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Date: March 5, 2007
Contact: Kyle Patterson, 970-586-1363

National Park Service Historian Richard West Sellars will speak at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium in Rocky Mountain National Park on Tuesday, March 13, 2007. The talk titled “Past Perfect?: Preserving Nature and History in the National Parks” will start at 2 pm and is open and free to the public. The talk is the inaugural Randy Jones Memorial Lecture, jointly sponsored by the University of Colorado’s Center of the American West and the National Park Service.

Sellars will discuss the history of the National Park Service’s management of natural and cultural resources. He will talk about the National Park Service Act of 1916 and the tension between public use and enjoyment of national parks and preservation of natural resources.  Focusing on the 1916 Act’s mandate to leave the parks “unimpaired,” Sellars will show how the understanding of this mandate by the National Park Service shifted from its original focus on scenery and aesthetics to a broader ecological definition–and what impact this shifting had on the National Park Service’s management priorities and organizational power structure.  

In addressing cultural resources, Sellars will focus on concerns for resource integrity and authenticity–directly related to the mandate to leave the parks “unimpaired.” He will illustrate some of the complex preservation issues the National Park Service has faced, using as examples Southwestern archaeological sites; presidential homes such as the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt in New York state, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Texas (where Randy Jones once served as superintendent); and memorial sites such as the Lincoln Birthplace in Kentucky, and the Lincoln Boyhood Home in Indiana.  As keepers of historic places of great importance, the National Park Service is obligated to preserve the resources unimpaired, while making them available for the public to understand the sites’ history and significance.      

Dr. Sellars is a historian with the National Park Service in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is the author of Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History. This publication was the chief catalyst for the “Natural Resource Challenge”– a multi-year budget initiative by Congress to revitalize natural resource management and science in the national parks. To date, the initiative has resulted in a cumulative total of just under a half-billion dollars commitment.  Preserving Nature, which has received international notice, is a critical study of the conflicts between traditional scenery-and-tourism management and emerging ecological concepts in the national parks, and analyzes the management of fires, predators, elk, bear, and other natural phenomena in the National Parks. 

Currently, Dr. Sellars is preparing a companion study to Preserving Nature–a history of evolving policies and practices in the management of historic and prehistoric sites in the National Park System.  His articles on American history and on cultural and natural resource preservation have appeared in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, Wilderness, National Parks, Journal of Forestry, and Landscape.

The Center of the American West takes as its mission the creation of forums for the respectful exchange of ideas and perspectives in the pursuit of solutions to the region's difficulties. The lecture series honors past park superintendent Randy Jones, who had a reputation for negotiation and mediation. Randy’s long and distinguished career with the federal government spanned over 30 years, primarily with the National Park Service. From 2002 until spring of 2005, Randy held the position of Deputy Director, the highest position for a career employee within the National Park Service, at the agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. Randy’s diverse career consisted of a number of complex and prestigious assignments including Superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Randy was among the leaders of the Natural Resource Challenge initiative for the National Park Service and was instrumental in increasing federal spending on natural resource management in the parks.

For more information about the talk contact the park information office at (970) 586-1206 or visit 


Last updated: February 24, 2015

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1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


(970) 586-1206
Through winter, the Information Office is open 8:00 am–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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