One major aspect of World Heritage sites is the idea of stewardship. Stewardship is the about taking the responsibility of taking care of something. In the context of World Heritage stewardship is the management of world heritage sites. Managing a world heritage site is a very complex and difficult task. While thinking about what stewardship meant I thought about a world heritage site that is very dear to me and that requires a lot of work to manage.
Yosemite National Park has only been a couple hours away from me my whole life and it’s a beautiful part of my family’s life. My father knows everything there is to know about Yosemite but, I never put any effort into learning about the park the way my father has. I realized that if I love visiting the park as much as I do I should learn what the people who care for it have to go through to keep it in good shape.
My first thought was, “How do they deal with all the population and tourists?” If any of you have been to Yosemite (which if you haven’t you really need to go) you probably seen the masses of tourists form all over the world. If you go there on a busy day you to be prepared to move about 5 mph in some places because the traffic is so heavy. In 2010, there were 4 million visitors and 670 motor vehicle accidents. In response to this growing threat to the park, the park service has placed a maximum capacity on the park, about 19,900 visitors a day. They also have a system of buses that are extremely environment friendly and they encourage visitors to use them to get around the park. The park has many regulations concerning the behavior of visitors while they’re in the park such as, no pets in the wilderness. However, the park service can only do so much and the visitors have to take responsibility too. In 2010, park rangers had to issue 2,469 citations and 11,223 warnings
There are many other tasks that must be done to manage the site that don’t involve tourists or pollution. The park service has some responsibility to monitor the environment but there is a limit to the amount of influence they should have on the environment. The wildlife and ecosystem should be left to itself and Mother Nature should be allowed to manage the site the same it has been before people came into the picture. They learned this lesson in Yosemite when they tried to stop the forest fires. For many years, a major concern was to prevent forest fires in hopes of preserving the park. The problem with this was that forest fires were nature’s way of regulating the amount of debris on the forest floor. If small fires happened frequently then dry, dead foliage didn’t build up on the forest floor and by preventing forest fires the foliage built up. The when a big fire started it burned out of control because the dead foliage acted as fuel for the flames.
I have come to understand that stewardship is a very complex idea. In order to manage sites, we must find a balance between many opposing forces. We must let nature goes it course but we must also help it to resist our own effects on it. It is a tricky thing to keep a site such as Yosemite in pristine shape. The park service has to regulate the environment because of the effects of tourism but it must be sure not to change the ecosystem. After learning all this I have a new appreciation for all the work Park service does to keep National parks in good shape so that people like me can continue to experience their beauty.