since the United States created the first national park in the world -
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in 1872 - national parks have been
created for the education and enjoyment of people.
Fundy National Park
Until the 1970s, most
conservation efforts focused on rare, endangered and threatened species
and, for the most part, paid little attention to habitat. Funding
campaigns under the umbrella of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) targeted
species such as elephants, rhinos, gorillas, orangutans, and koalas.
Only in recent years has the focus shifted to saving habitat or
ecosystem, which suggests the tide is turning toward a broader concept
of conservation. Dan Janzen, in Guanacaseo, Costa Rica, was among the
first to integrate rural conservation and ecosystem protection in the
"Use without impairment," has been the underlying theme of
most national parks in the world for the past 130 years. But use without
impairment is an oxymoron – an unattainable goal. Although the use
without impairment theme still exists in Canadian legislation, things
Canada is the only country in the world to officially acknowledge
that "management to retain ecological integrity" is key to
ensuring the future of our parks, future of our natural landscape. This
new direction represents a challenging shift in park policy, a shift
that incorporates solid scientific research into parks planning.
Fundy National Park
The establishment of a balance, however, is difficult and while at
the world-wide level the International Biological Program of 1968 raised
the profile of science, it somehow neglected people. Its rebirth in
UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program is still struggling to find the
right mix of science, people, and socio-economic considerations to
become stable at the local level.
UNESCO'S Biosphere Reserve program is also used around the world to
expand conservation objectives to lands adjacent to protected areas –
thus moving parks from "islands to networks". These networks
integrate management objectives of protected areas with those of
adjacent lands. Common interests are identified and community
involvement is enhanced. Thus, the "protected island" becomes
a part of a greater ecosystem.
I was asked recently how Germany conserves its natural areas in the
face of so much population pressure. The simple answer is that they
don't. One possible exception being the Bayerischerwald National Park,
the only area where the German foresters leave the forests ungroomed and
Who exports the most nature-orientated tourists in the world?
Germany. Northern Canada, Alaska and British Columbia are continuing to
provide a wilderness experience for thousands of Germans who can't find
it at home. At a 1990 conference in Perth, Australia, much to the
chagrin of my wildlife colleagues, I said, "save the habitat and
the species will look after themselves." National parks do this. We
have come a long way, yet the road ahead is long with many threats
which, unless controlled, could lead to the destabilization of one of
the world's great conservation tools and mechanisms for socio-economic
development and ecotourism our national parks.
We have a long way to go in Canada to ensure that we retain
representative and unique protected areas. But things are changing.
tide is turning.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Harold
Eidsvik, is the former director of policy for Parks Canada.
He served as the chair of the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) World
Commission on Protected Areas from 1983-1990. He currently heads Protected
Areas Consulting Services International and is living in Sidney, British
Columbia. He serves as an international advisor to the panel.