March 2-6, 2009 | Doubletree Hotel — Lloyd Center | Portland, Oregon

Plenary Sessions

PLENARY SESSION I | Monday, March 2, 8:00-9:30 am

George Melendez Wright in The National Parks: America's Best Idea
Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, Co-producers, Florentine Films



Dayton Duncan & Ken Burns at a screening of the parks film series in May 2008. NPS photo by Tami Heilemann
GWS2009 kicks off with a visit from acclaimed filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, who'll join us for a screening of excerpts from their forthcoming PBS film series The National Parks: America's Best Idea, which is due to air in the fall of 2009. The story of George Melendez Wright plays a prominent role in one of the episodes, and Burns and Duncan will tell us why they found Wright such a compelling part of the parks' story. There will be an opportunity for the audience to discuss the film series with the creators. You won't want to miss the chance to hear from two of the most importrant documentarians working today.




PLENARY SESSION II | Monday, March 2, time TBA

"Keeping it Real": Engaging with Youth
Wendy Davis, Servicewide Education Program Coordinator, National Park Service
Akiima Price, Chief of Education and Programs, New York Restoration Project
Fernando Villalba, Biologist, National Park Service

Moderator: Woody Smeck, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area



Akiima Price



Fernando Villalba


Wendy Davis
Long-term stewardship of the resources of parks, protected areas, and cultural sites is dependent on passing the values inherent in stewardship from one generation to the next.  Concern is being expressed in both the professional and popular literature that changing recreational pursuits are resulting in “nature deficit disorder” — a growing disconnection between the current generation of children and the natural environment that could erode the commitment to stewardship. Artificial or virtual reality has become a widely embraced substitute for hands on, first-person engagement and learning. Children are not in the woods; neither are they in places connected to history and culture. A deeper understanding is needed about how these changing dynamics affect learning about history and cultural traditions, understanding and appreciating the natural world, and commitment to the preservation of both.

In this plenary panel, we will hear the voices of three dynamic young professionals who themselves are concerned about ways to engage youth in the stewardship of natural and cultural heritage.

Akiima Price is chief of education and programs at the New York Restoration Project (NYRP). NYRP restores, develops, and revitalizes underserved parks, community gardens, and open spaces throughout New York City.
At the heart of Price’s passion for connecting urban youth with the natural environment is her strong belief that the natural environment is a wonderful medium to engage youth in meaningful, positive experiences that can affect the way they feel about themselves, their communities, and their place on earth. At NYRP, Price has created a program called "R-E-S-P-E-C-Trees," as a component of the Million Trees NYC program, a partnership between NYRP, the City of New York Parks and Recreation and the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. R-E-S-P-E-C-Trees is a multi-faceted initiative to educate children and adults across New York about the importance of trees and the environment in major cities. As a component, Price's program incorporates tree planting in areas identified across the city where children and adults experience higher rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Her passion makes it possible for her to interface with some of New York's wealthiest and most powerful movers and shakers and attract them to her vision just as quickly as she does with her students. Going even beyond educating youth about the environment and preparing them for responsible citizenship, Price is dedicated to teaching the basics: confidence, courage, and life skills.

Fernando Villalba is a biologist for the National Park Service.  In 2005, he received an undergraduate degree from University of California-Davis in Wildlife Biology and Chicano Studies.  Villalba is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Native American Studies, also at UC-Davis, focusing his research on ethnobiology.  He has worked for the National Park Service since 2000, after being recruited through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SAMO) Youth Program.  Since, he has worked at various parks such as Zion National Park in Utah and Fire Island National Seashore in New York.  Raised in East Los Angeles, Villalba learned at a young age how to find nature in the subtlest of places and how important these places are to people.  This understanding eventually blossomed into his deep reverence for protected natural areas coupled with a keen interest in their cultural significance.

Wyndeth "Wendy" Davis is the servicewide education coordinator for the National Park Service and a leader in the expansion and improvement of NPS’s Junior Ranger program. Her most audacious goal is that every young person in America know that the national parks belong to them. She believes to do this we must look not only at the people who visit the parks and love them, but the people who do not visit, but explore them through media. She began her career with the National Park Service as an archeologist in the Alaska Region in 1989. Soon, she found she was spending more time with the public, focused on education, than she was in the field focused on excavation. Davis was soon developing curriculum for K-12, and designing interpretive publications and exhibits for the Alaska Region. Gradually she made the transition to the Interpretation and Education team. Her philosophy: What we do means nothing if we cannot communicate with the rest of the world about it -- and let others, especially youth, help us discover, explore and tell the stories of their national parks. Davis has a Masters degree in Anthropology/Archeology from the University of Oregon, where she served as assistant director of the archeological field school for two years. She taught Archeology and Physical Anthropology for the University of Alaska for nine years.  




PLENARY SESSION III | Tuesday, March 3, 8:00-9:30 am

"Thinking Like a Mountain": Effective Collaboration in the Management of Protected Areas
Gerard A. Baker, Superintendent, Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director, Pacific West Region, National Park Service




Gerard A. Baker



Jon Jarvis
When  the conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote the phrase “thinking like a mountain,” he was expressing the idea that long connection to a place is essential to understanding what is needed for effective stewardship. Many cultural groups, native and non-native, have lived close to the land and sea, developing deep cultural, subsistence, and spiritual connections to particular places, and have acquired extensive knowledge of cycles of life, changing landscapes, and climate. These cultures are connected to specific places, and the attachment can be measured in centuries or even millennia.

As protected area managers begin to share more stewardship responsibility with indigenous peoples and other cultural groups, there is value in better understanding these deep connections with place, the shared knowledge that has grown from such connections, and how these can be used to create meaningful and productive partnerships in the management of protected areas. This plenary session will feature a dialogue between two thinker/practitioners who have long considered how to build such collaborations.

Gerard A. Baker is superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the nation's most visited national parks.
He has been with the federal government for 27 years; 24 years with the National Park Service and 3 years with the United States Forest Service. Baker is a full-blood member of the Mandan-Hidatsa Tribe of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, Mandaree, North Dakota.  He grew up on the reservation on his father’s cattle ranch in western North Dakota. He received his Doctorate Degree of Public Service from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in December 2007.  He is a graduate of Southern Oregon State University in Ashland, Oregon, with degrees in Criminology and Sociology. 

Baker began his National Park Service career in 1979 as a park technician at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in North Dakota.  He then served in a variety of positions in several parks and served for three years in the Forest Service before taking the superintendency at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana.  While in this assignment, Baker received the NPS Intermountain Regional Director's Award for Cultural Resource Management and a team-performance award for his work with the Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn Battlefield.  In 1998, he became superintendent of Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma, and received the U.S. Department of the Interior's Superior Service Award. He then took the helm at Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail where he was responsible for trail management and the traveling exhibit “Corps of Discovery II: 200 Years to the Future.”  In May 2004 he assumed his current position at Mount Rushmore. Baker's interests include researching Northern Plains trade, American Indian history, and traditional crafts such as brain tanning. He also studies oral history of the Northern Plains.



Jon Jarvis completed undergraduate study in biology and graduate work in natural resources management and has served in the National Park Service for over 25 years. Starting as a seasonal interpreter, Jarvis moved up through the organization as a protection ranger, resource management specialist, park biologist, chief of natural and cultural resources, and superintendent in Prince William Forest Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Crater Lake National Park, and North Cascades National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and Mount Rainier National Park. Since 2002 he has served as director of the Pacific West Region, with direct responsibilities for 54 units of the National Park System in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.

Jarvis has published and lectured on the role of science in parks at conferences and workshops around the U.S. He has extensive experience in developing government-to-government relations with Native American tribes. He is also a past president of the George Wright Society.




PLENARY SESSION IV | Wednesday, March 4, 8:00-9:30 am

Climate Change in the Arctic's Oceans: What Does it Mean for Protected Areas?
David G. Barber, Director, Center for Earth Observation Science, University of Manitoba



The conference's "Water for Life" theme will be addressed by David G. Barber, one of Canada's leading scientists working on climate change. Barber will discuss his research on the relationship between ocean sea ice and atmosphere processes in the Arctic, the effects of climate change on those processes, and ramifications for marine protected areas in the Arctic and worldwide. Barber will help us understand the consequences of climate variability and change in the Arctic -- and how to separate fact from fiction in the media's coverage of these issues.




PLENARY SESSION V | Thursday, March 5, 8:00-9:30 am

Hana Lima Kokua (Many hands working together, joined in a common goal)
Larry Innes, Executive Director, Canadian Boreal Initiative
T. `Aulani Wilhelm, NOAA Superintendent, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument



Larry Innes



T. `Aulani Wilhelm
Partnerships form the bedrock of support for protected areas. Effective collaborations bring together the resources and aspirations of multiple partners to address common goals. Protected areas in some cases function as a “hub” in a much larger network of community and regional partners and their effectiveness is often dependent on their ability to leverage the success of key partners. The panelists in this session will discuss how they are building and managing innovative partnerships and networks that support protected area conservation efforts.

Larry Innes is the executive director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative, where he leads collaborative conservation efforts  involving First Nations, environmental, and industry partners across Canada’s Boreal region. Over the past two years, CBI and its partners have worked to designate some 40 million acres for conservation, largely by supporting First Nation-led conservation and land use planning initiatives. Innes has over a decade of experience in this area, having advised and represented several First Nations addressing major mining, forestry and hydroelectric developments. Innes holds a law degree from the University of Victoria, a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University, and is also a graduate of McMaster University’s interdisciplinary Arts & Science Programme. He is called to the bar in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, and occasionally practices with Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend, a Toronto law firm specializing in Aboriginal and environmental law. He lives in Goose Bay, Labrador with his wife, two children and a retired sled dog.

T. `Aulani Wilhelm has been involved in conservation and management issues in Hawai`i for the past 12 years. Wilhelm is currently superintendent for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the largest single conservation area under the U.S. flag and the world's largest marine protected area. The monument is co-managed by NOAA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the state of Hawai`i. Prior to this, she served as the acting superintendent and previously served as the acting reserve coordinator of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, providing continuity of management and operations for the project since 2000. Preceding her work at NOAA, Wilhelm served for six years as the special assistant to the director and public information officer of the Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources, where she was involved in numerous terrestrial and marine planning and policy initiatives. She has served on the Board of many conservation projects and is a well-recognized leader in the protection and perpetuation of Hawai`i's natural and cultural resources.

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