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
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The Evolution of Cultural Landscape Preservation in the United States

Recognition of cultural landscapes as an important part of our national heritage is rooted in the history of historic preservation. In the United States, there are three pieces of national legislation with associated policies that form the legal and governmental framework for historic preservation: the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Historic Sites Act of 1935, and the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, last amended in 2000. These laws address the preservation of cultural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The National Park Service (NPS), in cooperation with state historic preservation offices and certified local governments, administers the inventory, evaluation, and listing of significant historic properties in the U.S. through two historic preservation programs resulting from these laws: the National Historic Landmarks Program and the National Register of Historic Places.

photo by Rolf Diamant
Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, Washington

While recognition of historic value initially focused primarily on architecture, this focus has broadened in recent years to include landscapes as cultural resources. Although the National Park Service has recognized the significance of landscape characteristics and features in parks since the 1930s, there were no formal policies, guidelines, or standards for preserving and managing cultural landscapes until relatively recently.

NPS photo
Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

In the 1980s, the NPS began revising policies and guidelines for managing cultural landscapes included in the national park system. In 1984, Robert Z. Melnick published Cultural Landscapes: Rural Historic Districts in the National Park System, in which he noted that it was important to address the "larger landscape" as distinct from structures: it "often encompasses such elements as landform, plant materials, and location of structures." Melnick suggested that it was first important to identify those landscapes and then develop methods for their evaluation. In 1985, Ian Firth published Biotic Cultural Resources: Management Considerations for Historic Districts in the National Park System, Southeast Region, in which he began to grapple with the relationship between natural resources and cultural landscapes, and the management of what he termed "biotic cultural resources"—plant and animal communities associated with human settlement and land use. In 1988, landscapes were formally identified as a type of cultural resource in NPS Management Policies, and with this a policy was established to recognize and protect landscapes with significant historic, design, archaeological, and ethnographic values. This policy also recognized the importance of considering both built and natural features, and the dynamics inherent in natural processes and continued use.i

In 1994, the National Park Service expanded the Cultural Resource Management Guidelines, NPS-28 to include procedural guidance for managing cultural landscapes within the national park system. Also in the mid-1990s, the National Park Service developed two tools for research, planning, and stewardship activities for cultural landscapes. The cultural landscapes inventory (CLI) is a database that provides baseline information on the location, historic development, landscape characteristics and associated features, and management of cultural landscapes. The cultural landscape report (CLR) is the guide for management (frequently termed "treatment" in historic preservation reports) and use of the landscape. In 1999, the National Park Service published a manual for writing cultural landscape reports.ii

photo by John Gilbert
Saint-Gaudens National
Historic Site, New Hampshire

Concurrently, in order to support the recognition of cultural resources, the National Register began to issue bulletins describing how to nominate them. Beginning in 1987, there have been a number of National Register bulletins that provide advice on how to nominate various cultural landscapes:

designed landscapes (Bulletin #18),

rural vernacular landscapes (Bulletin #30),

battlefields (Bulletin #40),

cemeteries (Bulletin #41), and

historic mining properties (Bulletin #42).

In addition, in 1994, the NPS prepared Preservation Brief #36, Protecting Cultural Landscapes: Planning, Treatment, and Management of Historic Landscapes, which provides a good overview. In the 1980s, The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties was broadened to include landscapes, and, in 1996, the accompanying Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes was published to provide advice on preservation. These NPS publications have inspired a number of landscape inventory efforts by state historic preservation programs and, most recently, by NPS itself. (See Bibliography and Appendix D for listing of relevant National Register Bulletins and other NPS publications.)

iRobert R. Page, Cathy A. Gilbert, and Susan A. Dolan. Guide to Cultural Landscape Reports: Contents, Process, and Techniques. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1998, 7.

iiIbid, 8-9.

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