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THE LEGACY OF YELLOWSTONE
Indigenous peoples have a large, perhaps pivotal, role to play in sustaining the earth as guardians of critical habitats and biological riches. (Durning 1992:7)
This is our community forest that was just put inside the new national park. No one consulted us! We protected this forest before the roads were put in. We set up a roadblock on the new road to stop the illegal logging. We caught the district police chief and arrested him for logging. We warned him not to come again. (Tambon leader, Thailand, 1990, quoted in Alcorn 1991:317)
In little more than a century, national parks and protected areas have become a major global phenomenon. The establishment of parks to preserve natural wonders at Yosemite in 1864 and Yellowstone in 1872 inspired what ultimately has become a truly international effort to protect some small remnant of the planet's natural heritage not only for the enjoyment of future generations of humanity but also for the sake of the diversity of life on earth. National parks and protected areas have become more than a means to preserve scenery, places of spiritual renewal, venues for outdoor recreation and tourism development, or scientific research sites. They have become a major tool in global efforts on behalf of preserving endangered species, habitats, and ecosystems, and valued natural and cultural landscapes. Today, there are nearly 10,000 protected areas in more than 160 countries, administering more than 5 percent of the earth's land surface, an area nearly the size of the United States (IUCN 1994). International conservationists hope to double this area by the year 2000 (Thorsell 1992:144; Miller 1992:56) and protect a full 10 percent of each of the planet's biomes (McNeely 1993a:48).
Many of the areas that have been established as protected areas and many of those that are suitable for future addition to the protected area network are the homelands of indigenous peoples. This has been a matter of great concern to many of these peoples, who fear that insensitive conservation planning will cost them their lands, their ways of life, and their existence as peoples. These are very valid concerns. In the past, the establishment of national parks and other protected areas has indeed often threatened the survival of indigenous peoples. Most such parks have been based on premises of strict nature protection, and the result, from the Americas to Australia and from Asia to Africa, has been the eviction of indigenous peoples from their homelands (Dasmann 1976a, 1976b; Clay 1985; West and Brechin 1991a; Kemf 1993).
Yet there have also been new alliances between environmentalists and indigenous peoples in recent years. New kinds of protected areas based on indigenous management or co-management have been established, parks that support indigenous peoples in their endeavor to maintain their rights to land, subsistence, and self-determination. In some parts of the world, indigenous peoples are themselves proposing the establishment of such protected areas. If these new approaches to grass-roots conservation become widely accepted, they will change the nature of global efforts to support environmental protection and cultural survival.
A protected area is "an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means" (IUCN Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas 1994:3). The term gained popularity in the 1980s, supplanting the earlier terminology of "national parks and equivalent reserves." Protected areas include national parks—the most internationally famous and prestigious of all—but they also encompass a much broader spectrum of different types of nature parks with a wide range of goals and different types of management regimes.
The diversity of types of protected areas is evident in the breadth of the classification schemes that have been developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN, also now known as the World Conservation Union), the leading international environmental umbrella organization, to categorize global protected areas for the United Nations. The first IUCN classification scheme, ratified in 1978 by the IUCN General Assembly, included ten different categories of protected areas, ranging from strict nature reserves and national parks to multiple-use management areas, biosphere reserves, and World Heritage sites (table 1.1). An amended classification approved by the 1994 IUCN General Assembly in Buenos Aires streamlined this system to six categories, but as table 1.2 indicates, these continue to encompass a broad range of different types of protected areas. Differences between the 1978 and the 1994 classifications in nomenclature and protected area definitions are significant, and reflect not only new thinking about the purposes and management goals of protected areas but also new insights into ecology and environmental history that have led to rethinking of concepts of nature and wilderness. These important topics are taken up later in this chapter.
The varied categories of the IUCN classification systems are intended to represent a "gradation of human intervention" (IUCN Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas 1994:6). At one end of the spectrum (especially Categories I–III) are the types of protected areas that have often been referred to as "national parks and equivalent reserves," the strict nature protection-based protected areas that have been the focus of most national and international protected area efforts since the nineteenth century. These were mainly concerned with the preservation of wilderness. National parks, for example, were long defined by the IUCN as areas "where one or several ecosystems are not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation" (IUCN 1971:13). At the other end of the spectrum, in Categories V through X in the 1978 classification and Categories V and VI in the 1994 one, are several types of protected areas where people continue to live and use natural resources. In these protected areas, goals vary from the preservation of culturally created landscapes (Category V protected landscapes) to areas in which subsistence or commercial resource use is carried out in a sustainable fashion (Category VIII multiple-use management areas in the 1978 scheme and Category VI managed resource protected area in the 1994 one). Some of these types of protected areas, such as protected landscapes and seascapes, managed resource protected areas, and biosphere reserves, provide especially suitable frameworks for the establishment of protected areas that recognize indigenous peoples' settlement and land use rights. Under the recently developed Guidelines for Protected Areas Management Categories (1994), however, IUCN's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas now recommends recognition of indigenous peoples within all six categories of protected areas, including national parks and wilderness areas, as long as this does not undermine the basic goals of protected area management.
Protected landscapes, biosphere reserves, and extractive reserves are three types of protected areas that are less well known in many circles than national parks but which have recently been gaining considerable attention. Protected landscapes are parks that recognize the distinctive natural and cultural qualities of landscapes that have been shaped by patterns of settlement and rural land use. Besides their cultural and historical significance, these inhabited places often also are places of rich biological diversity. Some of the most well-known today are the national parks of England and the regional parks of France. In the less-developed world, such renowned protected areas as Nepal's Annapurna Conservation Area and Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area are often considered to be protected landscapes (Lucas 1992), although the preservation of cultural landscapes per se is not necessarily a management priority. Designation as protected areas is intended to protect these landscapes from destructive development and to assist local efforts to maintain cultural continuity and valued interactions between people and nature. Local settlement, land ownership and use, and participation in decision making are generally recognized as vital to these goals—although the goal of preservation of particular landscapes and the patterns of land use that have created and maintained them may very well narrow the range of possible local development decisions. In recent years, the concept has been championed by PH.C. Lucas, chair of IUCN's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas from 1991 to 1993 and a former director-general of New Zealand's Department of Lands and Survey, and Adrian Phillips, former director of the Countryside Commission for England and Wales and as of 1994 the current chair of IUCN's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas.
Biosphere reserves are zone-based protected areas that are recognized by UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme as places of international scientific interest. They bridge Category I and II protected areas and Category V and VI areas by having a strict nature protection core area and surrounding buffer and settlement areas. Biosphere reserves often have a national park or strict nature reserve as their core area and other types of management, such as national forest or conservation areas, as outlying, less strictly protected areas. Some land use activities are allowed in the buffer zone, and in the outer "transition" zones a wider range of sustainable land use activities are considered appropriate. Biosphere reserves in the Americas include the Yellowstone National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park areas, as well as several that are inhabited by indigenous peoples, such as Rio Plátano (Honduras), La Amistad (Costa Rica and Panama), and Darién National Park and Biosphere Reserve (Panama). The first international biosphere reserves were designated in 1976. Globally, there are now 300 international biosphere reserves in 76 countries (Droste, 1995:58). In many cases, however, biosphere status has simply been extended to already existing protected areas, and often is accompanied by little change in management approach. And while indigenous settlement and land use may be recognized in buffer and settlement zones, they are often banned in core areas. The propensity for expelling indigenous peoples from the core areas of biosphere reserves is a serious shortcoming in the biosphere reserve concept. Another is that thus far, indigenous peoples are seldom involved in management (Alcorn 1991:335) even though the 1984 Action Plan for Biosphere Reserves recommended not only that biosphere reserves include "examples of harmonious landscapes resulting from traditional patterns of land use" but also that local people "be considered as part of a biosphere reserve [and be] considered to participate in its management" (UNESCO 1984, quoted in Flores, Valentine, and Nabhan 1990:28). On the other hand, biosphere reserves can support indigenous peoples' land claims and land use across substantial territory and provide a status that may help enlist efforts to safeguard indigenous lands from invasion and draw conservation and development aid (Gregg 1991).
Extractive reserves are yet another new type of inhabited protected area recognized by IUCN under Category VI. Residents of extractive reserves have legally recognized subsistence rights and also are able to engage in sustainable commercial natural resource use. This approach was pioneered in the Brazilian Amazon, where it was first developed at a rubber tappers' meeting in 1985 and was championed by Chico Mendes (Gray 1991:30). Nine extractive reserves have been established on more than 22,000 km2 of Brazilian rain forest (Murrieta 1994). These extractive reserves are inhabited by 28,000 people, and commercial brazil nut harvesting, rubber tapping, medicinal plant collecting, and other nontimber resource use activities are carried out in them. Efforts are underway to establish 28 more extractive reserves in a 17,000 km2 area of Brazil's western Amazonian state of Rondonia.
The 5,000 to 8,000 (depending on what criteria are used to distinguish them) indigenous peoples in the world account for as much as 90 to 95 percent of the world's cultural diversity (Gray 1991:8). According to a recent report by the indigenous rights organization, Cultural Survival, there are more than 5,000 such peoples, with a total population of more than 600 million, 10 to 15 percent of the world's population (Clay 1993:65–68). They today inhabit, and claim as traditional homelands, at least 20 percent of the earth's surface and perhaps as much as 30 percent, four to six times more territory than is encompassed within the entire global protected area system (Martin 1993:xvi; Clay 1993:68). They have historical claim to a great deal more, and as recent judicial decisions in Canada, Australia, Colombia, Brazil, and New Zealand have illustrated, may one day reassert ownership of considerably more land than they control at present (Durning 1992; Miller et al. 1993).
Indigenous peoples are those who are the "original" or oldest surviving inhabitants of an area. They have, typically, lived in a traditional homeland for many generations—usually for many centuries. Their sense of themselves as peoples is based on that shared homeland, as well as on shared language, history, values, and customs. Through time, peoples can come to define themselves, in part, in terms of the territories that are so large a part of their cosmological, cultural, social, political, and economic universes. Homelands become imbued with increasing significance as the history of peoples becomes encoded in local geography—in the cultural meaning of places—as well as in myth, oral tradition, and oral history. Often, indigenous homelands are rich with sacred places—moun—tains, streams, lakes, deserts, trees, caves—which not only figure in life cycle rites and community rituals but which also embody the history, values, character, and identity of a people. Living in a landscape of meaning becomes itself cultural affirmation. This is part of why the idea of resettling indigenous peoples to new sites often has so little appeal to those who are being asked or ordered to leave their homeland.
Indigenous peoples' ways of life are also grounded in place. Their subsistence practices rely on the use of local resources and ecosystems to a great degree. Many indigenous peoples have economies based on subsistence use of natural resources, and live by agriculture, agropastoralism, or nomadic pastoralism, often supplementing these with hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plant resources. Many increasingly integrate limited commercial activities with their subsistence land use or practice some wage labor, and many have been involved in trade for centuries. The center of local economies, however, continues to revolve around the subsistence use of local natural resources. Land use practices are often carefully crafted to local environmental and ecological conditions, to climate, terrain, soil, water, and living communities. Such adaptive practices based on local knowledge enable indigenous peoples to live well and with confidence in diverse and sometimes difficult environments.
Many indigenous peoples, over time, have also developed ingenious social and cultural mechanisms that regulate land use to sustainable levels, or at least moderate its impact on the environment. Many have various types of local resource management systems that regulate the use of such common property resources as forests, pastures, irrigation water, and fishing grounds. These systems are based on considerable local knowledge and may include defined and demarcated use zones; the protection of sacred places; limitations on amounts, purposes, sites, and seasons of resource use; customs concerning gathering, hunting, swidden (shifting) cultivation, the use of fire for managing ecosystems, and other practices. Species-specific cultural regulations may involve taboos on hunting and gathering, protection of individuals of particular age or gender, and protection of breeding and nesting sites.
Indigenous peoples often also have conservation attitudes embedded in their spiritual beliefs and shared ethical assumptions. Stewardship is one of these, as in the Australian Aboriginal concern with "caring for country." Another is the concept of restraint that is found in many indigenous cultures, of taking only what one can use and using what one takes carefully and fully (K. Anderson 1993; E. N. Anderson 1996; Bierhorst 1994). Related to this is the practice of selectively gathering and hunting to ensure that one's impact does not extinguish all the individuals in an area or site, and in some cases taking steps to ensure the propagation of wild plants (K. Anderson 1993; E. N. Anderson 1996; Bierhorst 1994). Biocentric beliefs are also common in indigenous cultures (although far from universal) that value all life and extend the idea of consciousness and kinship to animals, birds, plants, rocks, and other phenomena (E. N. Anderson 1996; Bierhorst 1994).
Excerpted from Conservation Through Cultural Survival by Stan Stevens. Copyright © 1997 Stan Stevens. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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