Who we are
The GWS is a nonprofit association of researchers, managers, administrators, educators, and other professionals who work on behalf of the scientific and heritage values of protected areas. When many people think of parks, they think of them exclusively in terms of being vacation destinations and recreation areas. Yet every park also carries with it scientific or heritage values (or both). Large natural protected areas are often, for example, sites of important environmental research, natural resource management activities, inventory and monitoring projects, and so forth. Protected cultural areas, such as historic sites, cultural landscapes, and traditional cultural properties, embody important and irreplaceable material (and non-material) facets of history, archeology, traditional use, and many other forms of cultural heritage. These are the functions the George Wright Society supports by encouraging better research, resource management, and public education in protected areas.
Over the last century, research and management in parks, protected areas and culture sites have evolved into a unique profession. In no other is there such a diverse community of individuals, from such a wide spectrum of disciplines, working toward common goals. This reflects the rich variety of values expressed by cultural and natural parks, public forests and rangelands, historic and other cultural sites, wildlife refuges, marine reserves, and other protected areas. For protected areas to be effective, historians must confer with natural resource managers, foresters with coastal biologists, indigenous wisdom holders with non-indigenous scientists, archeologists with interpreters, area managers and supervisors with data specialists, and so on. And all of these groups must communicate with the general public.
The George Wright Society was founded in 1980 to foster this sort of communication and bolster a sense of shared purpose in what can easily seem a fragmented profession. Why is this important? Because the challenges facing protected areas today are so complex that they overwhelm any single discipline. Unless we can communicate with each other and with the rest of the world, protected areas will not be successful.