The Changing Role of Protected Areas in Planning and Development*


Joanne Michalovic


I. Why Conservation is Critical to Sustained Development


     f "development is a process by which man tries to improve his      material and social welfare," and if "the development emphasis is      purely economic, by increasing the amount of goods and increasing exploitation," then conservation must mean "arranging for the sustainable utilization of resources and minimizing environmental degradation so benefits of development can be enjoyed in the future" (Allen 1980). If we want to continue to improve our social and economic standards of living, then development will have to be in harmony with conservation principles. It is ironic that the areas of the world that contain some of the most productive ecosystems, have some of the most intense pressures exerted on them—in terms of population, relative poverty, and increasingly modernizing technologies. This may lead to destruction of a person's, a community's, or a nation's natural, cultural, and spiritual heritage. Development then destroys that which it has set out to build—hope for a better life. Only by integrating conservation principles into development planning, can adverse environmental consequences be avoided.

     In attempting to satisfy immediate needs for food, fuel, and shelter, projects often have short-term benefits and long-term consequences. We see evidence in the form of counterproductive results such as deforestation, death of a coral reef, silted-up reservoirs, saline soils and water, pesticide resistent insects, and loss of valuable species of flora and fauna. A vicious cycle is thus created. Aid is provided for a project to cope with the problem caused by the original development. Instead of managing the land—we wind up managing the problem—we become symptom oriented.

     The most effective way we can avoid such problems is to integrate conservation considerations into every step of project planning, design, and implementation. This has to be accomplished through cross-sectoral conservation efforts. Environment is not a sector unto itself; it crosses all sectoral lines. It is a part of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, population, livestock production, wildlife, and energy.



*All credit for the development of ideas generated in this article is given to Kenton Miller and Robert Prescott Allen (IUCN), and Graham Child and Russel Taylor (Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management).



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II.    Why Donor Organizations have not Contributed More     Towards Conservation Efforts (Dalfelt 1984)


     If the need for conservation to sustain development is so obvious, why haven't AID organizations contributed more towards this effort?


1.  The host country or receiver usually wants immediate, tangible results. It is difficult to think about long-term sustainable production when short-term profits are so alluring and tempting.


2.  The requirement of providing basic human needs to the poorest section of a population leads to opening up marginal lands for practices (e.g., agriculture), for which they may not be suited.


3.  The environmental impact analysis process is perceived as another bureaucratic layer, which at best delays projects, and at worst stops projects or loses obligated funds. The environmental assessment may then be used as a justification document for pre-determined projects, instead of being used to analyze honestly all viable alternatives for development and options for management. If the process is used from the inception of a project, the chosen course of action would be based on an equal consideration of all economic, social, legislative, insti- tutional, and natural resource constraints and advantages.


4.  There is a general lack of basic ecological information being gathered by AID agencies. There is also a paucity of ecologically or biologically oriented personnel. Expertise is usually very production oriented —engineers, agriculturalists, livestock managers. Frequently, respon- sibilities for "environment" are given to a person as a secondary role, competing with other full-time duties. Full attention needs to be devoted to coordination and integration of natural resources into all sectors of AID agencies.


5.  There is a need for more public awareness, support, and requests for these kinds of activities. There is little conservation support or education. Careful, thoughtful, and gentle pressure must be applied politically. Over enthusiasm and zealousness can easily cause negative perceptions and setbacks.


III.   The World Conservation Strategy


     In 1980, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), developed what they called "The World Conservation Strategy." It argues that conservation and development can be mutually  reinforcing.  It provides


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governments, conservation organizations and development agencies with a written tool necessary for the integration of conservation into development. It is a guide by which any country can prepare a national conservation strategy applicable to its own needs. It gives the definition of conservation as "the management of human use of the biosphere so that it yields the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations."

     Based on this definition, the three main objectives of conser- vation  are:


1.  Maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems. Some examples of ecological processes are soil regeneration by micro-organisms, pollination of flowering plants by insects, and biogeochemical cycles. Life support systems use the energy and matter made available by ecological processes. The conservation strategy identifies the life support systems—both natural and man made—that are most important and most threatened. They are agricultural systems, forest systems, coastal wetland systems, and fresh water systems. The strategy outlines management programs to stop destruction and describes what policies and legislation are needed to save such useful lands (Allen 1980).


2.  Preserve genetic diversity. The preservation of genetic diversity is both an insurance and investment and is necessary to:

     a.  both sustain and improve agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and             livestock production in terms of pest resistence, disease                          resistence, adaptations to different environments, and                             incorporation of economically valuable characteristics.

     b.  keep future options open.

     c.  act as a buffer against harmful environmental change.

     d.  function as raw material for scientific and industrial innovation.

     e.  demonstrate our moral principles and obligations, as in the case         of endangered species.


     Genetic resources are natural resources—they are economic raw materials. They also happen to be renewable, potentially inexhaustable natural resources. So long as we conserve or manage sufficient quantities of representative habitats and exploit them in a sustainable way, gene resources can continue to furnish us with products indefinitely. Again, the strategy describes methods for preservation of genetic diversity.


3.  Sustain the utilization of species and ecosystems. Overusing any resource, whether it be soils, forests, or fish, causes yields to drop and then requires utilizing increasingly  advanced techno-


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logical input to obtain the same output from a system. Sustainable utilization means keeping a base level of a particular resource as capital, necessary for the perpetuation of that resource or the integrity of the system, and exploiting the excess as interest (Allen 1980). This will insure that access to a resource does not exceed the resource's capacity to sustain the level of desired exploitation.


     The World Conservation Strategy emphasizes that in order to be effective, each nation should prepare and implement its own national conservation strategy to speed the integration of conservation and development. Based on the objectives and management requirements outlined in the World Conservation Strategy, a country should review the extent to which it is achieving conservation. The review would then form the basis of a strategy to overcome obstacles and meet determined requirements and objectives. It would focus on stimulating appropriate action, raising public consciousness, and overcoming various forms of apathy and/or resistance. Four main principles apply to the national conservation strategies (Allen 1980):


1.  First, and foremost is integration. The means by which a cross-sectoral approach to conservation can be accomplished need to be identified. National accounting systems must be modified to include measures of the extent to which conservation objectives are being met.


2.  Land and water use and allocation should be planned so that as many options as possible are kept open for future use. Foreclosing options does not anticipate possible future needs, trends, and changing economic and social conditions.


3.  Strategies for action should not only concentrate on fixing what's wrong, they should also focus on how to prevent things from going wrong in the first place. In other words, prevention as well as cure. This means thinking along the lines of "what if," rather than being purely reactionary.


4.  Instead of dealing only with the symptoms, strategies must deal also with causes. This may be complex and difficult to pinpoint, but a late attempt to modify development instead of incorporating conservation at the outset, comes across as anti-development, whether it is or not.


     Other actions necessary for the speedy integration of conservation and development are improved ecological land use planning policies, improved legislation, organization, and coordination, training and research at all levels, and conservation based rural development.



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IV.   The Role of Protected Areas in Meeting the Objectives         of the World Conservation Strategy.


     Protected areas play a natural and vital role in meeting the objectives of conservation as put forth in the World Conservation Strategy. In order to maintain ecological processes, life support systems must be conserved. Conversely, in order to maintain life support systems, ecological processes need to be conserved. Since total abstinence from development is not feasible or desired, proper land use policy is necessary to insure appropriate allocation of resources. Setting aside protected areas helps to maintain those ecological processes and systems upon which development may be dependent (Allen 1980; Talbot 1984).

     The best protection and conservation of genetic diversity is by in-situ versus ex-situ methods. Although the advanced technolgical ex-situ methods of preservation are necessary and should not be ignored, in-situ preservation must be complementary. Even though it is a simple task to remove wild germ plasm from the environment and place it in an ex-situ situation, it may be impossible to preserve the entire gene pool of a population and habitat responding continually to external influences and environmental pressures. Ex-situ preservation also entails pre- serving and freezing evolutionary processes. Again, protected areas provide the best in-situ settings for preservation of species diversity and protection of the processes that exert adaptive pressures on individuals and populations.

     Sustainable utilization occurs when exploitation of the resource does not exceed its reproductive capacity. Regulation of activities such as timber allocation, grazing, and wildlife cropping through good management planning and mainenence of habitat adds a great deal to sustainable use (Allen 1980).

          Protected areas play several other important roles besides providing recreational benefits. They serve as baseline areas where monitoring activities should take place. Changes in productivity of areas or species being exploited can be measured against a stable baseline to detect upward or downward trends. They also keep options open and help to retain maximum choices of land uses for the future.


V. Changing Perceptions of Protected Areas and their     Compatability with a Country's Social, Economic, and     Development Needs.


    In the past, protected areas have primarily been identified as national parks—the concept of which originated in the U.S. and was subsequently borrowed and incorporated by most other countries. While there is a definite need for pure protection and preservation as is commonly found in  national  parks, this may not always be appropriate


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in developing nations. In the U.S., national parks comprise vast areas of land that are set aside for perpetuation of ecological processes and the public's enjoyment. This "Yellowstone" approach to protected area management, often used as a model, may sometimes be a luxury in the developing world. Its genesis was in the context of 19th century America, when land and the resources it supported were thought to be unbounded and limitless. Developing countries cannot always afford the "locking up" of land against immediate needs such as food, fuel, and shelter in the light of relative poverty and increasing population pressures. In order for these countries to maintain the development upon which the economic and social structure is dependent, a vital need exists to incorporate conservation measures through protected area planning and management into development design.

     Many developing countries define their protected areas as national parks or nature preserves, where use and access is restricted and limited. Local, indigenous people often are relocated when new parks are created or expanded, or have their traditional resource use revoked, often after compatably co-existing with and sustainably utilizing the resources intended for protection and preservation. Limited alternatives and compensation for subsistence use leads to competition for resources, illegal harvesting of timber and wildlife, trespass grazing, and subsequent management and enforcement problems. This inhibits public support, alienates large sections of the population, disrupts local and traditional socio-cultural patterns and lifestyles, and promotes the image of the conservationist as being a fanatic preservationist. Most importantly, it creates the misconception that conservation is directly opposed to use and development, when in fact it is necessary for and compatable with both the planning and development process.

     There is a critical need to change public perception about the role and compatability of protected areas with a country's development requirements. To be effective, a country cannot take an inherited approach of designation and management of parks and protected areas from the developed world; it must be set in the context of a country's particular needs. Protected areas need to be redefined to meet a set of management objectives that give maximum flexibility, and environmental, social, and economic benefits to local and regional communities.


VI.   IUCN Conservation Area Classification System


          Various levels, or degrees, of protected area management can be created based on a country's social, economic, cultural, and natural resource needs. This can assist a country in the protection of renewable and non-renewable resources while still providing room for development (IUCN 1984). Each of the following categories recommended  by  IUCN  has a set of management objectives and bene-


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fits related to environment, economics, and social aspects of development:

   1.    Scientific Reserve/Strict Nature Reserve

   2.    National Park

   3.    National Monument/Natural Landmark

   4.    Nature Conservation Reserve/Managed Natural Reserve/Wildlife Reserve

   5.    Protected Landscape or Seascape

   6.    Resource Reserve

   7.    Natural Biotic Area/Anthropological Area

   8.    Multiple Use Management Area

   9.    Biosphere Reserve

10.    World Heritage Site

     The above designations range from total preservation (Category 1), to a traditional national park management style (Category 2), to manipulation for production of a particular resource (Category 4), to sustained harvesting of many resources (Category 8). Biosphere Reserves (Category 9) provide a gradation of management strategies: it comprises a core area of total protection, through a buffer zone where some manipulation and active management occurs, to a development zone. This eliminates a "hard edge" effect where intensive development quite frequently occurs within meters of a national park or similar protected area.

     Areas with multiple use often, in reality, require cooperative administration among various agencies. What is important is that a single entity be made responsible for management, even if only providing a major coordinative role. Conflicting activities and interests can be accommodated within one area by zoning, or periodic restrictive activity.

     In any event, conservation must be linked to tangible benefits, i.e., water use, protein, ecosystem productivity and diversity, pharma- ceuticals, agriculture, wood products, watershed protection, and science/education. For example, a project intended to develop river resources should have some technical and financial support to protect the upstream watershed area (Allen 1980). A national park may not be needed for this—but one of the other IUCN categories offering a lesser degree of preservation may be appropriate.


VII.  Linking Protected Areas with Adjacent Lands through     Integrated Regional Planning


     Integrated Regional Planning provides the means by which a protected area can be linked to surrounding land uses. Protected areas must fit into the entire regional context of land needs and development schemes. They cannot operate as "islands," or fragments of ecological systems. When this occurs, areas  may  "lose"  species,  either  because


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they migrate out or become nonexistent in the area, due to the disruption of the totality of the system and its subsequent inability to provide a complete habitat.

     Ideally, planning should take place on a regional level. Many methodologies for planning have been described. They all have the following basic elements in common (Garrett 1984):

   1.    Problem definition

   2.    Boundary definition

   3.    Information gathering, storage, analysis, interpretation, and         retrieval

   4.    Definition of alternatives for management/land use

   5.    Identification of opportunities for cooperation with agencies and   with the public

   6.    Definition of realistic and acceptable regional planning objectives

   7.    Plan of implementation

     A sieve analysis or overlay process (McHarg 1969) involves identifying parcels of land that are either suitable, suitable with some constraints, or unsuitable for various types of land uses, i.e., agriculture, residential development, commercial development, industrial development, recreation. It is a three phase process which involves an inventory of the biophysical and sociocultural systems in an area, a synthesis of systems showing relationships, and a suitability analysis. This is based on the principle that land is intrinsically suitable for some uses and unsuitable for others. It can provide and illustrate appropriate alternatives for development based on the capability of the land to support that development. The output of a suitability analysis is a set of maps, one for each land use, showing which level of suitability characterizes each parcel of land.

     Protected areas can be incorporated as a viable land use along with other types of development. Maps that illustrate areas with physical, biological, or social constraints to development, can be overlain on top of land use maps, to show exactly what pieces of land require protection, conservation, or management and mitigation. Reasons for constraints and the need for additional protection may include habitats of rare or endangered flora or fauna, unique geological features, high erodability areas, vital groundwater recharge areas, wetlands, historical or cultural landmarks, existing recreation areas, and watershed protection areas. These protected areas—not necessarily national parks—can then be incorporated and integrated into a regional development scheme. Conservation of systems, which are necessary for the sustained use of resources upon which development is dependent, can be identified. Utilizing an overlay method does not necessarily resolve conflicts, but clearly illustrates where conflicts are. It provides a framework or structure by which the role of protected areas can be defined, thereby enabling more effective integration of management of different lands in the region.


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VIII. Setting Goals for Protected Areas (Miller and Child, unk.           date)


     Once the need for and location of a protected area has been determined, it is only the beginning. Setting goals and objectives for protected areas is the means by which protected area management is accomplished. There is a term used in the business world—"manage- ment by objectives." This is even more important as it relates to conservation, where goals are often complex and conflicting. An example of management by objectives may be when the goal for a particular area is the preservation of a plant community subject to damage by wildlife. The management strategy employed to accomplish that goal may be either fencing the area or harvesting the animal doing the damage. The selection of goals is by choice, but once chosen, the goal achievement should be guided by science. The measure of progress toward the goal lies in monitoring.

     Goals must be compatable at various levels. Global goals for conservation can be illustrated by the three objectives of the world conservation strategy. National goals may be guided by treaties, conventions, and a national conservation strategy. Departmental goals usually are backed by policy; park or area goals are expressed in master plans and can be determined by regional land use planning needs, visitor use, and research. The various hierarchy of goals from the national to the local level must have internal consistency and compatability.

     There can be many goals for protected area management besides the more commonly accepted ones of visitor use, recreation, and protection of the resource:

   1.    They can achieve on-site conservation of renewable resources.

   2.    They can protect plants and animals for future crop and livestock improvement.   3.    They can serve for potential development of pharmaceutical          products.

   4.    They can contribute to development by protecting streamflow and           the watershed. This is especially important for irrigation,              fisheries, transportation, and energy uses.

   5.    They can provide local employment.

     Several questions can be asked in the course of selecting goals for management and setting priorities. Does the area have any landscapes, ecosystems, processes, communities, or populations that are important at either the global, regional, national, or local level? If the area has a feature of global, regional, or national significance, this feature must be the priority goal. If an area has a feature of local importance, this feature must be a primary goal, but secondary objectives, including those for resource utilization and human use options may be considered. If the area  has  no  particularly  important  characteristics  at any of the levels,


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multiple use options for the protected area and alternative forms of land use may be considered.

     Once objectives are set, they need to be ranked. It must be determined if the goal dominates the entire area, or only part of the area. In this case, zoning may help to include other goals either through physical or seasonal zoning, for example. Other important questions to consider are how can the objectives contribute to community welfare? To what extent do goals contribute—either positively or negatively—to surrounding local communities? How can contributions be more positive? Successful involvement of local communities in the management of protected areas can create many benefits. If local people are directly involved, unnecessary restrictions on their way of life are avoided and their personal support of programs is maximized. Public participation may take many forms—informal consultation, advisory committees, management committees, education and outreach, and employment.


IX.   Summary


     Immediate priority must be given to providing public education aimed at all levels of society to help change perceptions of, redefine roles of, and gain support for protected areas. This includes high-level and mid-level government decision-makers, provincial and country planners, project design personnel, program managers, aid donors, local village residents, school children, and university students. Also important is that section of the population residing in urban areas who may potentially form a major constituency or advocacy group.

     Education, and the eventual realization of integrating conservation and protected areas into the planning and development process, will bring about long-term social and economic benefits derived from a policy of sustained utilization of resources, and the protection of the processes supporting development. This will allow diverse allocation of land uses, will help insure ecological stability, will ultimately help to increase the quality of life for a nation as a whole, and will increase awareness of responsibility towards other living resources comprising the global ecosystem.




Allen, Robert. 1980. How to save the world. Kogan Page Limited, London.

Darfelt, Arne. 1984. The role and constraints of international development agencies in promoting effective management of protected areas, pp. 692-697 IN: National Parks, Conservation, and Development. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Garrett, Keith. 1984. The relationship between adjacent lands and protected areas: issues of concern for the protected area manager, pp. 65-71 IN: National Parks, Conservation, and Development. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

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IUCN—Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas. 1984. Categories, objectives, and criteria for protected areas, pp. 47-55 IN: National Parks, Conservation, and Development. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

McHarg, Ian. 1969. Design with nature. Natural History Press, New York.

Miller, Kenton and Graham Child. (date unknown.) Goals for protected areas, IN: (source unknown).

Talbot, Lee M. 1984. The role of protected areas in the implementation of the world conservation strategy, pp. 15-17 IN: National Parks, Conservation, and Development. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.


Joanne Michalovic is an international cooperation specialist with the      Office of International Park Affairs, US National Park Service,      Washington, DC. The paper above was developed from a lecture      given in June 1985 at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare as part      of the NPS/AID Arid/Semi-Arid Lands Workshop there, and later at      the Mahidol University in Bangkok, where she spoke as an invited      lecturer.