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Partnerships for Conservation: An Introduction
Jeffrey A. McNeely
These are trying times for our planet, as the combination of growing human populations and increasing consumption (especially in the wealthy countries) is overwhelming efforts to conserve the biological systems on which all life depends. Obvious manifestations of the problems—loss of forests, species extinctions, water pollution, oil and chemical spills, acid precipitation, ozone depletion, uncontrolled urbanization, and destructive civil strife—evoke greater public concern; in places, a greater political will to implement the action is required to enable people to live in balance with resources. Conservation action at the international level can be expected to grow following the IVth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas (held in Caracas, Venezuela, in February 1992), the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992), and numerous other consensus-building exercises in all parts of the world. The new Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Environment Facility, and greater investments in conservation on the part of multilateral and bilateral development agencies are all positive indicators of expanding support for conservation.
Yet all of this is still far short of what is required to bring about sustainable relationships between people and resources on a global level. A crucial foundation of future action is people and institutions working together. Drawing on papers presented at the Caracas congress, this book describes how new and stronger partnerships can be formed, particularly between protected area managers and other sectors of society. It does not pretend to be exhaustive; the potential for productive partnerships is virtually unlimited. It does, however, indicate the kinds of activities that currently are being undertaken in many parts of the world to build stronger partnerships to support conservation at international, national, and local levels.
Protected Areas: Contributions and Challenges
As development has accelerated in the past several decades, governments have come to recognize that legally protected areas can play an important role in the overall pattern of national land use and economic development. Their specific contributions to the well-being of societies include:
Maintaining those essential ecological processes that depend on natural ecosystems
Preserving the diversity of species and the genetic variation within them
Maintaining the productive capacities of ecosystems
Preserving historic and cultural features of importance to the traditional lifestyles and well-being of local peoples
Safeguarding habitats critical for the sustainable use of species
Securing landscapes and wildlife that enrich human experience through their beauty
Providing opportunities for community development, scientific research, education, training, recreation, tourism, and mitigation of the forces of natural hazards
Serving as sources of national pride and human inspiration
The value of protected areas may be even greater in the future. Preserving genetic raw materials will sustain future biotechnological advances in the fields of medicine, agriculture, and forestry. Protecting extensive naturally functioning ecosystems will be vital for monitoring global change and guiding human adaptation to a changing world. Protected areas are a major means of implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity; they will contribute to the sustainable forms of forestry envisaged in discussions about a possible new forest convention. Protected areas will also help maintain options for unforeseen future uses, thereby providing an "insurance function."
Despite the many important contributions protected areas make to modern societies, they suffer from a number of problems. While these vary from country to country, the most important general problems include:
Weak national constituency. The numerous benefits of protected areas are seldom fully appreciated by the general public, because such areas are seen as exotic vacation spots or remote wildernesses rather than as essential contributors to national welfare. The lack of a strong national and local constituency translates into insufficient human and financial resources being devoted to protected area management. The other major problems faced by protected areas, described below, can be traced back to this fundamental issue of inadequate national and local support.
Conflicts with local people. Establishing a protected area often requires explicit restrictions in the use of the area's resources by local people in the interests of the nation and future generations (hence the use of terms such as "national park" and "world heritage"). Insufficient attention has been given to enabling the local people to earn appropriate benefits from conservation programs, a problem made worse by the growing human populations in many rural areas. The balance between conservation for long-term national public benefit and exploitation for immediate local or private gain is elusive and constantly shifting. Conflicts often result if the local people lose personal opportunities when new conservation regulations are imposed on them without alternatives being provided to meet their basic needs. In the most extreme cases, local people can be actively hostile to the protected area, leading to vandalism and loss of life in pitched battles between "encroachers" and protected area staff. On the other hand, productive partnerships can be formed with local landowners and communities as they become more aware of the contribution their area makes to the national heritage, and as governments support forms of management that can provide benefits to both the people living in the area (including landowners) and the nation at large.
Conflicts with other government agencies. The agencies responsible for protected areas tend to be relatively weak in the government structure, leaving them vulnerable to policy conflicts and budget cuts. Adequate legislative support is often lacking. Agricultural, forestry, and fisheries incentives may promote encroachment on protected areas (though they can also be used to help protect them); highway departments may find the "free" lands contained in protected areas attractive for new roads; tourism departments may try to attract more tourists than a protected area can support without damage to the resource; irrigation and energy departments may wish to build dams or drill for petroleum in protected areas, which often are "unoccupied" public lands and hence easy to use for these purposes; mining interests may wish to exploit mineral resources found in protected areas, for the same reason; and industrial development policies may stimulate pollution and associated climate change that adversely affect protected areas. Such policies as frontier settlement programs, planned colonization of protected areas for national security reasons, and commercial exploitation of natural resources to service national debts result from government decisions that seem to be oblivious of protected area objectives. But conflicts within government are not necessarily inevitable. Dialogue between the concerned sectors can often turn conflict into cooperation.
Insufficient management. Protected areas are sometimes surrounded by agricultural lands or heavily fished areas and reduced to fragments of formerly extensive areas of habitat. In such cases the protected area manager must take an active role in managing the remaining habitats, the species they support, and the way people use species and habitats. Small populations of wildlife may not be viable in the long term without such management. Possible changes in climate and resource use in surrounding areas add to the management challenge. The scientific basis for effective management is often lacking, and the required trained manpower is not always available to implement even simple management measures, let alone the sophisticated interventions called for by modern pressures on species and habitats. In the past, many managers have also considered their challenges to be primarily ecological rather than social, economic, and political; they have thus considered their management problems in a narrow ecological sense rather than in terms involving adjacent areas, local people, and other sectors. This problem, too, calls for forming partnerships with the broader community and the specific sectors most closely affected by protected area management.
Insecure and insufficient funding. Most protected areas are funded from the national budget. Many demands are made on national funds, and protected areas are often a poor relation receiving declining shares of the budget. Most countries find it difficult to justify increased expenditures on protected area management, which may be accompanied by higher indirect costs at a local level, and by still higher local and regional opportunity costs. The link with economic development is seen as too remote, the diversion of other program funds is seen as too expensive in the short term, and the potential land use conflicts with local government and local populations are seen as too troublesome. Perhaps worse, even where protected areas are highly profitable (tourism to Kenya's national parks, for example, is that nation's second leading foreign exchange earner), only a small portion of the economic benefit they earn is reinvested in the management of the protected areas or in the welfare of communities in the surrounding lands. But if, as this book argues, many other sectors are earning benefits from protected areas, it would seem that considerable scope exists for broadening the base of financial support for these areas. This is especially likely to be the case when a closer link can be formed with development objectives, and where local people support the protected area.
Meeting the Challenges: Ten Principles for Successful Partnerships
In responding to these problems, many governments, nongovernmental organizations, and businesses are seeking innovative ways to add new protected areas, improve the management of the existing areas, and build more positive relationships with the people who live in and around the protected areas—all of this in a time when available budgets are shrinking and demands on resources are increasing. These new approaches to establishing partnerships for improving the management of protected areas build on the following 10 principles:
1. Provide benefits to local people. Popular and political support for a system of protected areas is strengthened when it generates a flow of public benefits to people. The more people benefit directly from the protected areas, the greater the incentive for them to protect the resource and the lower the cost to government of doing so. If a government decides to establish a site as a protected area and this would cost lost opportunities for local communities, then these local communities should be compensated for their losses. The benefit–cost ratio of conserving a protected area must ultimately be positive for the local people if the area is to prosper in the long term, and this will require that the local people be appropriately involved in the planning and management of the protected areas and that they share in the benefits. Precisely how this is to occur will vary considerably from place to place. Some approaches that have been effective are suggested in Chapters 10 (Akerele), 14 (Bender), 26 (Gurung), 27 (Seale), 30 (Anderson), and 32 (Snelson). Chapter 17 (El-Ashry) makes the point that development agencies should include the provision of benefits to local people as an essential element of their support to protected areas.
2. Meet local needs. Legislation, management policy, and operational practice for protected areas must facilitate both the satisfaction of local needs and the wider goal of conserving biodiversity, as described in Chapter 6 (Hassan). For example, the legislation prohibiting collection of material for study, which applies in some national parks, actually hampers the evaluation of their biological diversity; and some regulations forbid the interventions required to provide sustainable benefits to local people or to manage certain species. Such restrictions may need to be reviewed and revised. Measures to provide local benefits, and to enable translocation of animals and plants for protection and restoration of species and habitats, need to be provided in protected areas in forms that are appropriate to the objectives of each individual site.
3. Plan holistically. Management of a protected area and that of adjacent areas must be planned together. Few protected areas can be self-contained, isolated entities, and some are managed landscapes where people live and work. The integrity of a strictly protected core zone is often dependent on "transition zones" in which human uses of natural resources around protected areas are compatible with conservation objectives. Transition zones must be managed so as to harmonize social goals in the core of protected areas and in the surrounding lands, as described in Chapters 3 (Lusigi), 8 (von Droste), 20 (Zube), and 31 (Metcalfe). Such transition zones may be managed by forestry (Chapter 9, Freezailah), private landowners (Chapters 28, Cox; 29, Cohen; and 31, Metcalfe), water resources agencies (Chapter 13, Dugan and Maltby), or even the military (Chapter 19, D'Souza).
4. Plan protected areas as a system. Protected areas need to be conceived and managed as a system that addresses national and international objectives for meeting the needs of sustainable societies. Such a system needs to include appropriate management of privately owned lands that are important for conservation, through means such as those described in Chapters 22 (Lees), 23 (Murray), 24 (Schelhas and Shaw), 28 (Cox), and 29 (Cohen). As suggested above, all of a protected area's neighbors need to be considered in the system plan.
5. Define objectives for management. Many different administrative approaches can be taken to managing land and sea to conserve nature while contributing to sustainable development, depending on the desired management objectives. Under IUCN's system of protected area categories, Category II National Parks by definition need to be protected against extractive resource exploitation on a commercial scale, while Habitat/Species Management Areas (Category IV) and Protected Landscapes/Seascapes (Category V) can be used more flexibly to permit a range of human activities that are consistent with the conservation objectives of the area. Such areas can protect traditional forms of agriculture or fishing (which often contain high biodiversity), as an integral part of a nation's protected area system. The importance of this role is shown in Chapters 3 (Lusigi), 12 (Kapetsky and Bartley), 26 (Gurung), and 31 (Metcalfe).
6. Plan site management individually, with linkages to the system. Each protected area is different in terms of species and habitats, local human populations, history, climate, and a range of other factors. Therefore, its management needs to be site-specific and the local staff, communities, and interest groups should be involved in planning that management. Perhaps even more important, the knowledge that local people have about the area and its resources should be utilized in management programs to meet local, national, and international needs. Ways of building on local knowledge are described in Chapters 3 (Lusigi), 10 (Akerele), 18 (Astolfi), 22 (Lees), 25 (Dower), and 31 (Metcalfe).
Excerpted from Expanding Partnerships in Conservation by Jeffrey A. McNeely. Copyright © 1995 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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