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Archive for the ‘NATIONAL PARK SERVICE’ Category

BY LISA OWENS VIANI

Congress puts permanent cash behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund and improvements to national parks. C-SPAN screen capture by LAM.

FROM THE UPCOMING SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a milestone law to lock in permanent federal funding for public lands and parks. President Trump signed the measure August 4, having been persuaded several months ago to support it by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who is up for re-election this year. On the day the House passed the Senate’s version of the bill, approved in June, by a vote of 310 to 107, the president said on Twitter: “We must protect our National Parks for our children and grandchildren. I am calling on the House to pass the GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOORS ACT today. Thanks @SenCoryGardner and @SteveDaines for all your work on this HISTORIC BILL!”

In 1964, back in the days of broader bipartisanship than it currently manages, Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), with the goal of safeguarding the country’s natural resources by using revenues from offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction activities. Every year, $900 million was supposed to pour into the fund to protect national parks and forests, waterways, and wildlife refuges, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. But since its inception, the fund has expired twice and has had to be reauthorized repeatedly. It has never been fully funded, with the exception of two years during the Clinton administration. “It was considered a win to get even half of it,” says Daniel Hart, ASLA’s federal government affairs manager.

In 2019, the LWCF finally received permanent reauthorization, giving resource managers and community planners cause for celebration. But the reauthorization did not include a permanent cash flow, meaning that funding would continue to be a challenge as it would depend on repeating rounds of appropriations, which were not always assured. Now the Great American Outdoors Act has remedied the problem by permanently funding the LWCF. (more…)

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BY KATHARINE LOGAN

Resource extraction companies are moving on public lands like never before.

FROM THE JULY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Since the creation of the Antiquities Act in 1906, American presidents have had the authority, the honor, and the privilege of designating as national monuments the country’s most culturally and scientifically significant public lands—including, by corollary, some of the most spectacular, biodiverse, heritage-rich, and downright magnificent landscapes in America.

It’s doubtful whether presidents also have the inverse authority—to deconsecrate a national monument once protected—but doubtful is good enough for the current incumbent. In December of 2017, the Trump administration announced the reduction of two national monuments in southern Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears, to shards of their former expanses, exposing culturally and ecologically important places to oil and mineral development.

The deconsecration of Grand Staircase and Bears Ears exemplifies a larger trend in this administration’s management of public lands. Since 2017, federally owned lands and waters totaling more than four times the area of California have been put up for lease to the energy sector. Utah, with its oil, gas, and mineral resources underlying the vistas of the Colorado Plateau, is on the front line. About 65 percent of the state is federally owned, and the U.S. Department of the Interior has received some 230 lease nominations covering more than 150,000 acres. Development of these leases threatens iconic Red Rock Canyon lands, forested plateaus, indigenous cultural sites, archaeological troves, and geological marvels. Some of the leases would allow drilling within half a mile of renowned protected sites, such as Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, and within 10 miles of Bears Ears’s radically shrunken limits. (more…)

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THE THEFT OF A HISTORIC SITE FOR FREE EXPRESSION CASTS LIGHT
ON THE VALUE OF PUBLIC SPACE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY.

 

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

TEXT BY THAÏSA WAY, FASLA

FROM THE JULY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On June 1, 2020, in a cowardly response by the president to the protests against racially grounded police violence, Lafayette Park and the Ellipse were fenced off around the White House. These two parks, to the north and south of the White House, respectively, form President’s Park and are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (NPS). They belong to the public, to us.

Areas of the park have been closed before (and often temporarily for arriving heads of state), but the fences that went up as May became June posed serious incursions into the democratically sacrosanct public realm. The barriers began as low temporary railings over the weekend of May 30 in a frightened reaction to large protests against the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25 and the killings of so many other black people before him across the nation. As demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter grew in downtown Washington, the buffer around the White House expanded until it had pushed the nearest protests into H Street NW, a two-block remove. Late in the afternoon of June 1, hundreds of peaceful protestors were violently struck with tear gas and sting grenades fired by police to cut a large path for the president’s now infamous walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church to pose for photographs. By Thursday, June 4, as more military vehicles poured into Washington, the fences had been hardened into cage-like walls more than eight feet high around the 82-acre whole of President’s Park. It was a reprehensible seizure of First Amendment space. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

If you visit one of our national parks nowadays to commune with nature, you may find yourself having instead an experience of mass tourism. Many parks are huge. You’d expect plenty of elbow room. But much of any wilderness park is inaccessible to the public. Besides, people generally head for a few famous spots—you probably want to see those too—which quickly become overwhelmed. Attendance is up over the past few years. Infrastructure typically went in over decades, usually piecemeal, not by comprehensive plan, and for smaller crowds, so both visitor experiences and the places themselves become degraded. And the National Park Service has money problems. By 2017, the bill for deferred maintenance—apart from any new capacity—was $11.6 billion (see “Roads to Ruin,” LAM, February 2016).

Still, where it can, often with help from citizen conservancies, the park service is commissioning landscape architecture interventions to redress the gridlock and throngs. Most people will still find themselves among multitudes of strangers, but these redesigns can provide more authentically natural, less contrived interactions with the environment. The Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park was until recently a prime example of the problem. A project there, which opened to the public last summer, is a model response. Half of its $40 million cost was donated by the Yosemite Conservancy. It was designed by Seattle-based Mithun.

Mariposa Grove actually has two concentrations of the great trees, the lower grove and the upper grove. Before, when you reached the lower grove you were in a parking lot. Several giant sequoias were stranded there like islets in the sea of asphalt; you might not even have realized you’d arrived. This lot filled up early. Overflow traffic returned some seven miles on a winding, two-lane park road to Wawona, where there is a historic hotel, a convenience store, and a small Yosemite history museum. Visitors there caught a shuttle back to the grove. But Wawona had only “a makeshift drop-off for the shuttle and no parking infrastructure for the hundreds who would come through—quite a fiasco,” says Christian Runge, ASLA, a Mithun senior associate.

When you finally shuttled back to the lower grove, “there was a sense of confusion,” Runge says. “Wayfinding wasn’t clear. There were redundant loops of trails. They had to have rangers telling (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A recent history of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is as follows:

In April, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report on its investigation into the reassignment under Zinke of 27 career members of the department’s Senior Executive Service, high-level staff whose jobs are to “provide institutional stability and continuity” across administrations. More than 40 percent of the executives reassigned, CNN reported, were nonwhite. Ten of those employees told the inspector general’s office they believe their reassignments were for “political or punitive reasons,” including past work on climate change, energy policy, or conservation. The inspector general was unable to figure out whether the department followed legal requirements and guidelines for internal reassignments because “DOI did not document its plans or reasons” for the reassignments. Several department employees told CNN they had heard Zinke say that diversity was not “important” at the agency, which employs nearly 70,000 people, more than 70 percent of whom are white. Zinke’s office denied his ever having made such comments.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel confirmed also in April that it is looking into whether Zinke violated the Hatch Act, which forbids certain kinds of political activity by most employees of the executive branch, by announcing an exemption for Florida from a sweeping plan to begin opening nearly all of the United States’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration. The exemption, the only one given to a whole state, was staged as a victory for Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is running for one of Florida’s Senate seats. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY LOUISE JOHNS

Three hundred years ago, Blood Run was a hub of the Great Plains. The landscape architect Brenda Williams is helping guide tribal efforts to protect what’s left, mostly by listening.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

On a cold, blustery morning last November, I followed an abandoned railroad grade to the South Dakota and Iowa state line. I had two maps in front of me—one an annotated paper printout, a collage of colors and lines overlaid on an old topo map, and the other Google Maps, open on my phone, my blue dot tacking southwest. I wasn’t lost. I was on a trail that did not yet exist.

The route, unmarked and at points choked by trees, had been outlined to me a few days earlier by Brenda Williams, ASLA, a landscape architect and director of preservation planning at Quinn Evans Architects in Madison, Wisconsin. Williams had recently led the development of a master plan for this area, an important but not widely known archaeological site known as Blood Run. The old railway was the proposed arrival sequence.

Typically, the few visitors who came to Blood Run, which became a National Historic Landmark in 1970, parked at the top of a bluff and followed a path down to the Big Sioux River, the state border. But Williams had been explicit: Take the railroad grade. Rather than start high, Williams wanted visitors to begin in the valley, to park and walk along the creek that gives the area its name before reaching the earthen mounds that are some of the site’s more visible cultural and historic remnants. It was, in part, a practical decision: The abandoned railroad provided a level path all the way from the main road to the mound grouping. But mostly it was about being immersed in the place, bringing people into the site (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JULIE DERMANSKY

In Southern Louisiana, Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture is helping the people of Isle de Jean Charles move away from a disappearing coast.

Every year LAM honors two articles that stand out in the realm of landscape architecture with the Bradford Williams Medal—one that has appeared in LAM, and one from outside the magazine. After a nomination and selection process by the LAM Editorial Advisory Committee, this year’s 2017 Bradford Williams Medal LAM winner is Brian Barth for his article “Let’s Beat It,” below, which appeared in the October 2016 issue.

Wenceslaus Billiot often spies dolphins leaping in the bay behind his house in Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. Just shy of his 90th birthday, he remembers his backyard as a vast, forested wetland when he raised his family here as a young man. In dry weather, the land was firm enough for his kids to walk to the store in the nearby hamlet of Chauvin. This June day the water is calm—a fisherman’s paradise—but hurricane season is another story. Billiot, a World War II veteran, former tugboat captain, and boat builder, says every year the water comes higher.

He lives in a dwindling community of the Biloxi–Chitimacha–Choctaw tribe, and like most of the 27 families who remain, Billiot and his wife, Denecia, are making plans to move inland. “But I don’t want to go,” he says in a Cajun accent.

He has no choice. Isle de Jean Charles, once 22,000 acres, has lost 98 percent of its land area since 1955, and state officials warn that (more…)

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