The George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas & Cultural Sites • New Orleans, Louisiana • March 14–18, 2011

GWS2011 • The 2011 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites

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Thank you!

Over 1,100 people came to New Orleans the week of March 14–18, 2011, for Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World, the biennial George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. The GWS conferences are all about reflection, reconnection, and renewal — a week of stimulating discussion about leading-edge research, innovative practices, and foundational values.

GWS2011 Conference Proceedings are available here in PDF format. 

A selection of the nearly 200 posters presented at GWS2011 is available here.

Read on to find out more about our conference aims and philosophy.  And if you missed GWS2011, make sure you don't miss the next one: we will be gathering again in Denver, Colorado, in March 2013.  Click here to be notified when the GWS2013 Call for Proposals comes out in June 2012.  (If you attended GWS2011, no need to do anything ... you'll automatically get the notice.)


When we say "parks," we mean a lot more.

Every two years, the George Wright Society organizes the USA’s premier interdisciplinary professional meeting on parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. By these three overlapping terms we mean a broad array of places, both “cultural” and “natural,” managed by different entities under a variety of designations:

  • parks at all levels: federal, state/provincial, county, and city
  • historic, archaeological, and other cultural sites; cultural landscapes; protected landscapes/seascapes
  • research areas and designated wilderness within national and state forests; other protected natural areas
  • grasslands, wildlife refuges, and other protected public lands
  • areas and sites administered by tribal nations and/or indigenous people; community-conserved areas; sacred natural sites
  • marine protected areas; estuarine, freshwater, and other aquatic sanctuaries
  • private land-trust reserves

The GWS Conference also encompasses disciplines and activities that link with or otherwise support the work of parks, such as GIS and museum work.  Any member of the public is welcome to register and attend.


What's different about GWS conferences?  Our broad horizons.

The GWS is unique among professional organizations because our mission is to encourage dialogue and information exchange among all the people needed for protected area conservation. In recent years, 800–1,000 people have attended. Many are from the U.S. National Park Service and the conference program reflects this. However, as noted above, the scope of the conference goes well beyond the U.S. national park system to include other federal agencies, tribes, state agencies, NGOs, academic concerns, and park systems and organizations outside the USA.  When it comes to parks, our area of interest is the entire world.


GWS2011: The place to refresh your career.

GWS2011 is your chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, make important new contacts, get up-to-date on the latest innovations in park management, stay current with research findings in your field, and connect with people who share your core values. With our broad range of program offerings — including thought-provoking keynotes, wide-ranging paper and panel presentations, focused affinity and business meetings, a dynamic poster session, and field trips — the GWS biennial conferences aim to be the park profession’s best all-around training value.


An opportunity to help rebuild New Orleans.

As park professionals, we understand the responsibilities — and satisfaction — that comes with a career in the service of the public and the planet.  In selecting New Orleans as the site of GWS2011, the George Wright Society wants to encourage attendees to help, if only in a small way, with the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Katrina.  To that end we will be offering a number of service trips: opportunities to work on projects that communities in and around New Orleans have identified as being important to them.


Proposals are being accepted for papers, posters, sessions, and exhibits through September 30.

Want to share your work, your ideas, your values?  Put in a proposal for the GWS2011 program! Click the "Call for Proposals" button on the menu to get started.


Questions? Ask us!

We've created this website to answer your questions about the conference. But if anything isn't clear, don't hesitate to contact us — we are always glad to help. Thank you for your interest in the George Wright Society and our conference.  We look forward to seeing you in New Orleans.

Dave Harmon
GWS Executive Director

Emily Dekker-Fiala
GWS Conference Coordinator


Conference Cosponsors and Supporters

U.S. National Park Service, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science program
U.S. National Park Service, Cultural Resources program
U.S. National Park Service, Inventory & Monitoring Program
U.S. Geological Survey
Parks Canada
United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.


GWS Board of Directors

Brent A. Mitchell, president
David J. Parsons, vice president
Gary E. Davis, treasurer
Rebecca Conard, secretary
Brad Barr
Barrett Kennedy
Frank J. Priznar
Molly N. Ross
Jan W. van Wagtendonk
John Waithaka

Rebecca Stanfield McCown, graduate student representative


GWS2011 Conference Committee

Melia Lane-Kamahele, chair
Brad Barr
Carol Clark
Rebecca Conard
Rolf Diamant
Sandee Dingman
Brent Mitchell
Rebecca Stanfield McCown
Stephanie Toothman
Jan W. van Wagtendonk
John Waithaka
Robert Winfree


George Melendez Wright Student Travel Scholarship Program

Gillian Bowser, coordinator


Native Participant Travel Grant Program

Sharon Franklet, coordinator


GWS2011 Native Involvement Working Group

Larry Balber
Judy Bischoff
Donna Falcon
Dorothy FireCloud
Sharon Franklet
Nathalie Gagnon
Wanda Janes
Melia Lane-Kamahele
Brian Patterson
Nancy Swanton
John Waithaka

photos courtesy of John Wullschleger