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........ published in NEWSLETTER # 65

by Dr. G. Nelson, Heritage Resources Centre, University of Waterloo/Ontario (Canada) and Dr. R. Serafin, Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation (Poland)

Heritage conservation, tourism, and sustainable development are the ideas or concepts which we initially chose to use in thinking about the wide-ranging and fundamental role of national parks and protected areas. These areas are actually best thought of as keys to the well-being of human and other life on earth. In saying this we are thinking not only of national parks, wildlife refuges, biosphere reserves and other protected areas which are largely of western origin and usually set up by governments. We are also thinking of protected areas set up by local people over the centuries for conservation of forests, pastures, hunting grounds or other purposes. New scientific, educational and planning approaches are needed to make it possible for national parks and protected areas to fulfill their vital role in maintaining and enhancing significant environments, resources and sustainable development options in the NATO countries, their neighbours and other parts of the world, especially in light of growing tourism pressures.

Many people view national parks and protected areas as having mainly been established to protect highly significant environments or ecosystems, landscapes, plants, animals, water, archeological, cultural and other resources for conservation, scientific, educational, aesthetic and recreational purposes. Since their inception in North America in the nineteenth century, national parks have been strongly associated with the development of tourism. Visits by rising numbers of local, national and international tourists have generated revenue for many interested parties, as well as having recreational, educational and other benefits to society. Visits by recreationists and tourists have made people more aware and supportive of the values, benefits and roles of national parks and other protected areas in economy and society.

As their fundamental importance has received greater recognition, increasing land use and resource development pressures have been placed upon national parks and protected areas by accelerating tourism, agricultural, forestry, fishing, industrial, urban and other development ensuing from economic and population growth. As a result the basic wildlife, soil, water and other ecosystem services offered by national parks and protected areas are threatened in many parts of the world, as are their related values for sustainable development.

New approaches are needed in many countries to deal with these challenges. Some promising approaches have been developed which could help in this regard in areas such as ecology, social science, education and planning. An example of an ecological advance is landscape ecology. An example of a social science advance is economic incentives or other aspects of ecological economics. An example of an educational approach is citizen monitoring and participatory and social learning. An example of a planning advance is transactive or interactive and adaptive planning. Also important is the increasing role of citizens in private stewardship and co-management arrangements. Such advances or approaches are better known in some areas than others and it is a major purpose of this workshop and the resulting volume (NATO ASI SERIES G40) to make them and other new approaches more widely understood as a basis for improving both theory and practice in the future.

The workshop reviewed scientific, educational and planning approaches used by national parks and protected areas to fulfill their vital role in maintaining and enhancing significant environments, resources and sustainable development options in the NATO and Cooperating Partner countries. The workshop presentations and discussions showed that current knowledge of and perspectives on the roles and contributions of national parks and protected areas in various countries is quite uneven. Differences include the U.S. and Canadian tendencies to place greater emphasis on: ecosystem approaches; comprehensive nature conservation; wildlife; social science; and public and private stewardship programs. The European countries tend to place greater emphasis on: landscape approaches, the natural sciences and environmental education. Environmental education programs seem to be especially well developed in the U.K. and Poland.

The theme and case study papers analyzed at the workshop show that many internal and external land use and socio-economic pressures are threatening the ecological character and the level of the services provided by national parks and protected areas. Conventional management and planning procedures that focus on action within protected area boundaries are insufficient to handle these development pressures; hence the degradation of resources. Successes have been achieved however, by emphasizing linkages among parks and protected areas and the surrounding lands and waters of greater park ecosystems of planning regions.
Reference books: G40

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