Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM AND ITS PLACE IN NATIONAL PARKS ADMINISTRATION
HOW CAN THE PROGRAM OF INVESTIGATION BE CORRELATED WITH PARK ADMINISTRATION?
This topic was assigned to Park Naturalists Been and McKee, and was divided into the following two papers:
3-A Frank T. Been
3-A Frank T. Been
3-B Edwin D. McKee
In conducting the administration of a national park efficiently and according to the commonly recognized National Park standards, there is need of investigations by men who are equipped to conduct them. These men are the Park Naturalists because they have the fundamental knowledge which warrants their carrying on this work. At least, they are better qualified than the usual park employee. If a condition requires the attention of a specialist, the Naturalist is able to interpret the findings of the investigation for the administration, conduct preventive or remedial measures, observe the results, and prepare reports and records for the National Park references and for the use of interested outside organizations.
To stimulate the interest of the people in the park, the Naturalist’s work now is primarily searching out the most interesting features of the park, examining their natural and historical phenomena, and making these findings presentable to the public in interesting everyday language. This work is closely related to the park administration because it deals primarily with the park visitors who require a great deal of the time and effort of the park employees.
However, an extended field is opening up. This is the carry-out of investigations and experiments as they may have to do with safeguarding the attractions of the park. Some of the problems that may come up are the investigation and control of plant, tree, and animal diseases, the investigation of predatory animals, of animal food with regard to quality and abundance, of the condition and numbers of park animals and birds, the effect of grazing, the effect of road and trail construction, the desirability of certain regions for wilderness areas, and the condition of fish and fish food. These illustrate a few of the problems that involve park administration, but because of the differences in parks there is a wide divergence of park problems which Park Naturalists may be called upon to solve.
There seems to be far reaching possibilities for the Naturalist in park administration as explained above, but can this be considered educational? The primary purpose of the Naturalist is to guide, teach, and explain to the park visitor the natural features of the park. This work naturally requires much investigation and research, but if we take upon our shoulders problems of park administration may we not so burden ourselves that we may lose sight of the main purpose of our position? We have stated in previous meetings that we are so new in the Service that our status is not definitely determined. If we are to establish our place, we should concentrate upon the job of contracting park visitors, devising means for their enlightenment, and improving existing methods of educational work–in other words, concentrate upon the job of popularizing natural science. We shall naturally come in contact with scientific, research, and educational organizations, but if we give much time to investigations not related to our department we will fail in our purpose of showing the people how to enjoy the parks. We are working in the midst of regions so advantageous for scientific investigations that, for our personal gratification, we may become so deeply immersed in research that we will neglect education.
3–B Edwin D. McKee — How can the program of investigation be correlated with cooperative organizations?
While the participation of the National Parks’ educational staffs in scientific investigations and research is necessarily of prime importance in its relationship to the park administration, nevertheless such research may also have another and equally great value; namely, its assistance to the work of other institutions, especially those of a scientific nature such as biological and geological surveys, museums, etc. Science must precede technology. We must first thoroughly understand a principle before we can well popularize or present it. The American nation today possesses many institutions whose primary function and purpose is to act as pioneers in the various fields of science. It is frequently our assignment and our privilege to assist in this work where it is related to the national parks, and in many cases we are better fitted and batter situated to carry on such investigations than are any others.