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CSU Event Explores National Parks Across the Globe

National Park Service
Ajo Mountain drive in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. The park borders Mexico and is the most dangerous park in the U.S. due to drug smuggling and other illegal activities.

A three-day event examining how national parks are viewed differently across the world starts tonight on the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins.

One area of interest is parks that share borders, like Glacier National Park, which is co-managed by the U.S. and Canada.

CSU History Professor Adrian Howkins says there’s a growing awareness that natural environments in need of preservation shouldn’t be limited by one country’s borders.

“Understanding the history of international exchanges and connections within national parks does help us prepare for a future of cooperation and collaboration that does go beyond the nation state,” he says.

Scholars will also discuss the similarities and differences between countries and how they use national parks. Some countries, like Switzerland, are focused on scientific research, while the U.S. combines research, tourism and conservation efforts.

“For example in England where I’m from, national parks tend to be populated places,” he says. “English people experience national parks differently as ‘lived in’ places whereas—particularly in the West—we associate national parks as wilderness areas and open spaces.”

Howkins says differing priorities can lead to challenges when it comes to national parks on borders. And that could translate into safety issues. For example, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, which borders on Mexico, is the most dangerous park in the U.S. due to drug smuggling and other illegal activities.