The Future has other Plans | The PUP Global Heritage Consortium

The Future Has Other Plans

Planning Holistically to Conserve Natural and Cultural Heritage

Authors: Jonathan M. Kohl & Stephen F. McCool

Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing (Golden, Colorado, USA)

Series: Applied Communication edited by Dr. Sam Ham

Publication Date: 13 December 2016

Co-sponsor: PUP Global Heritage Consortium

Audience: Students, academics, professional heritage planners, anyone interested in planning

Availability: Fulcrum Publishing (includes electronic formats) or Amazon (below)

Crisis has enveloped the more than 200,000 nationally and regionally protected natural and cultural heritage sites around the world. Heritage managers – those who manage natural sites such as national parks, wilderness areas, and biosphere reserves, as well as those who manage cultural sites including historic monuments, battlefields, heritage cities, and ancient rock art sites – face an urgent need to confront this crisis, and each day that they don’t, more of our planet’s common heritage disappears. Although heritage management and implementation suffer from a lack of money, time, personnel, information, and political will, The Future Has Other Plans argues that deeper causes to current problems lurk in the discipline itself. Drawing on decades of practical experience in global heritage management and case studies from around the world, Jon Kohl and Steve McCool provide an innovative and integral perspective for conserving these valuable protected areas. Merging interdisciplinary and evolving management paradigms, the authors introduce a new kind of holistic planning approach that integrates the practice of heritage management and conservation with operational realities.

Una crisis ha cubierto los 200 000 sitios de patrimonio natural y cultural, nacionales y regionales, alrededor del mundo. Los gestores de patrimonio — quienes administran sitios naturales como parques nacionales, áreas prístinas y reservas de la biosfera, y sitios culturales como monumentos históricos, campos de batalla, ciudades patrimoniales y sitios de arte rupestre antiguo — encaran la necesidad urgente de superar esta crisis. Cada día que omiten hacerlo, más patrimonio del planeta desaparece. Aunque la gestión del patrimonio y la implementación sufren por falta de recursos, tiempo, personal, información y voluntad política, El Futuro Tiene Otros Planes argumenta que las causas más profundas de nuestros problemas se ocultan en la disciplina misma. Basados en décadas de experiencia práctica en la gestión de patrimonio global y casos de estudio de todo el mundo, Jon Kohl y Steve McCool proveen una solución innovadora para conservar estas áreas protegidas valiosas. Al integrar los paradigmas de gestión interdisciplinarios y evolutivos, los autores presentan un enfoque nuevo de planificación holística que fusiona la práctica de gestión de patrimonio y conservación con las realidades operativas.

Jonathan M. Kohl

jon-headshot-2016-200x200Jon is the facilitating coordinator and founder of the PUP Global Heritage Consortium, a non-profit global network of people and organizations dedicated to introducing emerging paradigms into the heritage management and planning field to stem the crisis of management plans that remain unimplemented. He began to develop the Public Use Planning Process when working at RARE Center for Tropical Conservation in Central America. He started this book project to create a forum to discuss the deeper theory that cannot always be articulated in field projects and intends this book to serve as the theoretical backbone for the Consortium.

Aside from planning and visitor use management, his specialty is heritage interpretation and its relationship to protected area management, especially in the left-hand quadrants which are often left out of modern consideration. He has written extensively about interpretation and planning ( and writes a bilingual blog (Spanish-English) about outside the box ideas about interpretation especially relevant to developing countries ( He graduated from Dartmouth College (BS) and Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (MSc.). He lives in Costa Rica, where he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1990s at the National Zoo, with wife Marisol Mayorga and his two sons Dion and Ian.

He credits his mentors for who he is today: Steve McCool (protected areas) (link to advisor page below), Sam Ham (interpretation and environmental communications) (, Donella Meadows (systems and paradigm thinking and journalism) (, and Jay Heinrichs ( and Kimberly Comeau (non-fiction and fiction writing respectively).

Stephen F. McCool

steveSteve is Professor Emeritus, Wildland Recreation Management, in the Department of Society and Conservation of the College of Forestry and Conservation, The University of Montana. Steve began his professional career by investigating biophysical impacts of wilderness use in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota during the mid-1960s and has continued working with wilderness and protected area managers his entire career, focusing principally on management of visitors and tourism, public engagement processes, and new paradigms of planning. His current approach to protected area stewardship is based on the premise that planning and management occur within the context of messy situations — conflicting goals, uncertain cause-effect relationships. These settings require substantially different approaches — in process, focus, public participation, and institutional design — compared to traditional tame problems. Thus, he focuses on “messy” issues associated with protected area planning, including the conflicts between recreation opportunities, integrated resource management, and application of frameworks to resolve competing demands. Recent publications include those dealing with governance and protected areas, frameworks for thinking about protected area management, an assessment of various visitor planning frameworks, and discussions about the relationships between tourism and protected areas. He has authored over 200 publications dealing with protected area management and provided advice and service to a number of park and protected area agencies in the U.S. and abroad including Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Belize, Brazil, Iceland, Croatia, and New Zealand.

He has held faculty positions at Utah State University and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He received a B.S. Forestry degree from the University of Idaho, and holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota. From September 1987 through August 1993, he served as the Director, Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at The University of Montana. From January 1993 until August 1995 he worked as co-leader, social sciences staff of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, a large-scale ecosystem assessment process for the US Pacific Northwest. He is a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas and currently serves on its Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group.


From Jon

I started working with RARE Center for Tropical Conservation in 1997, and although the organization was grassroots and perhaps ahead of many in participatory approaches, we still worked with a strong rational comprehensive bias. When the task of creating a public use planning effort fell upon me, I first studied how other conservation organizations, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and The Nature Conservancy, conducted planning in protected areas: they used Rational Comprehensive Planning. It would be several years before I met the concept face-to-face; I only knew that the president of RARE had issued a mandate to create a planning process that identified and avoided plan implementation barriers that sent so many plans to the Gulag.

In 2000, with UNESCO funding, our team developed the Public Use Planning (PUP) Program. I had already concluded that outsourcing planning and writing to expert consultants constituted a recipe for plan implementation failure, so our program’s focus switched to training on-staff personnel we called “public use coordinators.” We trained them in facilitation, planning organization, and writing skills. We taught them to use and modify our basic public use planning modules (public use product development, monitoring, financial planning, etc.), and we offered intensive one-on-one mentoring and as well as some financial support. Our fundamental assumption held that if the public use coordinator, with our help, had not achieved the integration of this new do-it-yourself-and-learn approach into the rest of the park’s technical staff within three years, there was a good chance the public use coordinator would move on, effectively burning the bridge we had built with the park.

This approach resulted in elaborate multi-segmented, training-mentoring interventions. Our first round of training, however, produced far less than we had hoped. Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico recast some of the modules to fit into their conventional management plan that later were not implemented; Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve in Mexico decided that it simply did not want to play at all. At our most hopeful location, Tikal National Park in Guatemala, we teamed up with The Nature Conservancy, which had also received simultaneous UNESCO funding, to create a management plan using its Conservation Action Planning (CAP) methodology (CAP). We had hoped to create a prototype mini-park within the larger park where staff could experiment and learn about new management techniques that the park could later either discontinue or expand to other locations, depending on their reaction. The Nature Conservancy, however, hoped that we would produce the public use content of the management plan, an aspect that CAP was not designed to handle. In the end, the government terminated our idea for a safe space to practice and innovate, and we produced public use components that then ended in a conventional plan which that suffered the expected implementation woes of Rational Comprehensive (management) Planning.

In 2003 in Indonesia, the Public Use Planning Program hired Indonesians to work more closely with public use coordinators and with other local actors, creating more participatory workshops and distributing the work more widely in the constituent community. Despite government pressure to create published, polished, and approved plans in Komodo and Ujung Kulon National Parks, there was no money to help parks to implement, and eventually those plans, too, ended on the shelf.

Jump forward to 2009, when we worked completely under UNESCO in Vietnam with two World Heritage sites (My Son and Hoi An) and one biosphere reserve (Cum Lau Cham). In addition to PUP’s traditional staff training, we began to integrate Block’s techniques for engagement and techniques for organizational learning both to more fully motivate both our technical assistance team as well as lobby the government to avoid some of the traditional barriers. In one informal lunch meeting with the vice chairman for the Department of Sports, Culture, and Tourism, Mr. Hai agreed that publication and approval did present additional barriers to implementation.

At the time of this writing, the future version of PUP will include a strong component on strengthening the constituent community through vision workshops, aligning objectives, conflict mediation, and distributing decision-making power, as well as formal negotiations to reduce bureaucratic barriers before planning begins. I now regard planning as a facilitated conversation that both integrates learning throughout the process as well as focuses on the community culture, not just on the heritage site staff’s technical skills. There is a long way to go, but I can now trace this program’s development from its largely Modernist origins to its holistic future.


 From Steve

My beliefs about natural resource planning, while always taking a skeptical perspective, began to change in the 1980s. For many years, I had considered planning to be the application of science to making choices about the future, but it was also informed by my strong beliefs about democracy in action. I had often admonished my students that the responsibility of planners was to recommend the technically best alternative to decision-makers. At the same time, I was a strong advocate for public engagement throughout the planning process. It seemed to me that good ethical practice warranted involving those impacted by decisions into the decision-making process.

My attitudes began to change significantly in the 1980s, however, when I helped facilitate a planning process for a large protected area in Montana. That process was modeled on Friedmann’s Transactive Planning Theory. Friedmann argued that the dominance of technical expertise in planning had resulted in what he called the “Crisis of Knowing” between planners and the citizens they served. This gap meant that citizens did not understand what planners were doing and why, and planners had become insulated and isolated from their clients and no longer understood their visions, dreams, and needs. The gap could be overcome, Friedmann argued, by undertaking dialogue in small groups involving both planners and citizens. Through this dialogue, social learning (about the problem) would occur, and eventually a consensus about the appropriate future and actions could be constructed.

During this period, the US Forest Service was mandated by Congress to initiate forest level planning, in response to an emphasis on timber harvesting at the expense of other values. At the time, a strong wave of concern about timber harvesting levels on national forests swept the country, and the agency frequently found itself facing protests, litigation, and civil disobedience. Those forest plans were contentious, each one often receiving dozens of administrative appeals. Quite clearly, the paradigm of Forest Service planning, based solely on a rational- comprehensive model was under attack.

In the late 1980s, I began to ask the questions, why are all these plans, both Forest Service, and other natural resource plans, failing? My measure was the extreme level of contention and the lack of implementation. And, why, in the face of overwhelming evidence of failure do natural resource planners continue to use the same planning process? At this time, as a result of this questioning, that I began to change the content of my senior-level planning class—moving away from technical aspects to more planning theory. Most of my reading—and consequently most of my students’ readings—began to focus on the urban planning literature and away from the visitor and recreation planning literature—the area in which both my research and teaching focused. The urban planning literature was dealing with similar issues and could inform natural resource planning.

Eventually, I realized that the cause of planning failure was occurring at a systemic level rather than at the operational level, that issues that were inherently questions of values were being treated as if they were simply matters of technical inconvenience. For example, the debate over permitting snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park is one that derives from different societal preferences about what a park should be, but it was often posed as a technical question of environmental impact. As a result, the values most important to people (solitude, escape, supremacy of nature) were often marginalized in the planning, frequently because they could not be measured and placed into quantitative computer models.

This turn in my thinking was fundamental, —and irreversible. While Rational Comprehensive Planning (RCP) had some good points (such as the search for evidence in assessing consequences of alternatives), the weak points (e.g., marginalization of experience, a desire for all possible information) could not be overcome with improvements in the models. RCP needed something else, and that something else was a fundamental redesign of planning.

“The book is a comprehensive, critically reflective, reflexive, and forward thinking book that draws on the authors’ own and many other planning processes and journeys to build a paradigm and framework for a truly fresh approach to planning… a key strength of this book is its highly effective writing style and accessible language, including the use of an overriding analogy to tell its story, along with the use of other communication tools that help make what is a largely unfamiliar and at times complex set of ideas digestible.”

Betty Weiler


Southern Cross University

(2017). The future has other plans: planning holistically to conserve natural and cultural heritage, Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events. (full review available upon request, )


The Future Has Other Plans is truly insightful and innovative in its thinking about the application of new modes of reasoning stemming from key thinkers today, and then translating that to the operational practice of planning and management of natural and cultural heritage sites.” From the book foreword.

Ron van Oers

Late Vice Director

World Heritage Institute of Training and Research in Asia and the Pacific under the auspices of UNESCO


“In The Future has Other Plans, the authors demonstrate how contemporary planners need to work within legal and planning frameworks that were developed in an era when we believed the future could be predicted while in an era when we have come to realize that the future is highly uncertain and dynamic. First, they illustrate the assumptions that underpin the two eras. Then they help the reader understand their personal mental models about how change can be influenced. They conclude by merging the two together which provided an excellent basis to both critique and creativity develop planning projects. Through numerous case studies and clear explanations, complexity is something that becomes welcomed rather than feared, and the evolution of our understanding of planning for protected areas grows immensely. This book was well received by my upper division undergraduate students and graduate students alike.”


Wayne Freimund Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Clemson University


“I highly recommend all students and professional involved in public land management planning and management read The Future has other Plans. I was very excited to see this book in publication, mostly because to write and publish a book on this topic that steers away from the dogmatic past is a major and welcome undertaking. This is part of a great positive change that we desperately need in our times.” See full  review.


Francisco Valenzuela

Director of Recreation, Tourism, and Wilderness Resources

US Forest Service


Readers who turn these pages will discover a new and compelling real-world view of planning.

— Sam H. Ham, Editor, Applied Communication Series, Fulcrum Publishing

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