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National Parks, Reserved Lands the Focus of Leadership Seminar

UC Merced to lead roundtable on crucial issues facing parks and protected areas
March 9, 2011

From California's Sierra foothills to Sweden's Tyresta forest, the problems facing the world's national parks and reserved lands are immense and require a new way of thinking.

Park leaders from across the globe are being brought together in April for an intensive, 12-day leadership program to address central issues like climate change, habitat loss, encroachment, budget constraints and rapidly changing leadership.

The program is hosted by the University of California, Merced, the National Park Service, the Institute at the Golden Gate, the Great Valley Center and the National Parks Conservation Association's Center for Park Management.

“Prior to this annual seminar, park managers from around the world have not had access to formal education in leadership — especially leadership with a resource protection emphasis, within a world increasingly characterized by change,” said Steve Shackelton, associate director for National Park Service Visitor and Resource Protection.

UC Merced's National Parks Institute Executive Leadership Seminar, which runs April 5 through 16, will use the Institute at the Golden Gate in San Francisco, UC Merced and Yosemite National Park as field laboratories for discussion and learning.

Through the institute, UC Merced is playing a pivotal role in helping national parks across the globe lead strategic change.

“UC Merced, as the host of the seminar, is breaking historic new ground,” Shackelton said. “It is the first university to support an international strategy of natural and cultural resource protection through advanced executive leadership education.”

Tony English, district chief ranger for Parks Victoria in Grampians, Australia, attended the inaugural seminar last year. English said the experience sustains his vision for national parks and helps him look at long-standing challenges with a new perspective.

“The seminar reminded me that the work we do is important and relevant to many of the important social and environmental challenges we need to face today, be they about social justice, sustainability or the changing politics of land management,” English said. “I recognize now the privilege I have of working in this field and the fact that it is as much about the future as the present.”

Participants will meet industry leaders and innovative thinkers with expertise in leadership and park management and will be exposed to a network of global public land management leaders.

A highlight of this year's seminar will be lectures on April 9 by Pulitzer Prize-winning ecologist and author E. O. Wilson and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

Wilson will offer a sobering view of a future fraught with major natural resource preservation challenges linked to human population growth and development.

A 35-year veteran of the National Park Service, Jarvis will share his vision for leading the park service into its second 100 years. His lecture will focus on four major themes — stewardship, relevancy, education and workforce engagement — and reveal anecdotes of turning points in his career that have led him to this point.

“I'm particularly interested in hearing E.O. Wilson's presentation because of his work on biodiversity and conservation ethics,” said Sarah Craighead, superintendent for Death Valley National Park. “This research and work is crucial in our efforts to preserve and protect special areas so that natural processes can continue to function.”

In addition to Wilson and Jarvis, confirmed speakers for the seminar include:

This year, 28 participants hailing from six continents will gather to improve their ability to anticipate change, innovate and manage strategically.

The seminar, which is made possible by gifts from the National Parks Conservation Association's Center for Park Management, the Toyota USA Foundation, the Yosemite Fund and the National Park Service, will provide valuable training for international executive-level managers of parks and protected areas.

Quick Facts: 
More than two dozen park leaders from across the globe will take part in UC Merced's second National Parks Institute Executive Leadership Seminar.
Participants will discuss effective leadership training for stewarding the world's natural and cultural heritage.
Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist E.O. Wilson and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis will be among those presenting.