CRM Journal


Three Models for Managing Living Landscapes

by Brenda Barrett and Michael Taylor(1)


Around the world, people are beginning to appreciate the value of living landscapes, namely those places that retain the imprint of traditional uses of the land, conserve the natural environment, preserve historic landmarks, and tell stories of the past. They are also beginning to recognize that those living landscapes deemed to be of national or regional interest or importance require special recognition and management approaches based on partnerships between local communities and national governments.(2)

The idea that such places—regional landscapes—can be designated and conserved is relatively new and inherently challenging. Regional landscapes are by definition large, constantly changing, and inhabited, claimed, and managed by multiple owners. Currently, there is no one professional discipline dedicated to managing regional landscapes as there are for preserving historic properties or conserving natural resources. Yet, national programs for conserving regional landscapes now exist in several countries. The following comparative analysis of the management models of three living landscapes programs—the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the United Kingdom (specifically England, Wales, and Northern Ireland), the Parcs Naturels Régionaux (Regional Natural Parks, or PNR) in France, and National Heritage Areas (NHA) in the United States—marks an important step towards building an international understanding of the process of landscape scale planning and management.(3)

Although the three programs developed independently of each other, their objectives, legislative framework, scale, and partnership-based approaches are remarkably similar, as are the roles of the national governments, local management entities, and nonprofit organizations in implementing each program. Not surprisingly, they now face similar issues and challenges. There are, of course, other models for managing regional landscapes in Europe and around the globe. The Europarcs conference, entitled "Living Working Landscapes,"(4) held in Oxford, England, in September 2006 brought together government agencies and managers of protected areas from 25 countries to focus on this topic.(5)

Conserving Living Landscapes

In each country—the United Kingdom, France, and the United States—the national government created a program to designate and conserve nationally important working landscapes. All three designations are similar in that they involve both natural and cultural resources and recognize the role people have played in shaping the landscape and conserving its natural and cultural characteristics. Nearly all the designations are at a large scale, cross local political boundaries, and encompass watersheds, river valleys, and agricultural regions that establish the area's distinctive character. They include open space, settled communities, and many modern-day conveniences, from shopping centers to motorways.

Most of these areas are under some kind of measurable stress from global shifts in agricultural markets or changes in the demand for industrial products. The measures include population loss and changes in the demographics of a region from traditional inhabitants to retirees or second homeowners.(6) The communities in these areas seek sustainable economic development and regional revitalization in the form of heritage tourism, new markets for local products, or compatible new economic opportunities. Underlying their efforts is the desire to create opportunities for young people who might otherwise leave the region and to build a new future on the assets of the past.

Relationship to International Designations

The creation of frameworks for recognizing and conserving landscape scale resources has been slower to develop than other preservation schemes. However, over the past several decades, some organizations have made substantial progress in creating standards and criteria for defining landscapes—and cultural landscapes in particular—at the international level. Their work has gone a long way in establishing a vocabulary for discussing designated landscapes and their management without regard for national boundaries.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has attempted to categorize the wide variety of protected areas across the globe through its system of protected area management categories.(7) These categories range from natural and wilderness areas that are strictly managed for environmental and ecosystem values (Category Ia and Ib) to protected landscapes and seascapes (Category V) and areas for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems (VI) that recognize the importance of human interaction with the land in creating a valuable resource. Category V landscapes recognize the importance of places "where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character" and where support for the social and cultural fabric of communities is a recommended management objective.(8) This landscape category is, by definition, focused on areas of high scenic value—a value that may not be reflected in the range of possible heritage resources or thematic story of a designated region.

The most recognizable international evaluation standard is the World Heritage List. Both IUCN and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) advise the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on additions to the World Heritage List—IUCN for natural values and ICOMOS for cultural values. Sites inscribed on the World Heritage List have traditionally been individual historic sites or historic districts. In 1992, the World Heritage Committee added cultural landscape categories that address either clearly defined landscapes designed or created intentionally by humans, such as gardens or parks (Category 1); organically evolved landscapes, which can be both relict (fossil) or continuing (Category 2); and associative landscapes valued for the powerful religious, artistic, or cultural associations with a natural resource rather than material culture evidence (Category 3).(9)

Several Category 2 landscapes (most of them rural and agricultural) are living places that represent the combined interaction of humans and nature. At this time, the only World Heritage landscapes that overlap with the national landscape designations in either the United Kingdom, France, or the United States are the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site overlapping the Cornwall AONB, Dorset and Devon Jurassic Coast in Dorset AONB and East Devon AONB, Studley Royal Fountains Abbey in Nidderdal AONB, the Giants Causeway and Causeway Coast in Causeway and Antrim Glens AONB in Northern Ireland, and the Loire Valley World Heritage Site between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes, which is in the Loire-Anjou-Touraine PNR in France.(10)

The European Landscape Convention of 2004 recognizes the importance of landscape planning on a territorial level in the countries of the Council of Europe. It aims to promote landscape protection, management, and planning in all aspects of public policy, including agriculture, energy, and housing.(11) The United Kingdom and France are both signatories to the convention. However, the convention's application to protected areas like AONBs and PNRs remains undefined. The current international designations and other conventions offer a vocabulary and important principles for management planning but are no substitute for programs that are adapted to national needs and regional circumstances.

Program Similarities

Despite the development of unique programs for landscape designation and conservation in the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, key similarities exist among them.(Table 1) In all three countries, the national governments established the overall program framework. The designation and recognition of living landscapes is by legislative or ministerial action, but the impetus for designation and the subsequent management of the area are locally driven. All rely on a partnership approach and an association of program managers for sharing best practices.

Table 1: Chart comparing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Parcs Naturels Régionaux (PNR), and National Heritage Areas (NHA)

Table 1. Living Landscapes Programs Compared

In the United Kingdom, the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act created the National Parks Commission and authorized it to designate areas of natural beauty in England and Wales as national parks and AONBs, which are confirmed by ministerial order.(12) Both designations follow a model in which the land stays in private ownership, but in the case of AONBs, local authorities oversee planning and development control functions, whereas national park authorities control planning, development, and management in designated national parks.(13) The first designated AONBs, Gower and Quantock Hills, date from 1956. Today, there are 49 such areas in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.(Figure 1)

Figure 1: Bamburgh Castle on the Northumbrian coast.

Figure 1. Designated in 1958, the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which includes Bamburgh Castle, covers 39 miles of England's coastline on the North Sea. (Courtesy of the Association for AONBs.)

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 updated the 1949 legislation in England and Wales. A different legislative approach applies in Northern Ireland, where the program is currently under review. Today, the national policy in England is the responsibility of Natural England, a government agency that guides local AONB partnerships and decision-making through funding protocols and agreements. The Countryside Council for Wales and the Environment and Heritage Service cover rural issues in Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.(14)

Former French President Charles de Gaulle established Regional Natural Parks (PNR) by governmental decree in 1967. These designated parks are primarily working rural landscapes recognized for their exceptional scenic, cultural, and natural qualities.(Figure 2) The PNR mission is to protect, manage, and interpret cultural and natural heritage and to work with local governments to encourage economic and social development.(15) Regional and local governments must request the PNR designation. The French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development provides national oversight and funding for the program.

Figure 2: Rooftop view of a church and other tile-roofed buildings in the Luberon Regional National Park.

Figure 2. Established in 1977, the Luberon Regional Natural Park in southeastern France, which includes more than 70,000 acres of varied terrain, is home to more than 150,000 inhabitants. (Photograph by Suzanne Copping, courtesy of the National Park Service.)

In the United States, Congress designated the first national heritage area—the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor in Illinois—in 1984 and assigned responsibility for NHA oversight and financial assistance to the United States Secretary of the Interior, who, in turn, delegated that responsibility to the National Park Service (NPS).(16)(Figure 3) Since then, Congress has established 36 additional NHAs through individual legislation tailored to the requirements of each locality.(Figure 4) Unlike national parks, which are owned or controlled by the NPS, NHAs are living, working, predominantly privately-owned landscapes, where the cultural and natural resources tell stories of national importance.(17)

Figure 3: View from the water to a lock and lock house on the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

Figure 3. Congress designated the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, which extends 97 miles from Chicago to Peru, Illinois, as a national heritage area in 1984. (Courtesy of the National Park Service.)

Figure 4: Street lamp and city block in Natchitoches.

Figure 4. The Cane River National Heritage Area in northwestern Louisiana, which includes the early 18th-century city of Natchitoches, is 1 of 37 designated national heritage areas in the United States. (Courtesy of the National Park Service.)

In all three programs, local governments and communities play the lead role in securing national designation for the region and in managing the area after designation. This grassroots approach is essential for dealing with the complexities of lived-in areas. The individual management entities are usually regionally based partnerships, councils of local government agencies, or nonprofits. The local management entity sets budgets and assembles a staff, which directs projects and provides expertise.

One key difference among the national programs is that in France and the United States, local communities request and initiate PNRs and NHAs, whereas in the United Kingdom, the government identifies potential AONBs through studies. Even in the United Kingdom, however, local governments and communities must trigger the AONB designation process by requesting it. In all three countries, the designation process may involve several consultation exercises at the national, regional, and local levels to determine boundaries and the scope and intent of the designation.

In the United Kingdom, partnership committees composed of the local councils (representatives of local governments, including parishes) and special interest groups, which may include farmers and other residents, manage the AONBs. These partnership committees may include representatives of Natural England, English Heritage, the Forestry Commission, or other national or regional development agencies. In Northern Ireland, trusts now act as contractors to the national agency responsible for AONB oversight. The Countryside and Right of Way Act of 2000 authorized a new management model called a conservation board.(18) Two AONBs, the Chilterns and the Cotswolds, have adopted the conservation board model, which gives them more autonomy from the local authorities for day-to-day activities. However, conservation boards remain firmly embedded in the local government system and still depend on the constituent local authorities for funding.

In France, regional councils usually initiate proposals for PNR designations. The PNRs are managed by committees of local governmental leaders and representatives from departmental and regional councils. They may have executive, scientific, and user advisory subcommittees. The committee oversees an executive director and staff of technical experts.

In the United States, local communities request, and occasionally undertake, feasibility studies prior to NHA designation. Once designated by Congress, NHAs adopt the management model defined in their authorizing legislation. These models may include federal commissions appointed to represent the interests and expertise of the local community, agencies of state government, or nonprofits.(19) These management entities are responsible for hiring an executive director who, in turn, hires support staff. Each area bears responsibility for matching the federal funds it receives.

Planning and Management
In all three programs, the local management entities develop a planning document to guide future decisions. Variously called management plans or compacts, these documents are not land use plans for the region; rather, they are locally developed and nationally reviewed and approved special purpose plans that establish the vision for the landscape entity and set program goals and strategies. The national government agency's imprimatur is another important characteristic.(20)

In the United Kingdom, the Countryside Right of Way Act of 2000 also added a requirement that each AONB prepare a locally based management plan. As of April 2007, all AONBs have complied with this new requirement, which involved lengthy consultation with local and national interests. The local authorities must adopt the plans as official policy for the AONB. Central government agencies and departments scrutinize AONB activities, but AONB activities are not subject to formal approval by the central government. These plans, in effect for 20 years and subject to review every 5 years, form the basis of the annual funding arrangements for the AONBs. They direct management activities and programming and influence the land use planning decisions for the AONB.

The proposed PNRs draft a charter that defines the character of the region and identifies project priorities. The charter must be adopted by local officials and approved by the state and the Minister of the Environment for the area to be designated a PNR. The charter is in effect for 12 years and then reviewed. If the objectives of the charter are not met, the charter may be withdrawn.(21)

Each NHA in the United States must prepare and submit a management plan to the Secretary of the Interior within two to three years after designation. After review and approval, the management plan guides the activities of the areas for the next 10 to 15 years. The management plan describes the goals and strategies for telling the story of the NHA and encouraging long-term resource interpretation, conservation, development, and funding. Identifying partners and coordinating existing plans and program are an important part of the plan. All plans are prepared with extensive public participation.

Nonprofit Organization Support
All three programs receive support from a national nonprofit organization, which provides advocacy, develops educational programs, websites, and publications on best practices, and sponsors an annual or biannual conference for staff and supporters of the designated areas. These nonprofits serve as links between the authorizing environment of the national government and the designated areas.

Established in the United Kingdom in 1998, the National Association for AONBs is a membership-based association made up of AONB partners, most of the local government authorities with AONBs, and other groups interested in specific AONBs or national issues involving the countryside and rural affairs. The national association promotes AONB interests at the central government level, publishes a magazine, and holds an annual conference. It also provides a national training program for AONB partnership staff and supports an all-party group in the United Kingdom Parliament.

The Fédération des Parcs Naturels Régionaux de France (PNR Federation), established in 1971, serves 44 PNRs, provides technical assistance, produces publications, and sponsors an annual conference. It has the largest staff of the three organizations and is the most active in shaping the program through studies, advocacy, and staff assistance.(22) In the United States, the Alliance of National Heritage Areas represents the interests of NHAs, publishes a monthly electronic newsletter, produces an annual report and other materials, and holds quarterly meetings and a biannual international heritage development conference. Created in 1997, the Alliance has taken a more active role in recent years in developing orientation workshops and evaluation strategies for the growing program.

Program Differences

The AONB and PNR programs recognize rural landscapes for the high quality of their scenery and natural values, and they focus on the long-term conservation of landscape character. Both programs also incorporate the social and economic interests of local communities, having learned over time that landscape conservation cannot succeed without the support and assistance of the people who live in the region. In the United Kingdom, AONB designations remain tied to specific landscape criteria, but they also take recreational opportunities and development pressures into account. In France, the focus is increasingly on the conservation of traditional agricultural products and practices.(23)

Whereas NHAs encompass some of the most iconic landscapes in North America (the Hudson River Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains, for example), a landscape's scenic value is just one of several considerations. Unlike the European programs, the NHA program emphasizes areas that tell nationally important stories or illustrate themes, such as the development of the automobile industry, the Civil War, or the contributions of the Gullah Geechee culture along the Atlantic coast.(24) Many of the NHAs are in the nation's former industrial regions or in areas where development pressures are intense.

The European and American programs differ with regard to land use. In the United Kingdom, AONBs benefit from land use protections and controls that exceed those in non-designated countryside in terms of regulatory reach. However, the level of protection is discretionary and determined on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, there are no powers of automatic refusal of development proposals based on AONB designation. The government offers guidance, which is often one of several factors in determining final decisions. In France, the PNR designation does not include any specific regulatory powers and does not amend local land use ordinances or plans.(25) By signing on to the charter, each community agrees to consider the conservation of the region and its resources as part of their planning activities.

In the United States, the NHA program neither provides nor encourages land use controls; the individual designation bills and program legislation include a long list of private property assurances.(26) Moreover, the authorizing legislation for each NHA specifies whether the area may acquire real property. At the regional level, a number of NHAs provide technical assistance on land use planning and landscape conservation as an educational service to local governments and land trusts.

Living Landscapes and National Parks(27)

Many of the challenges faced by all three living landscape programs relate to where they are located within their respective national government bureaucracies. Whereas the host agency's programmatic reach may be narrow in scope, the issues affecting AONBs, PNRs, and NHAs are extremely broad and often extend beyond the remit of the responsible government agency. Agriculture and the preservation of historic properties, for example, are important concerns in many of these designated areas, yet the government programs that deal with these issues may or may not be located in the same national agency. Such situations can make service delivery difficult, especially if the national agency responsible for a living landscapes program only values outcomes that fall within its portfolio. If the responsible agency emphasizes resource conservation as a goal, for instance, it may not assign equal weight to agricultural and other outcomes that sustain the local economy.(28)

In all three cases, the national agencies that oversee living landscapes also oversee national parks. In the United Kingdom, the authority to designate national parks and AONBs stems from the same legislation. Valued for their remoteness, tranquility, and importance for recreation and nature conservation, national parks, like AONBs, are living cultural landscapes and classified as IUCN Category V landscapes.(29) Yet, unlike AONBs, they are managed by independent local authorities with development control and land use powers within the park boundaries. The funding structure is also different: 100 percent of the base funding for national parks comes from the central government.(30)

France currently has seven national parks, most of which are inhabited and four of which are located in mountainous non-agricultural areas near the Spanish and Italian borders. Most French national parks are IUCN Category II landscapes, though Cévennes National Park in southern France is a Category V.

In the United States, the NPS, established in 1916, manages 391 national parks that make up the National Park System. The resources in the system range from vast, iconic western parks such as Yosemite National Park in California, that are valued for their rugged scenery, to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is representative of the hundreds of parks in the National Park System with historical significance. National parks are administered by the NPS and supported financially by the Federal Government. Most are classified as Category II landscapes under the IUCN system. NHAs, considered National Park System related areas, represent a very small percentage of the NPS budget.(31)

All three programs face the challenge of measuring their impact on the landscapes or regions that they were created to conserve. In the United Kingdom, the national government regularly reviews the value for the money of AONB programs. These reviews have confirmed time and again the effectiveness and efficiency of the partnership approach. AONBs and the central government have also begun to use remote sensing and aerial photography to assess the impact of AONB programs on landscapes over time.(32)

In France, many PNRs now include rural development as a program objective. The PNR Federation has developed models for assessing the socio-economic impact of jobs created and maintained in the designated regions. Similar to the economic impact models used in the United States, the French model links visitor spending with regional economic growth.(33)

Over the past four years, the National Park Service has been tracking visitation and volunteerism, the number of formal partnerships, and various project numbers, such as historic properties assisted and miles of trail. For its part, the Alliance of National Heritage Areas has adopted a model used by the NPS to assess the economic impact of tourism on selected NHAs. The NPS has also evaluated the partnership process and networks in some of the more mature NHAs.(34)

Lessons Learned

What can those who care for living landscapes learn by comparing the three management models? First, national designation validates the significance of living landscapes in the minds of residents, visitors, and the world. Boundaries, area names, and membership in national programs help establish a communal or regional identity and encourage other agencies and organizations to recognize their value. Second, national involvement in the form of financial and technical assistance is essential for maintaining consistency and excellence across living landscape partnerships and projects. Third, local communities, specifically area residents, must play a central role if these landscapes are to be conserved. NHAs and PNRs rely on local initiatives to build community and political support for the designation. The AONBs, although identified in government surveys, consider the input and interest of the local community as a key part of the designation process. Local management of these areas strengthens the overall system by giving the people who are most directly impacted a voice in the process.

Fourth, locally developed and nationally reviewed and accepted management plans or compacts that guide future conservation efforts are vital. Whereas NHAs and PNRs have always required management plans, the AONBs have recently added the requirement.(35) The development of these plans helps build awareness and capacity at the community level, and the review by the national government reinforces the government's role. Finally, designated area alliances, associations, and federations are highly effective at disseminating information, promoting best practices, and advocating for support and funding.(36) Such organizations are far more flexible and better positioned to respond quickly to threats and opportunities than any governmental body.


Can a comparison of management models do more besides confirm international trends and show public officials and program managers that things are moving in a predictable direction? At the very least, cross boundary comparisons can reassure them that they are not alone in their efforts to make sense of the terra incognita of living cultural landscapes.(37) Managing living landscapes is a complex undertaking, and recognizing that others are seeking solutions to similar problems can lead to new opportunities for exchanging information and sharing experiences.(38)

The future of these living landscapes hinges on a number of factors ranging from shifts in industrial economies to agricultural policy and climate change. Left alone, these areas will not survive as valued landscapes or continue to provide green space or opportunities for experiencing local heritage. Only a shared commitment at all levels will sustain their essential character for the inspiration and enjoyment of the current and future generations.

Given the shrinking inventory of open land available for parks, shifts in populations, and the rising costs of conservation and historic preservation programs, the time may be right for exploring an alternative strategy that depends heavily on the power and perspectives of local communities. Adrian Phillips, the senior advisor for IUCN, has suggested that the AONB, PNR, and NHA approaches to managing living cultural landscapes are part of a larger trend away from bureaucratic management of protected areas to an approach that draws on the wisdom of local communities, builds on their traditions, and recognizes the sustainability of local practices. This strategy offers new opportunities—particularly for the developing world—to showcase their natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of the environment, the economy, and society. It encourages those who care about conservation to think and act on a landscape scale and view the world through local eyes.(39)


About the Authors

Brenda Barrett is the National Heritage Areas coordinator for the National Park Service. Michael Taylor is the executive director of the Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the United Kingdom.



1. The authors wish to thank Serge Menicucci, senior advisor to the Paris-based Fédération des Parcs Naturels Régionaux de France, whose presentations at the International Heritage Development Conference, June 4-8, 2005, in Nashville, Tennessee, sparked an interest in exchanging information internationally on the management of living landscapes. His assistance was invaluable in organizing meetings with Gerard Moulinas, the director of the federation. He also welcomed representatives from national heritage areas in the United States to France and arranged a study tour of Scarpe-Escaut and Luberon in November 2006. Many thanks also to Adam Wallace with Natural England, formerly with the Countryside Agency, who talked with us about the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty program. Finally, we are very grateful to Adrian Phillips, senior advisor to the IUCN-World Conservation Union on world heritage, for his advice, assistance, and insights into new models for managing protected areas.

On June 19, 2007, at the International Heritage Development Conference (IHDC) in Detroit, Michigan, the Alliance of National Heritage Areas entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the French Federation of Regional Natural Parks. The agreement outlines the common activities and goals of the two organizations in an effort to promote mutual understanding and the sharing of best practices and technical expertise across international boundaries.

Following their time in Detroit, the French delegates traveled to Pennsylvania to visit three national heritage areas—the Schuylkill River National Heritage Area, the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley National Heritage Area. After completing the tour, the French delegates and National Heritage Areas staff pledged to continue their partnership with ongoing technical exchange. In October 2007, an American delegation representing the Alliance plans to travel to the Loire Valley region of France to participate in a companion signing ceremony to the Detroit event.

2. For a discussion on authenticity, sustainability, the nature and definition of working cultural landscapes, and the challenges of conserving the qualities that make them significant, see Rolf Diamant, Nora J. Mitchell, and Jeffrey Roberts, "Place-based and Traditional Products and the Preservation of Working Cultural Landscapes," CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship 4 no. 1 (winter 2007): 6-18.

3. The Areas of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) designation applies to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, although the national administering agencies are specific to each country. Scotland does not use the designation. For the purposes of this essay, the authors have used "United Kingdom" to refer generally to the geographical extent of the program. For information on the AONB program, visit, for England,; for Northern Ireland,; and, for Wales,; for information on the PNR program in France, see; for the NHA program in the United States, visit

4. The theme for Europarc 2006, held on September 20-24 in Oxford, England, was "Living Working Landscapes." Delegates explored how to manage protected landscapes to meet the varying demands of conservation, rural industries, tourism, and rural populations, and exchanged best practices for preserving designated landscapes and protected areas. For more information, visit, accessed November 6, 2006.

5. The Fédération des Parcs Naturels Régionaux de France is particularly interested in exporting the model of PNRs as a strategy for sustainable development. To that end, it has developed a publication, La coopération internationale et les Parcs naturels régionaux. Since 2004, the federation and the individual parks have worked in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and many European countries.

6. Brenda Barrett, "National Heritage Areas: Developing a Model for Measuring Success," in Preservation and Stewardship of Cultural and Ecological Landscapes (Washington, DC: US/ICOMOS, 2004). See also H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, "Introduction," in Cotswolds Conservation Board, Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Cotswolds AONB (Northleach, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom: Cotswolds Conservation Board, 2006), specifically the comments on the aging population in the AONB and the low number of young people between the ages of 15 and 29.

7. IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas with the assistance of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Guidelines for Protected Area Management Categories (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1994). The guidelines are available online at accessed March 7, 2007.

8. Ibid, 22.

9. The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention include guidelines for evaluating cultural landscapes. They are available online at, accessed February 6, 2007.

10. Landscapes may be governed by a variety of protocols and carry multiple designations. In England, one AONB, North Devon, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and while this designation primarily concerns nature conservation, it requires some strategic planning and social, cultural, and economic policy decision-making with regard to the landscapes and communities surrounding the reserve. Another AONB, the North Pennines, is also a UNESCO Geopark, which promotes public appreciation of area geology.

11. See Adrian Phillips, "Action Plan for AONBs," Outstanding: The Magazine for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty 10 (spring-summer 2006), for a discussion of the potential impact of the European Landscape Convention on AONB. The European Landscape Convention is available online at, accessed March 18, 2007.

12. There is only one example where a Minister has declined to confirm the designation: the center of Wales known as the Cambrian Mountains. The reason for the refusal was opposition from farmers and other local interests. Recently, farmers in the area have pressed for AONB designation because they feel it will work to their advantage due to changes in agricultural support mechanisms in Europe.

13. This legislation stemmed from the work of John Dower and his 1945 survey of English and Welsh landscapes. The report, entitled National Parks in England and Wales (London, United Kingdom: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1945), proposed a model for national parks that differed from the then well-known United States model, in which the land would stay in private ownership, and diverse local and regional interests would coordinate protection in pursuit of a common national goal. The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 created the National Parks Commission, whose main function was to establish national parks in England and Wales. Ten parks were designated by the Commission between 1951 and 1957. The Commission was also empowered to designate Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and to submit proposals for the creation of long-distance routes, such as footpaths and bridleways, along public rights of way. The Commission was replaced by the Countryside Agency in 1968.

14. In late 2006, the AONB program in England shifted from the Countryside Agency to a new agency, Natural England (, accessed April 25, 2007). This new agency combines English Nature, the landscape, access, and recreation elements of the Countryside Agency, and the environmental land management functions of the Rural Development Service. In Wales, one organization—the Countryside Council for Wales—fills this role. In Northern Ireland, it is the central government Department of Environment.

15. "Fédération des Parcs Naturels Régionaux de France,", accessed April 25, 2007.

16. For information on the first national heritage area, visit the websites for the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Corridor at and, accessed April 25, 2007.

17. The National Park Service recognizes the need for program legislation that establishes criteria and standards for designating and managing NHAs. Program supporters have proposed legislation for many years, most recently in the form of the 2007 National Heritage Partnership Act. However, questions concerning property rights and other issues have hampered action on that legislation. See National Park System Advisory Board, Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas (Washington, DC: National Park System Advisory Board, 2006),, accessed April 25, 2007.

18. Countryside and Right of Way Act of 2000.

19. The trend is towards nonprofit management as the most flexible approach.

20. Paul Seman, Planning at the Landscape Scale (London, United Kingdom: Taylor and Francis, 2006).

21. "Fédération des Parcs Naturels Régionaux de France,", accessed May 2, 2007.

22. Currently, both the National Association of AONBs and the Alliance of NHAs operate with one full-time and one part-time staff persons. The Federation des PNR de France has a larger staff.

23. Henry Buller, The French Parcs Naturels Régionaux: Socio-Economic Impact and Rural Development, Working Paper 52 (Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom: Newcastle University, 2000), 35-36.

24. Links to most of the 37 national heritage areas are available online at:

25. Louis Allie, "Les Parcs Naturels Régionaux Français: un modèle de gouvernance et de planification spatiale pour le milieu peri-urbain?" ("French Regional Natural Parks and spatial planning in urban areas?"), Canadian Journal of Regional Science (June 2003). The author notes the value of PNRs as a model for planning at the regional scale but questions the impact of the plans on urbanization of the countryside.

26. The General Accountability Office (GAO) addressed this and other issues in National Park Service: A More Systematic Process for Establishing National Heritage Areas and Actions to Improve Their Accountability Are Needed, GAO-04-593T (Washington, DC: GAO, 2004). The GAO concluded that despite concerns over property rights, the agency could not find a single example of heritage areas impacting private property rights.

27. The challenges identified in this article are only a sampling of the issues confronted by these landscape conservation programs. Other issues that might be examined in the future include branding and marketing the designation, techniques for citizen engagement, and fundraising for long-term projects.

28. The National Park Service mission statement reads—

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

While the mission involves work with partners to extend the benefits of conservation and outdoor recreation, it does not incorporate the goals of community and economic revitalization that drive many—if not most—of the NHAs. The NHAs must find other partners for support and assistance in those areas.

29. For a detailed comparison of the National Park System in the United States and the national parks in England and Wales, see Federico Cheever, "British National Parks for North Americans: What We Can Learn from a More Crowded Nation Proud of Its Countryside," Working Paper 1556, ExpressO Preprint Series (August 16, 2006),, accessed March 2, 2007.

30. A Landscape Legacy: National Parks and the Historic Environment (Swindon, United Kingdom: English Heritage and the Countryside Agency, 2006).

31. The National Park Service Advisory Board has recently acknowledged that NHAs offer the Service a new strategy for meeting its stewardship mandate by engaging communities and residents outside park boundaries in heritage-based partnerships. See Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas cited above.

32. The challenges of evaluating AONBs over the long term are linked to concerns about the reliability of base data, the compatibility of data sets from different sources, and variations in data collection criteria between surveys. Other, anecdotal systems are in place, however, such as repeat point photography conducted over periods of several years.

33. Buller, 5-6.

34. The National Park Service Conservation Study Institute in Woodstock, Vermont, is in the process of evaluating three NHAs to assess their progress in achieving the purposes of their authorizing legislation and management plan goals and objectives. Two of the studies have been published: Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future: A Technical Assistance Report to the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission (Woodstock, Vermont: National Park Service Conservation Study Institute, 2005) and Connecting Stories, Landscapes, and People: Exploring the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Partnership (Woodstock, Vermont: National Park Service Conservation Study Institute, 2006). Both are available online at

35. The Association of AONBs acknowledges that "Management Plans, which are owned by the local communities, are also very valuable tools. However, these need to have some flexibility built into them, be accepted by national agencies and operators and be reviewed regularly to ensure they are current and relevant."

36. In the case of the Fédération des Parcs Naturels Régionaux, the organization is the primary source for management information for France's 44 PNRs. In the other two countries, these organizations are expanding their educational offerings and influence in shaping national policy.

37. Michael Taylor, co-author and director of the Association of AONBs, has distilled a number of the key comparisons as follows—

we would argue that our Partnership approach is essential, and that the Partnerships need to have a measure of independence of action from any of the constituent authorities. Apart from the general point about Partnership, I think it is difficult to assess this aspect of our experience. Even within UK we have four different central government systems developing, so that what works in say Northern Ireland may not work in England and visa [sic] versa. The local government/central government relationships may be more relevant to what works best rather than trying to import a process that works well in a different political system.

38. The Fédération de Parcs Naturels Régionaux's publication, International Cooperation and the Regional Nature Parks of France, provides good ideas for international exchanges and programs.

39. Adrian Phillips, "Turning Ideas on Their Head: The New Paradigm of Protected Areas," The George Wright Forum 20 no. 2 (June 2003): n.p.