Both Point Reyes National Seashore and the Laguna de Santa Rosa could be described as “Leopoldian”, or places that exemplify Aldo Leopold’s ideas about the interconnections between wild and cultivated landscapes – yet the practicalities of including active agriculture within a federally protected area like Point Reyes National Seashore bring their own challenges. The history of Congressional intent to protect the continuation of over a century of dairy and beef ranching on the peninsula has come into recent clashes with the idea that public lands “should” be dominated by wildlife and recreation use. Laura Alice Watt’s recent book compiling years of research addresses how environmental history can help us to understand, and perhaps solve, this management dilemma. Join us for this thought-provoking talk that will chronicle how national ideals about what a park “ought to be” have developed over time, and what happens when these ideals are implemented by the National Park Service in its efforts to preserve places that are also lived-in landscapes.
Laura Alice Watt is a professor of environmental history and policy at Sonoma State University. Her long-term research agenda is to explore the history of protected landscapes to bolster their long-term sustainability in terms of both natural and cultural systems. In contrast to most land policy research, she uses landscape as a tool for understanding the complex interactions between people and their environments, tracking historical changes in protected areas as indicators of shifting social dynamics and structures. Prior to coming to SSU, she worked as an environmental consultant in San Francisco for four years with EDAW, Inc., specializing in writing resource management plans for the Bureau of Land Management, as well as historic landscape analyses for a variety of government agencies. Outside of school she is an avid photographer and sailor.