International Conservation Congress Gathers in Hawaii

IUCN in Hawaii 2016
Director Jonathan Jarvis was among several people representing the National Park Service in the International Conservation Congress in Hawaii.

NPS Photo

News Release Date: September 9, 2016

Contact: Jeffrey Olson, 202-208-6843

National Park Service Shares Centennial Story as Part of U.S. Delegation 

WASHINGTON –From the state of conservation in North America to climate change response strategies to youth and diversity to healthy parks and healthy people, National Park Service (NPS) staff at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii have engage with international, national, federal, state and local partners on projects and programs to share messages of collaboration, community, bio cultural conservation and resource stewardship, and importantly, to further explore future challenges that we will face together.

NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and a small cadre of NPS employees are part of the U.S. delegation to IUCN, led by President Obama, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. About 9,700 people from 192 of 195 countries in the world attended the September 1-10 conference.

"Connecting with and creating the next generation of park visitors, supporters and stewards is the theme of the National Park Service centennial and that message, which we've been sharing for more than a year in the Find Your Park campaign, has been well-received here in Hawaii," Jarvis said.

Conservation Accomplishments

The opening session at the U.S. Pavilion "Celebrating North American Conservation Accomplishment in the Centennial Year of the U.S. National Park Service:An Analysis by Canada, Mexico, and the United States," featured the results of the recent effort to identify and assess the extent of lands that are protected and managed for conservation across North America.

Christy Goldfuss, former NPS deputy director, and currently managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, opened the session with the members of the North American Intergovernmental Committee on Cooperation for Wilderness and Protected Area Conservation.Jarvis presented the conservation accomplishments from the natural resource study and report.

"Protected areas serve as anchors of biodiversity protection in a network of conserved lands that together contribute to our overall conservation accomplishment," Jarvis said. "This analysis can spark discussion on opportunities to collaborate on local, regional, national and trans-boundary conservation goals."

Also attending and speaking to the study were Alejandro Del Mazo Maza, national commissioner of the Mexican National Commission on Natural Protected Areas;Daniel Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada;Dan Ashe, US Fish and Wildlife Director;Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service;Kristin Bail, assistant director of the Bureau of Land Management;and Kevin Gallagher, associate director for core science systems of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Healthy Parks, Healthy People

As keynote speaker for the Healthy Parks Healthy People Workshop, Jarvis provided background on the relationship between human health and parks and protected areas. "Much of life today exacts a toll on health, happiness, quality of life and economic wellbeing," he said. "Average Americans spend an estimated 93 percent of their time indoors, half of the world's population lives in cities and that figure may reach 70 percent by 2050. And disease? We're all affected."

The good news, Jarvis said, is that many diseases are preventable and parks and protected areas offer a powerful remedy. There is mounting evidence to demonstrate that spending time in nature is linked with decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, lower cortisol levels and blood pressure and reducing risk of being overweight and obese.

Participant perspective

Melia Lane-Kamahele is a native Hawaiian and career NPS employee who serves as the manager of the NPS Pacific Islands Office in Honolulu. The IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 "Planet at the Crossroads" has been part of her life for a year. "It has been an especially powerful journey to engage and be able to share the stories and challenges of Pacific bio cultural conservation and biodiversity in island ecosystems.

"One of the highlights has been the opportunity to foster continued dialog to meet the responsibilities and challenges of the second century of the NPS by engaging and supporting the next generation of committed stewards," Lane-Kamahele said.

NPS Cultural Anthropologist Jennifer Talken-Spaulding said, "One of the most amazing things was to be in this international audience and to understand how similar we are and how similar are our issues."

The 28 NPS delegates were engaged in a wide array of events with people from around the world including Africa, Norway, Australia, France, Russia, Sweden, Canada, Mongolia, Bhutan, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Aotearoa (New Zealand), as well as IUCN commission working groups, Forum sessions, knowledge café, an NPS exhibit booth, presentations, e-posters, conservation campus sessions and other events such as the Member's Assembly.

Youth and Parks

In the realm of youth and parks and protected areas, NPS staff highlighted President Obama's Every Kid in a Park initiative, which kicked off its second year this month. Every Kid in a Park gives every fourth grader in America and their families a one-year pass for free entry at more than 2,000 federally-managed lands and water, including national parks.

"The timing of this program could not be more critical," Jarvis said. "With more than 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, many kids are at risk of losing regular exposure to natural settings. We are also challenged to find effective ways of incorporating technology, which can be a barrier or a bridge to outdoor activity, into children's experience with nature." 

Parks are living classrooms where children can learn critical skills through hands-on experimental education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), history, and the arts. To expand opportunities to integrate parks into school curriculum, the National Park Service has launched an education portal, which offers lesson plans and other materials to support teachers. And, the National Park Foundation has stepped up to offer Every Kid in a Park transportation grants to take more fourth grade classes on field trips to national parks and other public lands and waters.  

"Imagine if in just 12 years, every school-age child in America participated in the Every Kid in a Park initiative," Jarvis said. "Every Kid in a Park program could be the formative influence on the second century of the National Park Service. In 20 years, our core visitors may be sharing their defining park moments that happened during their fourth grade year." 

Climate change

NPS climate scientists played a major role in the launch of the IUCN's "Adapting to Climate Change: Guidance for Protected Area Managers and Planners." Much of the guide is based on NPS experience in the realm of climate science and is part of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Best Practices series.

The guide is aimed at helping managers of protected areas and protected area systems think about and develop useful adaptation strategies for protected areas in the face of climate change. Practices and guidance in the volume address climate adaptation of natural ecosystems and associated values in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater protected areas both at the site and system level.

In remarks at the presentation of the guide, Jarvis said visibility of climate change and the role of protected areas in the global dialogue have advanced greatly over the past five to 10 years. He listed effects seen in U.S. national parks, especially after major events such as Superstorm Sandy. "The public and political leaders see that climate change is happening now and not in an abstract future," he said.

NPS Acknowledged

Jarvis received the IUCN's Fred Packard Award at the conference. Packard was an NPS employee and served as Secretary to the World Commission on Protected Areas in the early 1970s. The award recognized Jarvis for "achievements in enhancing the lives of people by connecting them with parks and protected areas and the benefits they provide."

The award also recognized Jarvis for identifying innovative approaches across themes and topics that affect the world as the NPS celebrates its centennial has explored how protected areas can contribute to addressing climate change, the role of nature in human health and well-being, the needs of new citizens, and the recognition and expression of minorities. "In particular, he has sought to find ways in which young people can connect with nature, to inspire lifelong learning and inspiration, and strengthen their identification with nature through national parks."

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at, on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Last updated: September 13, 2016

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