October 01, 2019 Feature

The Price of Global Conservation: Benefits and Burdens of Parks and Conservation Areas

Emily Bergeron

The world is connected by parks. Migratory species make their way across vast territories from North America and Europe to Central and South America, Africa, and Asia to habitats spared development to create refuges of biodiversity. Parks also serve as sites where cultural, archaeological, and paleontological resources are preserved and information disseminated. Parks are economic drivers, bringing in billions of dollars globally for heritage and ecotourism. Nearly 15 percent of the earth’s land and 10 percent of its territorial waters are covered by national parks and other protected areas. (Marine-protected areas increased by almost 300 percent in the last decade.) U.N. Env’t Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Ctr. and Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature, Protected Planet Report 2016, at 43 (2016). These benefits have unfortunately come at a significant cost. Parks, wilderness areas, natural monuments, and game management areas (regardless of titles), despite their conservation mandate, often mirror the issues of development. These places have been associated with encroaching into community or indigenous lands, displacing many tens of thousands of poor residents. They have restricted people’s ability to use and subsist on their traditional territory and denied the same individuals a role in the management and conservation of the land.

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