DURHAM, N.C. – Rolf Diamant, a retired National Park Service park superintendent and widely cited expert on the history of the national parks, will present a free public talk, “Public Lands and the Fault Lines of a Democracy: Reflections on a Second Century for National Parks,” at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20 at Duke University.

The talk will take place at Field Auditorium in Environment Hall, located at 9 Circuit Drive on Duke’s West Campus.

It is the annual Lynn W. Day Distinguished Lectureship in Forest and Conservation History.

A reception and book-signing will immediately follow.

A 37-year employee of the National Park Service, Diamant is co-editor and a contributing author of A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks (George Braziller, 2016).

In his talk at Duke, he will discuss how the establishment of the first national parks – and the birth of conservation – in 19th century America was dependent on a “new birth of freedom” characterized by major Constitutional reforms, the assertion of federal authority over domestic policy, and a much larger national government, all of which were direct outcomes of the Civil War. Since then, each step toward establishing a comprehensive national system of public lands has been contested, revealing a long-standing ambivalence about conservation and the role and function of government.

He will explain that lessons learned from these challenges can inform our current understanding of what might be needed to continue to make our national park system, which turns 100 this year, useful and relevant to all Americans for years to come.   

Diamant is the former park superintendent at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont and Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site in Massachusetts and has also served as a landscape architect and planner with the National Park Service. He is an adjunct associate professor at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. In addition to A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks, his essays have appeared in Envisioning Gateway: Designing the 21st Century National Park (2011); The Conservation of Cultural Landscapes (2005); and  Reconstructing Conservation: Finding Common Ground (2003).

The annual Lynn W. Day Lecture is presented by the Forest History Society, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Department of History.  

For more information about the Oct. 20 talk, contact the Forest History Society at (919) 682-9319 or visit their website.