National Parks Around The World: Are They All The Same? Special Program on September 17

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Date: September 7, 2011
Contact: Kyle Patterson, (970) 586-1363

On Saturday, September 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park a special panel will discuss National Parks Around The World: Are They All The Same? This program is part of a week-long session beginning on September 14 and ending on September 17. The only program being held in Rocky Mountain National Park will be on Saturday.

The Public Lands History Center and the Department of History at Colorado State University will host 'National Parks Beyond the Nation,' an interdisciplinary colloquium aimed at reconsidering the history of "America's Best Idea" from global perspectives. The project will bring together thirteen leading environmental history scholars for an intensive four-day workshop to share their research on the international environmental history of national parks. In addition to discussing and developing pre-circulated papers, participants will speak about their research in one of three public panels. The panel presentations will introduce the audience to emerging ideas and promote discussion of different park models and approaches.   

For the session taking place at Rocky Mountain National Park, the panelists are Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa; Ted Catton, University of Montana; Ann McGrath, Australian National University; Emily Wakild, Wake Forest University; and Adrian Howkins, Colorado State University (moderator).

Jane Carruthers from the University of South Africa will explore some of the controversial aspects of the history of South Africa's national parks, relating it, where possible, to connections with national parks in the United States and with the rhetoric generated by the term "national park."  In the South African situation, the issue revolves around national politics and the peculiar difficulties that this multi-lingual and multi-racial country has experienced in constructing itself as a "nation."

Ted Catton from the University of Montana will present a comparison of the history of US and New Zealand national park systems with emphasis on the changing approaches to nature protection and scientific research, especially post-World War II. Broadly, the two systems parallel each other in that they each began in the late nineteenth century, gained momentum in the early decades of the twentieth century and were initially centered around tourism development. In recent years they have come to emphasize scientific research and preservation of endangered ecosystems and ecological processes. Where they differ is that New Zealand national parks administration was quite minimal compared to the US through most of the 20th century as there was not an equivalent pressure of visitor numbers or nearly the level of public support for management and development.

Ann McGrath from Australian National University will discuss "Conquering Sacred Grounds? Climbing Uluru and Devil's Tower Monument." By comparing the climbing controversies at Uluru in Australia and at Devils Tower in Wyoming, she seeks to examine how visitors may be engaging in, if not re-enacting, different kinds of history stories. These remarkable landscape features were each proclaimed part of 'national parks' in Australia and the United States.  Yet, as contested sites of cultural authority, the impulse to 'preserve' them and 'conquer' them have become entwined.  

Emily Wakild from Wake Forest University will examine how different social groups value and conserve nature, especially how they have done so in the past in measurable ways like declaring parks and protected areas.  Her focus will mainly be in South America which boasts the largest expanses of wild nature and dozens of parks, among the largest in the world, yet historians know little about how policies promoting conservation first enacted in the United States influenced the protection of natural spaces in this region.  

The program is free and open to the public. To learn more about Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206. To learn more about all the programs affiliated with National Parks Beyond The Nation for the week of September 14, go to:


Last updated: February 24, 2015

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