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Science, Conservation, and National Parks (Hardcover)
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Today, more than 292 million tourists visit U.S. national parks each year, enjoying the great outdoors and taking selfies with buffalos. And nearly 25,000 professionals, many of them scientists, help guide and educate those tourists. This is all thanks to a group assembled by Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright in 1915 at a still-burgeoning University of California Berkeley campus. Together they plotted a future for the country’s existing and evolving national parks. The result was legislation establishing the National Park Service, signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The primary purpose of the park system was to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations”. This statement of purpose has always harbored both tension and ambiguity as it does not envision a future in which that conservation and enjoyment of park resources might come into conflict, much less offer principles for striking a balance between the two. Nor does it explain what it means to keep park resources unimpaired” for the future, which is where the divide between acceptable and unacceptable change to the parks might lie. Nor, finally, does it define or limit the universe of activities that constitute legitimate enjoyment” of park resources. Those are questions that cannot be answered in the abstract, or forever. The principles articulated in the Organic Act are unchanging, but the way those principles apply to specific facts is necessarily a function of the times. How the mission of the US National Park System is interpreted has implications that go well beyond the resolution of specific management conflicts. In 2014, in anticipation of the 2016 centennial of the NPS’s establishment, a group of incredible scientists and naturalists gathered at UC Berkeley, in partnership with National Geographic Society, and the NPS, to explore the history, present, and future of the NPS. Science for Parks, Parks for Science is a synthesis of that summit, as well as an opportunity for those who weren’t among the 1,000 attendees to read and experience the level of scientific exchange and debate, and the policy implications that followed. Taking on that responsibility, this volume becomes not only a catalyst for park conservation in the US, but also an inspiration for park systems and management the world over.