National Parks: From Public Playgrounds to Regional Commons

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Date

2009

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Abstract

"National parks and protected areas in the northern areas of the planet have for a long period been the prerogative of central governments. With the devolution of responsibilities, powers and property rights to regional authorities and indigenous peoples of the North, the quest for local participation in the governing of protected areas have mounted. At the same time the methods for adaptive ecosystem management have improved considerably and frameworks for analysis of complex Socio-Ecological systems are actively being developed. The paper thus have a diagnostic approach of analysing the evolution of new forms of governing protected areas in Northern Europe at these crossroads of institutional and scientific developments. Of particular interest is a 'commons-formation' process on public and protected land and water areas that moves quite slowly in these northern regions. This paper will focus on the changes in the governance of national parks in the Norwegian and Russian parts of the 'Barents region'. The region consists of many large, untouched areas with intact original ecosystems. Many of these are transboundary ecosystems, but until recently little efforts have been taken to investigate implications of lack of transboundary governance of larger Socio-ecological systems in these areas. Russian national parks ('Zapovedniks') have stricter conservation measures than Norwegian national parks. Here no human activity is allowed, except for scientific studies and border protection. In Norway a national strategy has recently opened up for more nature based tourism (ecotourism) in National Parks, also in a 'joint' park with Russia and Finland. The slow, but gradual changes in property rights are also an important element in the analysis; in Norway ownership of land is gradually moving from the state to regional land holding authorities. In Russia there are also movements between 'federal' and provincial (oblast) ownership and management authority. The type of goods that these national parks provide is used as examples of how this evolution takes place in practice, i.e. how the details in regulations and use practices influence the character of the protected areas as common-pool resources. In a comparative perspective, it is also interesting to see what role these protected areas play in their adjacent rural areas: To what extent are these areas reckoned as crucial in securing rural livelihoods and ecosystem services and to what extent are they perceived as serious obstacles to modernisation, and how are these conflicting views reflected in current legislation and operative rules on the ground?"

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parks, rural affairs, conservation, protected areas, tourism

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