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Land for Nature Preservation

Introduction

All living beings should have unimpeded access to well-preserved, unspoiled nature. Nature preservation is a vital resource.

As technology rapidly advances and transforms urban environments, access to public outdoor spaces and parks can be vital to people's mental and physical health. Protecting natural lands from threats of oil drilling and other development can create abundance in the forms of freedom, sustainability, and equity. Freedom from an overdeveloping world can be achieved within the boundaries of a protected natural space. Equity may be achievable by respecting local populations and working with these groups in order to keep what is left of their homelands from becoming a tool to be used solely for economic gain. Sustainability is promoted when natural lands are unaltered by destructive external forces.

 

Context within NORA

Relationships to other resources

Air quality near the Earth's surface – Designating and protecting natural lands from the threats of oil drilling and other developments can ensure the continued existence of large areas of land where air pollution is avoided, as well as land where air quality is improved (i.e., through trees and other plants filtering impurities out of the air).

Fresh water (surface, groundwater – Sources of fresh water are closely intertwined with the preservation of natural lands. Water plays a vital role in the maintenance of natural ecosystems. Keeping water fresh and free of pollution is vital for the health of both land and sea-dwelling wildlife.

Ice (glaciers, ice caps, permafrost) – A number of nature reserves worldwide are dedicated to preserving glaciers and tundra – however, with climate change in recent years, many of the glaciers have started to recede at a quickened pace. Many preserved lands at high elevations depend upon regular melting and re-freezing of snowpack and ice caps.

Minerals – Mining in natural lands has many effects on the local ecoystems and can be detrimental to not only the scenery, but to the living beings of the area as well.

Living things – The status of wilderness – unspoiled, in the process of being developed, or destroyed – has a direct relationship to the status of many plant and animal species – thriving, endangered, or extinct. The idea of land for nature preservation goes hand in hand with a continuation of natural, unimpeded life cycles of animals and plants.

Habitats and ecosystems – Encompassing plant and animal species, ice, water, and air, habitats and ecosystems are naturally connected to, and contained within, all land. Humans have altered or destroyed innumerable habitats and ecosystems for hundreds of years; by preserving land we maintain the relatively few natural ecosystems that remain intact.

Knowledge – Scientists, biologists, and all human beings can acquire useful information within naturally preserved land. Biologists have played a major role in maintaining ecosystems and wildlife. The reintroduction of wolves into lands where they were hunted to near extinction and keeping inventory of sea turtle migration habits on protected seashores are a few examples of biologists protecting endangered species and reintegrating them into their natural habitats.

Spirituality – Human beings belong in nature, and entering a natural space free of anything artificial can be beneficial to the mind and spirit. Roaming in a forest, viewing a mountain or sandstone arch, gazing up at stars and the arc of the Milky Way in the night sky untouched by light pollution, and contemplating the wonders of nature can be important spiritual experiences.

Relationships to other needs

Setting aside lands for nature preservation can satisfy, yet also come into conflict with, human needs.

Opportunities to learn – See knowledge resource above.

Shelter/Housing – The use of natural resources in the building of homes and other buildings can do serious damage to the environment. On the other hand, another negative implication of setting aside lands for preservation has been the practice of forcing out the people who had previously inhabited that land, thus compromising their need for shelter/housing on the land they had known as 'home'.

Meaningful livelihoods – Employment is often considered to be part of a meaningful livelihood. In the name of environmental protection, however, jobs can be eliminated. There are many sides to the debate of "jobs versus the environment" (for now, this page will be focusing on other issues).

 

Relevant organizational forms

Natural Resource Management Cluster – Natural resource management pertains directly to all natural resources, many of which are in need of protection.

 

Understanding current patterns of abundance and scarcity

History

‘Natural lands’ include, but are not limited to: rivers, lakes, oceans, and coasts; forests; grasslands and prairies; deserts and other arid lands. A single nature preserve can encompass a number of these habitats.

Natural lands and resources have faced threats for centuries. These threats became much more serious and larger in scale with the dawn of the industrial revolution in many nations. To understand the reasons for preserving natural lands, one must consider some of the reasons why natural habitats are threatened in the first place:

  • Large-scale farming and agriculture
  • Forestry and deforestation
  • Overhunting and overfishing
  • Mining of natural resources
  • Urban sprawl and industrialization
  • Expansion of transportation networks
  • Pollution of air, land, and water
  • Invasive species of plants and animals
  • Disappearance of wildlife
  • Poisonous chemicals

Until the early 1900s, the conservation movement was geared towards protecting natural resources from immediate industrial exploitation. Conservation historian Samuel P. Hays argued against this being the motivating factor behind the conservation mindset. Rather, Hays saw ‘a commitment to scientific management of resources by experts’ to be the driving force of conservationism. A love and longing for a return to the wilderness amongst early environmental scholars also helped the idea of the preservation of natural lands become more widespread. Setting aside a few beautiful sites of unspoiled nature where exploitation can be restricted to the minimum is key to the conservation movement.

Some of the most easily recognizable ways that areas of unspoiled nature have been preserved worldwide come in the form of local, state, and national parks. There are 3,881 national parks worldwide, as well as tens of thousands of state and local parks. These areas are oftentimes set aside, untouched, and protected by the government. Visitors are permitted to stay for education and recreation. 

Issues of scarcity

Millions of acres of natural lands face a continued threat of being opened for development, oil and natural gas drilling, tar sands exploration, mining, road paving, loss of protected status, and other external impositions.

For human beings, the dichotomy between creating and maintaining jobs versus protecting the environment is perhaps the most controversial and difficult to reconcile of the issues of scarcity. (As stated above, this issue has many sides and will not be discussed on this page at the current time.)

The expansion of urban and agricultural land uses is one of the most easily recognizable reasons as to why habitats are becoming increasingly endangered. Anything that can slow this expansion process, while also making the expansion process more sustainable, is essential to the protection of natural spaces and reducing habitat loss.

 

Approaches to creating greater abundance

There are various possible approaches to restoring, preserving, and assuring a sustainable future for natural lands, as well as the plants, animals, and resources within those lands.

  • Setting aside natural lands and legally protecting those lands from external forces is an invaluable action when promoting greater abundance.
  • Many countries worldwide now have National Parks and other preservation sites that are protected by law from various threats to the ecosystems within their boundaries.
  • US government-designated nature reserves
  • Conservation organizations and environmental activist groups are often leaders in the push for greater abundance. For example, the Nature Conservancy works in 35 countries around the world to protect natural habitats in an effort to “preserve the diversity of life on Earth.”
  • Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM), when it truly involves the participation of the community, can be an effective way to manage resources sustainably. The World Wildlife Foundation is involved with CBNRM in Southern Africa.
  • Transboundary parks and protected areas – Parks that straddle the border of two or more countries are managed cooperatively under this model. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa is a well-known transboundary protected area. Transboundary parks also include Peace Parks, which protect biological diversity and cultural resources while also promoting peace and cooperation between two countries. Examples include Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (in Montana, USA and Alberta, Canada) and Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which borders Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

 

References

National Park Service. Conservation, Preservation, and Environmental Activism: A Survey of the Historical Literature.

Community Rights, Conservation and Contested Land: The Politics of Natural Resource Governance in Africa. Edited by Fred Nelson. IUCN 2010. Print.

Curry-Lindahl, Kai, and Jean-Paul Harroy. National Parks of the World. New York: Golden Press. 1972. Print.

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