompasses all significant aspects of a historic property—as these are integrated places of natural, cultural, scenic, and sometimes recreational values that have evolved and been layered over time.

The landscape types recognized by the U.S. National Park Service are comparable, to a high degree, to the categories of cultural landscapes defined in the Operational Guidelines of UNESCO'S World Heritage Convention. (See Appendix C for World Heritage Convention definitions of cultural landscapes.)

Return to CSI WebsiteHomeContact Us