Lessons in International Preservation & Stewardship of Cultural & Ecological Landscapes of Global Significance

25-27 March 2004
Natchitoches, Louisiana, USA

Summary report by Patricia M. O’Donnell, FASLA, AICP
Chair, Scientific Committee for the 2004 Symposium


World Heritage USA organized a symposium addressing the interface of cultural and natural resources entitled Learning from World Heritage: Lessons from International Preservation & Stewardship of Cultural & Ecological Landscapes of Global Significance. A multi-disciplinary group of 123 professionals from twelve nations met to share experience, draw lessons and address issues surrounding the interface of nature and culture in the landscape. Drawing upon work about cultural and natural landscapes in recent years, and the inscription of 36 cultural landscapes on the World Heritage list from 1993 to 2003, complex presentations and discussions explored a wide range of landscape preservation and conservation issues.

Opening session papers presented an overview and context for the symposium including cultural and natural landscape categories and status, current World Heritage status and progress in heritage landscape protection, and constructs for protection and stewardship from Australia and Argentina. Papers addressing the planning and development of Pilgrims paths of Ireland, history and plans for the Champaner Pavagadh Sanctuary of India, and a construct for Iraqi heritage areas presented a range of issues related to complex landscapes. Constructs for and designation of inspirational landscapes were explored. Chinese World heritage natural landscapes, the Chinese conception of nature and landscape and cross-cultural misconceptions leading to unexpected results were presented. The unique character, scenery and cultural and biological diversity of productive lands and challenges facing agricultural landscapes were highlighted with presentations on the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, the Japanese farmer as a gardener and the multiple resources of the Agave and Tequila agricultural and production landscapes of Mexico. Preserving, revitalizing and shaping heritage communities into the future was the topic of a USA National Heritage Areas paper and one addressing the rebuilding of tribal lands by the Blackfeet Indian Land Trust. The range of reciprocal benefits resulting form student service learning in Czech Republic heritage landscapes addressed further issues.

At the closing session the Natchitoches Declaration on Heritage Landscapes, 27 March 2004, was ratified by the assembly. This important declaration states that the “There is a convergence of natural and cultural values in the landscape, and a growing recognition that the traditional separation of nature and culture is a hindrance to protection and is no longer sustainable. Further heritage landscape protection is required at the local, national and global levels in order to transmit these universally valuable heritage landscapes to future generations.” The term “heritage landscapes” was used in this declaration to embrace the combined natural and cultural resources inherent in the landscape recognizing that either or both may be of outstanding universal value. The declaration, addressed to national and local authorities as well as institutions and international organizations, but especially ICOMOS and its partners IUCN and ICCROM to press forward a series of initiatives around the protection of heritage landscapes to address a holistic approach, interdisciplinary collaboration, response to threats, community engagement, and national and international cooperation to address the multiple values inherent in heritage landscapes and the multiple voices to be included in their protection and management.

“Learning from World Heritage: Lessons from International Preservation & Stewardship of Cultural & Ecological Landscapes of Gloabal Significance.”

Published in George Wright Society FORUM, volume 21, number 2, September 2004.
Author, Patricia M. O’Donnell, FASLA, AICP, Principal, Heritage Landscapes
Chair Scientific Committee, 7th World Heritage USA Symposium, March 2004