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National Parks and Environmental Justice: Comparing Access Rights and Ideological Legacies in Three Countries

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Dahlberg, Annika; Rohde, Rick; Sandell, Klas
Journal: Conservation Society
Volume: 8
Page(s): 209-224
Date: 2010
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8304
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Africa
Subject(s): protected areas
land tenure and use
indigenous institutions
landscape change
Abstract: "National parks are often places where people have previously lived and worked--they have been formed by a combination of natural and human processes that embody an identifiable history of cultural and political values. Conservation of protected areas is primarily about how we perceive such landscapes, how we place differential values on different landscape components, and who gets to decide on these values. Thus, conservation has been and still is very much about issues of power and environmental justice. This paper analyses the social, political and environmental histories of three national parks regimes (South Africa, Sweden and Scotland) through the lens of public access rights. We examine the evolving status of access rights--in a broad sense that includes access to land, resources and institutions of governance--as a critical indicator of the extent to which conservation policies and legislation realise the aims of environmental justice in practice. Our case studies illustrate how access rights are contingent on the historical settings and ideological contexts in which the institutions controlling national park management have evolved. Dominant cultural, political and scientific ideologies have given rise to historical precedents and institutional structures that affect the promotion of environmental justice in and around national parks today. In countries where national parks were initially created to preserve perceived 'wilderness', with decisions taken by powerful elites and central authorities, this historical legacy has prevented profound change in line with new policy directives. The comparative analysis of national park regimes, were historical trajectories both converge and diverge, was useful in improving our understanding of contemporary issues involving conservation, people and politics."

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