Natural Resource Management

 

Sensitive management of the park's natural resources is vital to preservation of the historic scene. Yet, a management strategy to protect these resources has only recently been developed. The 1982 "Resource Management Plan" acknowledged the need for increased emphasis on the park's natural resources and, as a result, established a schedule for air and water monitoring, hazardous tree removal, grazing, and vegetation studies. [143]

An important result of this new awareness is the current revegetation project. In 1984, Landscape Architect Cathy Gilbert completed the "Landscape Study and Management Alternatives for Revegetation," which outlines specific steps for managing the park's natural resources and preserving the historic scene. The "Landscape Study" acknowledges the difficulty in reestablishing the native vegetation because of the greatly modified landscape, yet concurs with the goal stated in the park's "Statement for Management": "To maintain as nearly as possible, the visible aspect of the historic period commemorated." [144] Therefore, the "Landscape Study" divides the park into six separate land units recommending different revegetation options for each unit. As a follow-up study, Jim Romo and William Krueger of the Cooperative Park Studies Unit at Oregon State University completed the "Weed Control and Revegetation Alternatives for Whitman Mission National Historic Site" in 1985. This study subdivided Gilbert's six units into fifteen areas and prescribed specific revegetation instructions and timelines for each area, including prescribed burns, herbicides, and reseeding. However, park administrators were dissatisfied with the results so they turned, once again, to Oregon State University for advice. Superintendent Herrera explained that their current consultant has a different theory about the best way to revegetate the park:

The agronomist from Oregon State University, Dr. Larry Larsen, told us last week . . . that when [you disturb ground by burning, plowing, and spraying herbicides] and then attempt to reseed it and hope that . . . you don't lose that reseeding due to competition, he says, you could be worse off than when you started . . . you could have a bumper crop of weeds the next year. [145]

Therefore, Dr. Larsen's plan entails planting grass varieties that are least competitive with the native species, and then once these varieties are established, plant the desired, native grasses. Superintendent Herrera is confident about Dr. Larsen's plan and predicts the project will last for 5-8 years. Chief Interpreter Trick anticipates that, at the end of that time, probably 75 of the park's 95 acres will be revegetated. Trick considers revegetation both a cultural and natural resource project because native growth will improve not just the park's appearance but interpretation, too. Superintendent Herrera agrees that revegetation will have a dramatic effect on interpretation:

If visitors in years to come can come here and can see some of the native tall grasses and other vegetation that was here 150 years ago, that you rarely see in this area any more, it would be quite an attraction . . . they will sense that there's something special about this place. [146]

Thus, revegetation is a program that will contribute to increased awareness of both natural and cultural resources and will help to ensure their care in the future.

Clearly, each superintendent was primarily responsible for the degree of protection given to the park's cultural and natural resources. However, the amount and quality of preservation that a resource received oftentimes depended upon the conservation treatments available at the time. Regardless of past neglect, today managers are attuned to their responsibility for both the cultural and natural resources and, as a result, high quality care can be expected to continue.

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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Walla Walla, WA 99362

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