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Deciphering Cultural Landscape Heritage in the Time of

Climate Change

Robert Z. Melnick

ABSTRACT Traditionally, cultural landscape heritage, INTRODUCTION

and the concept of significance, has been a measure What is it about cultural landscapes that sets them
of association with important movements, styles, or apart from other historic resources? What is it that so
people in American history. In addition, physical condi- often makes them difficult to understand and protect,
tion, intactness, or integrity informed by historic circum- even when they are valued and appreciated? And what
stances have been important. This analytical process has is it that most threatens their resiliency now, as we sail,
relied on a foundational belief in a stable environmental often blindly, into the environmental headwinds of the
context. It is now appropriate to add another dimension twenty- rst century?
to that equation, based on the impact of climate change In a now classic 1981 piece, British author Marion
variables on landscape form and process. The investi- Shoard explored why landscapes are harder to protect
gation of the integration of climate data and landscape than buildings (Shoard 1981). Shoard, a British author
circumstances, based on three cultural landscape case who at that time had never visited the U.S., posited
studies, reveals the need to rethink our understanding of that there are a number of reasons for that challenge.
landscape context and what is meant by landscape heri- They included, rst, the very elusive and complex
tage. The three case studies, all in U.S. national parks, nature of the landscape, as it is the result of the inter-
were selected based on a diversity of ecological contexts action of human activities and the geology, geography
and cultural landscape types. Viewed as a set, they reveal and biology of our planet. She went on to suggest
a common array of questions and approaches to address- that landscapes are most often viewed as a jumble of
ing a major revision in our conceptualization of cultural objects whose origin, function and relationship to each
landscape heritage, especially in light of many future other are mysteries.
2017 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

contextual uncertainties, and the ways in which those In retrospect, Shoards discussion is an insightful
uncertainties challenge the normalized view of cultural investigation of many of the problems that we still face
landscape process and integrity. when addressing cultural landscapes. In spite of the
best efforts to codify and explain them, cultural land-
KEYWORDS Climate change, climate science, land- scapes can often seem like a jumble, (Shoard 1981)
scape resilience, landscape vulnerability, future heri- demanding far more explanation than the everyday or
Landscape Journal 35:2 ISSN 0277-2426

tage, dynamic cultural landscapes even extraordinary historic building or archaeologi-

cal site.
Shoard reminds us of the difficulty of de ning
the limits to any particular stretch of [the landscape]
in space and time. (Shoard 1981) Any student of the
American cultural landscape will recognize this prob-
lem. Where does the cultural landscape end and when
did it begin? While National Park Service guidelines
attempt to address these questions (National Park Ser-
vice 2016), it is worth questioning the ways in which
those guidelines both support and limit a course of
action. These guidelines are founded on architectural interpretation. What used to be called living history
and archeological models of historic resource identi- was one way of expressing an active and participatory
cation and analysis that drastically con ict with the view of past events. Consider, for example, Plimoth
understanding of landscapesnatural and cultural Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg (Kopper 1986).
as dynamic and evolving systems (Brabec and Chil- In the truest sense, however, these are not dynamic
ton, 2015). cultural landscapes, but places set, or even freeze-
One of the most challenging of all issues is dried, in a moment in time. This can be considered a
identifying a cultural landscapes context. Too often bell jar approach to historic preservation. Another
mistakenly viewed as objects or artifacts, cultural example, but still purposefully not truly dynamic, is
landscapes in fact are dynamic entities, and are thus Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, Wisconsin. Operated
differentiated from other cultural resources by the by the Wisconsin Historical Society since 1976,
rate and pace of change. One need only review some this reconstructed historic village and agricultural
of the foundational authors in the eld to understand landscape portrays housing and the daily life of
that cultural landscapes are, by their very de nition, European immigrants in nineteenth-century Wisconsin
resiliently dynamic resources, and this is a desirable (Holmes 2002).
characteristic. (Deming 2015, 1129) The dynamism of cultural landscapes, of course,
Recently, Carl Sa na (Sa na 2011) observed and is also inextricably linked not only to human history
wrote about the landscape changes throughout a year but to ecological systems. Writing of the ecological
at Lazy Point, on the eastern edge of Long Island, systems in Athabasca Valley in Jasper National Park,
New York. Sa na, a naturalist, marine biologist and Alberta, Eric Higgs (2003, 267) states:
landscape advocate, reminds us that every walk is a
product of the present and a relic of the past (Sa na Irrespective of viewpoint, visible to any keen
2011, 9). Every walk, every landscape, every place we observer are both the extent and rate of change.
live in, visit, see or experience is both past and present, And the changes are mind-boggling. In less than
both noun and verb. This, too, is not a new idea, with a hundred years, the complexion of this valley
the push to document historic landscapes dating to the has changed irrevocably. This is a simple fact we
1930s and earlier (Mayall 1935). sometimes neglect because of the incremental
Historians, geographers, botanists, landscape quality of the changes. The trajectory is clear so
architects, and marine biologists share ideas imbed- far, but how will the changes unfurl in the next
ded in the concept of landscape as a dynamic system century? Taken as one piece, the sweep of history
(Higgs 2003, Glassberg 2001, Beagan and Dolan 2015, ought to incite a consideration of the future in the
Dolan 2009, Melnick 2015). The most basic under- thinking of park managers, scholars, citizens and
standing of systems theory recognizes that all parts visitors, or so one would think.
are related, and an alteration of any one part alters the
entire system (Odum 1983, Weinberg 2002). In cultural Higgss admonition that the sweep of history
landscapes, the dynamic system is a de ning character- ought to incite a consideration of the future is espe-
istic, not merely an afterthought, add-on, or incidental; cially appropriate as we delve into the impacts of
it is an essential quality. climate change on cultural landscapes and develop
We must look beyond any specic landscape, how- mechanisms to assess the vulnerability of those land-
ever, and include and engage the larger environmental scapes given the probability of climate change and
context as well. The cultural landscape is both inter- other variables (Glick, 2011).
nally and externally intricate and dynamic, affected by Traditional historic preservation does not engage
machinations in politics, economics, climate patterns, or fully consider surrounding environs. Cemented
social norms and mores, and human aspirations and in the foundations of preservation orthodoxy, the
predilections. overwhelming majority of preservation policies,
All cultural landscapes are dynamic cultural treatments, and actions fail to recognize the
landscapes; changes in the land brought on by cultural changing contexts of valued resources. Since 1966
traditions can be presented through landscape the National Register of Historic Places (Scarpino

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1992) has served as the baseline for determining the Historic Preservation Act (1966), the Burra Charter
historic signicance and integrity and, by extension, (1979) or other fundamental international declarations
appropriate preservation action. The National of preservation/conservation tenets. In the commit-
Register and the Secretary of Interiors Standards ment to protect critical and valued resources, climate
for Historic Properties (National Park Service 2016) change issues require that we be nimble and exible yet
have both evolved and grown over the past 50 years, adhere to basic beliefs and ideals.
and have been especially useful in institutionalizing It is the unpredictability of these forces, however,
and regularizing our recognition of places of historic that may cause us to avoid these issues. As Per Espen
value in our society and in our landscape. One Stoknes asserts, the data on climate change is alarm-
important aspect of these de ning documents has not ing and difficult to confront, resulting from a conict
changed, however, except in minor details. These two between scientic information and public and political
fundamental documents of federal preservation policy will. (Stoknes 2015). As Donald Rumsfeld reminded
do not account for a dynamic environmental milieu, the world in 2002:
with ecological, political, cultural, and/or economic
uctuations. Instead, they consider resources within As we know, there are known knowns; there are
a constant or predictable context and fail to fully things we know we know. We also know there are
appreciate or duly recognize the dynamic nature of the known unknowns; that is to say we know there are
larger environment. This can lead to the unfortunate some things we do not know. But there are also
belief that preservation action alone can determine the unknown unknownsthe ones we dont know we
degree of protection for a historic or cultural resource. dont know (Graham 2014).
While this is clearly not appropriate for historic
buildings, it is deadly for cultural landscapes. Thus, The concept of unknown unknowns applies
each of the directions for recognizing, evaluating not only to global environmental forces, but also to
and treating cultural landscapes assumes a greater our ability or willingness to confront how these forces
level of constancy than we now experience or might impact the cultural landscape. While governments and
reasonably anticipate. society must address the course of climate change, oth-
Additionally, these preservation guidelines and ers can work to ameliorate the impact of those changes
standards rely on a normative set of societal values on valued resources. These are two different tracks,
that do not have the exibility to evolve as resources although sometimes confused and conated.
become more scarce, and competition for them is Climate change presents societies with issues
heightened. What will happen when decisions are beyond those affecting cultural landscapes. Food
made to put a lower priority on non- essentials, and supply, for example, and our ability to feed and sup-
who will make those decisions? And who will de ne port global populations will be an increasing challenge
non- essentials? Internationally, one need only con- (Benton and Bailey 2015). We are faced, as well, with
sider the recent actions of ISIS in Syria, for example, an increased recognition of climate change migration,
as resources that have been revered for centuries are and the increasing movement of human populations
eradicated based on constricted values and intentions across the globe (de Melo 2015).
of present day actors (Barnard 2015). Climate change and its impact on the cultural
Our changing global climate adds a signicant landscape may very well be the prevalent force of
factor of predictable unpredictability. The response to change and generator of heritage in the future.1 What,
climate change impact on cultural landscapes cannot then, is the heritage we will leave for future genera-
be re ned without considering a number of deeply tions? Although, in our current systems, heritage is
rooted issues and concepts. These are based in a collec- generally associated with physical artifacts, there
tive frustration with forces that are well beyond our are of course other ways of connecting with the past
control, but also from long held contradictions as we (Lowenthal 1985). The most obvious of these are
seek to contain, rede ne and disassemble the nature/ intangible resources, such as language, stories,
culture dichotomy. In most cases, these issues could songs, cooking traditions, religion, and personal
not have been anticipated in the Venice Charter (1964), mores, to name just a few (Glassberg 2001).

Melnick 289
Figure 1
New Orleans after Katrina, 2005. (Photo credit: Robert Z Melnick.)

In the transmission of history, however, in the signicance. The idea behind this guideline, which
telling of the story, there is another strong tradition. more likely dates to the Historic Sites Act of 1935 and
Scholars reect on movements, periods of time when subsequent actions (Sprinkle 2007) is that, in order to
both subtle and dramatic shifts in human history took assess signicance, it is necessary for historians and
place. Periods such as the industrial revolution are others to have some temporal distance, such as two
imbued with multiple meanings and understandings, generations. Some analysts, but not all, understand
and subject to recurring re-interpretations. Often, this however that the 50 year guideline is not a rule but a
results in revisionist history, hardly a new concept. consideration that needs justication. (Miller 2015,
As we learn more, uncover new facts, or witness the Sprinkle 2007)
past through changing lenses, we see it in a new light. Climate change presents us with a very different
Our understanding and re-understanding of the Cold phenomenon, however. There are two ways to under-
War, for example, is a demonstration of changing stand climate change in this context. We can view it
views and revisionist history that goes against so much as a force, which it is, and identify and comprehend its
of what many believed to be true in the 1950s (Alpero- impact on historic physical resources. The National
vitz 1965). Park Services Climate Change Response Program is
The discussion takes us back to the National tackling this issue head on (NPS 2010). We can also
Register of Historic Places, the official listing in this view it as a movement, an era, or a period of time that
country of those places that pass the test of multi-level we will reect on in the future, much as we still debate
review and are designated as officially historic and about the Industrial Revolution (Beaudoin 2000) or the
signicant. For better or for worse, the National meaning of Woodstock almost 50 years after that event
Register tradition, since 1966, relies on what has been (Life Magazine 1969). Climate change, then, may mark
incorrectly termed the 50-year rule, a measure that this time as one of equally incremental and dramatic
applies a standard of age to the designation of historic change to both place and people (Semuels 2015).

290 Landscape Journal 35:2

Figure 2
Oahu taro patch farming, 2009. (Photo credit: Robert Z Melnick.)

UNCONTROLLABLE ENVIRONMENTAL FORCES of landscape conditions, and plan for the need to alter
AND VIEWS OF HERITAGE our course as conditions change. These are not easy
Like much science, research in climate change is as strategies, and they demand a dynamic approach. It
much an art as it is an exact discipline, especially when may mean, for example, that we re-think what we
it comes to making predictions about any particular value in a landscape (Glassberg 2014).
piece of georgraphy (Turner 2010). We have come to When addressing these challenges to the preserva-
expect, through lifelong indoctrination, that science tion of cultural landscapes, we can plan for change and
most often has the right answer. This is, at best, an ways to mitigate it (Glick, Stein, and Edelson 2011).
unreasonable expectation with which to burden those Acceptance of change, in the form of a more exible
who experiment, take intellectual and professional understanding of what we mean by character-de ning
risks, and seek answers that are often unimaginable or features and how we respond to those changes, may
outside our accepted worldviews. We hear of paradigm be an essential part of this approach (Figure 2). For
shifts but, as Thomas Kuhn reminded us, these are example, does it matter more, in preservation terms,
really revolutions in our thinking, not merely incre- whether a landscape retains an exact tree genus and
mental shifts (Kuhn 1996). We need more than a shift species or that the spatial and visual characteristics of
in our thinking about historically signicant cultural those trees are maintained? Would it be better to plant
landscapes, their preservation or protection, and our replacement trees that are more resistant to warming
response to human-inicted changes to robust ecologi- and decreased precipitation, or to re-plant trees that
cal systems. will likely not survive unprecedented environmental
For starters, we can accept the premise of an shifts? How much do these changes matter in terms of
uncertain but certainly variable future for these land- the landscape we are trying to protect? We need to talk
scapes (Figure 1). We can directly embrace exibility about what cultural landscape experience and charac-
in our approaches, encourage frequent reassessment teristics we are trying to protect, rather than preserve.

Melnick 291
As an additional strategy, resilience in the face and identiable normal ranges of variation that
of change may mean greater proactive intervention, can be used as a baseline for future analysis and
rather than waiting till undesired change has occurred decision-making. Ranges of variation help us recog-
to both cultural and ecological landscapes. This, in nize when the climate variables are ordinary, or out
turn, implies the setting of priorities. For example, we of the ordinary, as in the work being accomplished by
may want to engage in greater seedbanking or intensive National Park Service, climate change scientists, and
management during re-vegetation, a labor-intensive others (National Park Service 2010).
and costly process that nonetheless may enable the But how can we begin to organize our deci-
protection of critical landscape features. (Beagan and sions about what to do? There are a number of direct
Dolan 2015) adaptation approaches that can be taken in the face
But are we prepared to make difficult decisions of climate change and cultural landscape preserva-
about which landscapes to try to save, which land- tion. These vary in intensity, geographic and temporal
scapes are salvageable, and which landscapes are not? scale, and urgency (National Park Service 2010). It
In the extreme, this may mean that we practice a form may be possible, for example, to determine that the
of cultural landscape triage, choosing to save certain cultural landscape is not in immediate danger and take
places while letting other ones remain only in the no action. Or we may attempt to mitigate the climate
historical record. This is not a long-term response, and change stresses through action off site from the cul-
scholars disagree on its appropriateness but it may be tural landscape, thereby anticipating and offsetting
necessary as a short-term step, while the science for the direct impact on the landscape. Another option is
more lasting solutions is developed (Enomoto 2014). to improve the cultural landscapes resilience to climate
It may also require more stringent and demanding change by making compatible alterations and additions
criteria for signicance, especially when compared to that meet the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for
what we now practice. 2 the Treatment of Historic Properties. Climate resil-
How do we make these triage decisions? Who ience is generally de ned as the capacity to absorb
makes them, and are they based primarily on available stresses and maintain landscapes function in the face
scal resources as opposed to a re-imagined de nition of external stresses imposed by climate change; and
of signicance for historic landscape resources (Beren- adapt and evolve in order to improve the sustainabil-
feld 2015)? Signicance is not a function of taste, but ity of the cultural landscape, leaving it better pre-
rather of importance, and we would therefore benet pared for the impact of future climate change (Glick,
from a re- examination of the now decades-old under- 2011).
standing of what is meant by that term. In some instances, we will need to allow change
When do we recognize the necessity of landscape to occur in the cultural landscape, attempting to limit
hospice? In this changing environmental context, it the impact to those character-de ning features that are
may be appropriate to practice caring and grieving as high priority and have higher feasibility for preserva-
a valued cultural landscape slips from our company. tion (Hammond 2014). And we can allow the land-
We also must recognize the historical ranges scape to deteriorate, without intervention. This implies
of variation (Millar, et. al., 2007). Taking both the taking no adaptation action except for extensive and
long and short views is vital in this effort. While it detailed landscape documentation and data recovery,
is often tempting or convenient to look at the most such in the National Park Services HABS/HAER/
recent past, landscape time demands that we con- HALS program (HABS/HAER/HALS 2016).
sider variations over a long period. Taking only the In all cases, there is a need to assess and deter-
immediate snapshot in the rearview mirror can result mine urgency and speed of intervention. This requires
in a failure to recognize the nature and impacts of a clear documentation of the cultural landscapes
climate change, as we, perhaps, rely on last years character-de ning features, climate change projec-
rainfall gauges, this years storm data or next years tions for the landscapes ecological zone, and known
temperature graph. Weather is not the same as climate, and anticipated vulnerabilities of the landscapes
although often mistaken for that, and it has character-de ning features to climate variables.
not been constant. There have been understandable We can then determine whether the landscapes

292 Landscape Journal 35:2

vulnerability to climate change must be urgently we have to wade deeper to articulate and understand
addressed or carefully monitored because the land- a revised heritage, one that is slowly transforming?
scape is in the early stages of change or evidence of the We are in a time when the stability of our cultural
projected change does not yet exist. landscape heritage is threatened by what we might
term a revised predictability. This is not to say that
Climate Change As the Heritage of the Future we are swirling in cultural landscape anarchy; nor are
Understanding of heritage, of course, varies from engaged in a Back to the Future scenario in which
culture to culture. In many cases, what we understand our family photographs will fade from memory if we
as heritage depends greatly on individual experience, dont act immediately. Rather, we need to engage in
societal exposure, and formal and informal educa- both short and long term scenarios to ensure the heri-
tional indoctrination. One need only explore the 2015 tage of the past does not prohibit us from protecting
controversy over the ying of the Confederate ag the heritage of the future (Glick, 2011).
on public lands in South Carolina to understand that Preservation is, at its root, a conservative term
this can be a controversial issue, fraught with politi- and concept. 3 The very essence of preservation is
cal, social and cultural overtones. In that case, the designed to inhibit change, whether it is reactionary
ag, also known as the Confederate battle ag (or the or progressive. That does not work, however, if we
Southern Cross), represented shameful heritage on one consider cultural landscapes in a vacuum or out of
side, and proud heritage on the other (Cobb 2015). context.
Regardless of ones views, the ying of the ag repre-
sented more than the cloth from which it was made. WAYS TO APPROACH THESE ISSUES: THREE BRIEF
It was a symbol of wrong or right; a symbol of slavery EXAMPLES
or freedom; a reminder of the damage done to human Addressing the impact of climate change and cultural
beings, or the ght for states rights. landscape vulnerabilities is a challenging and daunt-
Heritage, as a reection of history, is a human ing task. There is neither a single answer, nor only one
construct, a lens through which we ascribe meaning approach, in a context in which exibility is a key con-
and value to event and place. It is a way of enabling cept. Three examples illustrate different ways in which
people to understand where they are in time and place, responses to climate change impact, climate variables,
a way to link ourselves to the past and, by exten- and anticipated landscape vulnerabilities are being
sion, to the future. For immigrant groups who leave considered and developed. Each of these examples re-
a homeland never to return, heritage can be the vital ects an important set of varying circumstances. Each
connection to memory and meaning (Handlin 1951). is in a different ecological zone and a different cultural
Heritage can be the way one cooks, speaks, worships, landscape type and has experienced different impacts
plays music, tells stories, dresses, or settles and uses of climate change trends or events, exhibiting differ-
the land. As David Lowenthal reminds us, heritage is ent vulnerabilities to future climactic impacts. In each
also an industry (1998). case, the cumulative effect is the integration of climate
In the case of cultural landscapes, as with other change trends or events in the long term planning for
physical resources (e.g., buildings, structures, and the protection of these landscapes. And for each, the
archeological sites) heritage is embodied in the place, most difficult challenge is the level of uncertainty and
in the artifact, in the stable and predictable object. As the broad range of variables.
Handlin observed, for immigrants far from a home
they knew, the need for stability was a powerful force, Lyons Ranches, Redwood National Park
holding in place religious observances and linguistic Lyons Ranches, situated high in the Bald Hills of Red-
protocols that continued to evolve in the old world, but wood National Park, is a historic district recognized as
not in the new (1951). This made linkages to heritage a signicant cultural landscape (Figure 3). Perhaps the
easier, resulting in anchored, xed, and emotionally most interesting and challenged cultural landscape ele-
safe practices. ments of this 5660-acre district are eight prairies, each
What happens when we can no longer guarantee no more than a mile from the next. These naturally
a lifeline to the same anchors? What happens when occurring prairies, stretching across the upper ridge

Melnick 293
Figure 3
Lyons Ranches, Redwood National Park, 2016. (Photo Credit: Cultural Landscape Research Group, University of Oregon.)

of the Bald Hills, have been modied over time, rst Lyons Ranches are also important because
by Native Americans and, from 1869 to 1959, by sheep they are beginning to reect trends in climate varia-
ranchers (National Park Service 2004). tion that are affecting this landscape, especially the
The ranches and the associated prairies are impor- prairies. Based upon four climate models, the prob-
tant because they reect the history and development ability is that precipitation will remain within a
of the Bald Hills as a sheep ranching community and normal range. Air temperature, however, could rise
because there is no development following this historic from 1.4C to 4.0C in the coming century (Gonzalez
period. Thus, as a cultural landscape, the interplay 2015). Gonzalez and others have identied major cli-
between natural landscape and human activity can be mate vulnerabilities of this landscape, in light of these
readily understood. Even though the ranches are in anticipated air temperature uctuations and precipita-
Redwood National Park, the district receives minimal tion trends:
visitation (Grantham 2016). Importantly, some of the
prairies are still used by the Yurock tribe for cultural Continued heating under climate change may
activities. continue to reduce coastal fog and increase
In addition to the prairies, the ranches retain drought stress in coast redwood trees (Sequoia
other cultural landscape features, including fences, sempervirens) (Johnstone and Dawson 2010)
buildings and structures, dirt roads, orchards, and Climate change under the highest emissions
the overall spatial arrangement at a number of sites scenario could double the area burned by
within the district. As a cultural landscape, it is readily wildfire by 2085 A.D. (Westerling etal. 2011)
witnessed and understood, and can explain the sheep A combination of increased fire and sudden oak
ranching activities that thrived in the area for 90 years death disease could increase mortality in coast
(NPS 2004). redwoods (Metz etal. 2013)

294 Landscape Journal 35:2

Figure 4
Prairie, Lyons Ranches Redwood National Park, 2016. (Photo Credit: Cultural Landscape Research Group, University of Oregon.)

Park ecosystems are vulnerable to shifts of the appreciation, of the prairie landscape? This will
broadleaf species into conifer forest stands require reective consideration of the integration of
due to climate change (Gonzalez etal. cultural and natural features, funding limitations, per-
2010), exacerbated by habitat fragmentation sonnel availability, and overarching park management
(Eigenbrod etal. 2015) priorities.

From a cultural landscape perspective, for this Scottys Castle, Death Valley National Park
area of the Bald Hills, far as it is from the coastal red- Scottys Castle in Death Valley National Park pre-
wood stands, the potentially most signicant impact sented a different issue, following a dramatic and
is the gradual movement of broadleaf species into highly unusual storm in October 2015 (Germano
the conifer stands. Recent eld investigations, as yet 2015). The district is closely associated with one of the
unpublished, have also revealed shifts of confers into best known and most colorful gures on the American
the historically signicant prairies and the blurring of mining frontierWalter Scott, aka Death Valley
the historically clear edges between prairie and forest Scotty. Scottys Castle, a property covering 300 acres,
(Figure 4, CLRG 2016). The prairies, if not managed, is located within the Grapevine Canyon of Death
run the risk of slowly drifting into sparse, and then Valley at a 3000 foot elevation. Several characteristic
dense, deciduous woodland. buildings and structures of a small working ranch
This raises an important question regarding man- remain, including Scottys Castle and annex, the pow-
agement response, and the protection of this heritage erhouse, the chimestower, guest house, stables, garage
landscape. Will the future heritage of this landscape bunkhouse/hotel, entrance gate, and gravel separator,
rely more on historic photos, oral histories and memo- as well as roads, vegetation, and the overall spatial
ries, rather than the visible display, and therefore layout of the site. The building complex appears much

Melnick 295
Figure 5
Road Degradation following October 2015 storm, Scottys Castle, Death Valley National Park, 2016.
(Photo Credit: Cultural Landscape Research Group, University of Oregon.)

like a small Spanish village in its spatial organization, monitoring, identication of hazard trees that might
circulation system, and design details (National Park cause further damage, and re-grading of the hillside to
Service 2005). help stabilize the structures and roadbed.
In October, 2015, the site experienced a violent The storm, which would have been considered a
storm, with a short, yet intense torrential downpour very rare event in past years, has left a lasting impact
that caused signicant damage. Road beds were on this regionally historic and popular site, visited by
upheaved (Figure 5, CLRG 2016a), trees were uprooted approximately 100,000 people per year (Davenport
(Figure 6), and all power and water supplies were inter- 2016). Additionally, the storms force raises important
rupted. Debris was scattered across the landscape, and questions regarding the cultural landscapes ability
many of the smaller buildings and structures experi- to withstand the impact of future storms, which may
enced moderate to severe damage (Germano 2015). increase in both frequency and intensity as a result of
Following the storm and closure of the site to climate change. While the effect of the storm prob-
visitors, the NPS conducted a damage assessment that ably could not have been mitigated prior to its occur-
included recommendations for repair of the cultural rence, attention to resilience planning approaches
landscape systems as well as specic resources within will become more important in the future. It is also
the site. The assessment focused on a number of key true that the damage to this cultural landscape is
ndings, including damage to natural systems and now part of a history that may need future heritage
features, circulation systems, spatial organization, interpretation.
and vegetation. All of the recommendations focused
on site repair and stabilization, rather than long range Rapidan Camp, Shenandoah National Park
planning or mitigation intervention (Germano 2015). A study of Rapidan Camp, in Shenandoah National
The report also strongly recommended future site Park, Virginia, demonstrates how the inherent and

296 Landscape Journal 35:2

Figure 6
Damage from October 2015 storm, Scottys Castle, Death Valley National Park, 2016. (Photo Credit:
Cultural Landscape Research Group, University of Oregon)

implicit heritage of one cultural landscape is chang- trees, coal, or oil could be used for cooking or heating.
ing under the impact of climate change, and how we Both the President and Mrs. Hoover were also very
might think about its new heritage even as we strive fond of native plants and color in the gardens (Ham-
to hold on to those features that remind us where we mond 2014).
are and how we got here (Hammond 2014). Rapi- Rapidan Camp is now managed as an interpretive
dan Camp, the 164-acre summer White House for site in Shenandoah National Park and its three main
President Herbert Hoover, sits along the Rapidan River buildingsthe Presidents cabin, the Prime Ministers
in a valley in the heart of Shenandoah National Park. cabin and the Creelare open to the public. Visitors
Purchased as private land by President Hoover in 1929, can wander through this site, experiencing this land-
it was donated to the Commonwealth of Virginia when scape much as the President and Mrs. Hoover would
he left office in 1933, and it eventually became part have during their times here; or at least they could have
of Shenandoah National Park. It was the precursor to until recently.
the presidential retreat at Camp David, in Maryland. As documented in an outstanding NPS Cultural
Rapidan Camp includes a number of rustic structures Landscape Report (Hammond 2014), this National
and is marked by a lush tree canopy, gravel walkways, Historic Landmark is now both protected and chal-
and ready access to trout shing, one of Hoovers lenged. It is protected by the National Park Service as
favorite pastimes. In addition to staff and family, the a signicant cultural resource in the park. It is chal-
President hosted diplomatic guests at Rapidan, and lenged by the changing environment in which is exists.
used it as a retreat from the sweltering summers of There are different ways to understand what
Washington, D.C. Rapidan Camp provides us as a nation and as a people.
The Hoovers insisted that the scenery, and the It was, of course, the Hoover summer White House, a
sites rustic character, be preserved and that no living place where important meetings were held and events

Melnick 297
Figure 7
Loss of Hemlock trees, Rapidan Camp, Shenandoah National Park. (Photo Credit: Robert Z. Melnick.)

occurred. It was a presidential retreat, where many, continent, the woolly adelgid has re-shaped the forests
if not all, of the design decisions were made by the of the Appalachians, which have also been under stress
president or Mrs. Hoover. exacerbated by air pollution, shifting rainfall pat-
Rapidan Camp also reects the heritage of historic terns, temperature changes, and other climate change
landscape preservation in this country, a place honored related forces. The combination of the invasive insect
not for its immaculate design attributes, but rather and the changes in climate fundamentally transformed
for its rustic qualities and association with signicant the forest that is home to this historic landscape. The
people in American history. Its preservation treat- loss of the hemlock trees has dramatically altered the
ment till now has been smart and direct, protecting character of Rapidan Camp by opening the forest oor
character-de ning resources, including the recognition to sunlight and encouraging dense shrub and sapling
of change over time (Hammond 2014). growth (Figure 8). The goal of the plan is to reestablish
Rapidan Camp manifests the heritage of the the high overhead canopy and, thus, the shaded char-
impact of human activity and climate change. As noted acter of the camp. The increased shade will also help
in the Cultural Landscape Report, and as observed on to suppress the undesirable invasive understory species
site, the hemlock trees that formed a shaded canopy (Hammond 2014).
from Hoovers time are now mostly dead or dying (Fig- The plan to treat this cultural landscape is cre-
ure 7). In the early decades of the twentieth century, ative and ingenious. It is linked to the long-term goal
gardeners in Virginia, enthusiastic about Japanese of seeing and understanding this landscape as it was
design, imported plants that contained the woolly during the Hoover era. Equally importantly, however,
adelgid, a tiny, non-native worm that has since deci- and perhaps without deliberate intention, it estab-
mated the hemlock forests of the Eastern United States lishes the link between human activity, exotic invasive
(Preston 2007). Without natural predators on this insects, and climate change as essential components of

298 Landscape Journal 35:2

Figure 8
Rapidan Camp, Shenandoah National Park. (Photo Credit: Robert Z. Melnick.)

the landscapes heritage. The proposed treatmentto if precipitation drops, or air temperature rises? We
reestablish the hemlock canopy through a decades-long may need to accept these changes, as difficult as that
effortis, in itself, an implicit response to climate may be.
change. Climate science cannot predict the future. It can,
The plan sets in motion a re ned and complex however, suggest probabilities, which lead to projec-
process that establishes a new benchmark for how to tions, and then to scenarios for future events and
address these concerns long term, with benets that responses to offset the consequences of those projec-
may not be seen for two or more generations, when it tions (NW Climate Magazine 2015). There are many
may well be viewed as part of our landscape heritage. unknown variables, such as air temperature and
As with all cultural landscapes, heritage is not only precipitation, that affect the ability to project future
what we see in the landscape, but includes the human climate change scenarios. Various local and federal
actions and activities that shape it. The plan to protect agencies (for example, the National Park Service, the
the very essence of Rapidan Camp is, thus, building Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological
the heritage that we will one day look back on and Survey, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
recognize as signicant. Administration) are developing methods to gather
input from climate scientists, students of the cultural
Assessing Cultural Landscape Vulnerability landscape, and the general public to better understand
These three examples, different as they are, highlight and anticipate the impacts of climate change on a
the complex question of cultural landscape vulnerabil- variety of resource types. That information must be
ity to climate variables, fraught with complexities and adapted in the general eld of landscape preservation.
many anticipated, as well as unknown, circumstances. Perhaps the most important effort to develop tools
For example, what will happen to a historic orchard to assess vulnerabilities is led by the National Wildlife

Melnick 299
Federation, in cooperation with the Department of The cultural landscape, then, is always about the
Defense, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and past and the futurewhat has happened, how places
Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the National were built and molded, what will happen next week,
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Glick, next season, next year, or next century, and what it
Stein, and Edelson 2011). While this document does will mean to future generations. Climate change adds
not specically focus on cultural landscapes, it frames another overlay to this view, and demands a more com-
many of the issues, discussed below, that must be plex vision than Lowenthals, requiring that we value
addressed if the vulnerability of cultural landscapes to not only the landscapes of our past, but the ways in
climate change variables can be be successfully under- which those places may very well be modied beyond
stood and mitigated. what we might otherwise expect. Landscape is truly a
Key in this effort is the need to identify and evalu- noun and a verb, a product and a process.
ate a cultural landscapes vulnerability to climate Recent work notwithstanding, (Melnick 2015)
change. Vulnerability, in its clearest form, is based on there is a general inability to incorporate landscape
three major factors: a cultural landscapes exposure thinking and analysis into historic preservation
to climate variables (such as increased air tempera- thinking and analysis. Like Heinleins hero in
ture), its sensitivity to those variables (how much will Stranger in a Strange Land (Heinlein 1961), cultural
the change affect the landscapes resources), and its landscapes are often anomalies in the conceptual
adaptive capacity (how will it respond to the variables. framework of historic preservation. The cultural
Each of the examples discussed above face differ- landscape realm is multi-dimensional and can too
ent degrees of exposure (events or trends), varying easily seem to be all but history. Yet the landscape is
sensitivity to that exposure, and a range of adaptive the inscribed historical record of our culture: portions
capacity (Glick, Stein, and Edelson 2011). fade, some aspects assume greater importance as time
passes, and the wisdom of hindsight can blur both
CONCLUDING COMMENTS the greater scheme and the intimate details (Jack-
Cultural landscapes can be regarded as a prospect, son 1970).
an intellectual and practical construct enabling us Many people can recite the litany of reasons for
to take the broad view and look out upon the world, their belief in the importance of preservationthe
understanding where we are headed and where we pace of change in our society, the loss of local iden-
have been. Cultural landscapes can also be considered tity, the decline of human craft and skill, the homog-
a refuge, a center providing shelter from the forces in enization of American towns and communities,
our society that deny any connection to a past, or any the McBurbing of our countryside, and the need to
responsibility to the future. remember who we are and where we have been (Stipe
While we are stewards of the past, we are also 2003). And we can look to those places that help us
responsible for the future. Lowenthal, (2005) makes as individuals and as communities to remember, or
the point cogently and coherently that not only have even nd, steady ground in a shifting world of climate
we too often forgotten about the past, we have also change.
not paid adequate attention to the value or meaning of
. . . in recent times we have learned a great deal 1. Thanks to Marcy Rockman, NPS Climate Change Coordina-
about how to preserve almost everything tor for Cultural Resources, for this compelling idea.
endangered species, antiquities, art, archives, 2. As currently practiced through the National Register of
human life itself. Technology makes long-term Historic Places, significance is assessed base on four crite-
ria, which is one part of the process that enables eligibility
conservation increasingly feasible. The means
for listing on the Register. With the exception of National
are there, but the ends are missing. The rationale Landmark status, it does not, however, assist it setting
for long-term stewardship is little discussed, let preservation priorities.
alone debated, still less realized as state or global 3. While much of the world uses the word conservation,
policy. (Lowenthal 2005, 21) preservation is employed in this work, as it takes place in

300 Landscape Journal 35:2

the U.S. In the U.S. context, conservation usually refers to Enomoto, Stanton. 2014. Personal correspondence.
the treatment of natural systems and features. Germano, Vida. 2015. Preliminary damage assessment of the
Scottys Castle cultural landscape. San Francisco, CA:
National Park Service.
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Service Climate Change Response Program. and professor of landscape architecture at the Univer-
. 2016. US Department of the Interior. The Secretary of the sity of Oregon, where he directs the Cultural Landscape
Interiors Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties Research Group. He is also a Senior Cultural Resources
+ Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes. Specialist at MIG, Inc., in Berkeley, California, and Port-
land, Oregon. His professional career has been devoted
to understanding and protecting cultural landscapes.
NW Climate Magazine. May 2015. Seattle: Northwest Climate
Science Center, University of Washington. Melnicks current research addresses the vulnerability
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