Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
ESTABLISHMENT OF RESEARCH RESERVES
By Geo. L. Collins
The proposition of research reserves seems to have arisen as a direct result of abnormal human invasion of our national park areas with a consequent disturbance of things natural to them. So it is essential in locating research reserves to bear in mind that an absolute minimum of human visitors is desirable.
Whether the ultimate value to the public of these proposed reserves is great enough to warrant their being set aside as such would seem to be the question. Granted that it is, we must then find out how to actually establish them, which is more a problem of administration than of anything else. It would seem to me that the greatest value of such reserves would be in safeguarding the parks in spite of the public.
I have an idea that in this connection different areas in national parks could be definitely closed to the bulk of visitors at different times more profitably than would result if just one special tract were to remain closed indefinitely. Perhaps, however, if one rather in accessible tract in a park presented ideal range conditions, natural boundaries and other qualifications making it a natural game preserve; perhaps in that case it would be fairly easy to establish and maintain it from the general public. But would that be good business? Would it be right to exclude even the bulk of visitors from any part of any park if they wanted to go? Are we not still possessed of great areas of forest land wherein nature works as nearly unhampered by man as conditions we might create in national parks would allow?
As suggested above, the practical application of the idea of research reserves lies, to me at least, in closing certain areas in each national park say for two years, then reopening those and closing others, (where such a thing is possible) just as a careful farmer changes his crops or actually lets a plot of ground go for a while in order to maintain its fertility.
I believe that in fifty years time the public itself will regret exceedingly that all national parks at the outset were not made into reserves in which the flew of human travel could be controlled through lack of physical development. Would they not then be ideal research reserves? And lastly, would they not then be the most ideal national parks?
A lively discussion followed Mr. Collins’ proposal that research reserves be set aside for only a short period. The conclusion reached was that research reserves should almost invariably be set aside permanently.
It was agreed that before research reserves are established their scientific value should be carefully determined and consideration should be given to the correlation of their administration with the general development and administrative plan of the park as a whole. Research reserves should be located, whore possible, in out-of-the-way places, which are seldom visited and their existence and location should be kept from general knowledge of the public.
Present day observations may have extreme importance in the future and therefore careful records should be kept on the fauna and flora of the research reserve areas, even though the data is not immediately applicable to current problems. New problems will open up as the years pass and it is important that the research reserves be set aside now so that they will be available for study in the future.