Protected Areas and the Regional Planning Imperative in North America


429 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-084-X
DDC 333.78'16'097




Edited by J.G. Nelson et al
Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Dr. Patrick W. Colgan is the director of Research and Natural Lands at
the Royal Botanical Gardens.


The product of a 1999 workshop, this book examines the ecological,
sociological, and political dimensions of national parks and protected
areas. An opening overview urges collaboration on environmental health
and presents protected areas within the categories of the World
Conservation Union. The various roles and background values of national
parks for nature and humans are detailed, and hence emerges the regional
planning imperative.

The next three chapters give national overviews. For Canada, the
development of a system of parks, beginning with Banff, has involved
many achievements despite gaps in the chain and political and social
challenges. For the United States, George Catlin’s vision of a
“nation’s park” eventually involved several federal agencies, most
particularly the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau
of Land Management, and the National Wilderness Preservation System,
each of which is facing contemporary challenges. For Mexico, park growth
is highly dependent on land ownership, the National Institute of
Ecology, and the National Development Plan.

The central 20 chapters of the book are dedicated to case studies from
each nation. Some are methodological (exhorting regional and ecosystem
approaches), economic (the case for sustainable investment in Baja), or
legal (linking public and private lands) while others describe instances
such as Canada’s first Ecological and Environmental Advisory Committee
in the Region of Waterloo in 1973. Creditably, there is also discussion
of major efforts such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan
and visions of Yellowstone-to-Yukon and a marine protected area from
Baja-to-Bering. Particularly interesting is the need for environmental
education for parks and protected areas, and two case studies (the
Cascades International Park and Terminos Lagoon in the Yucatan) where
there was failure. Brief national retrospectives are included. One
appendix describes NAFTA’s Commission of Environmental Cooperation,
which has a regional approach, a strategy for biodiversity under review,
and is particularly useful for dealing with migratory species such as
birds and monarch butterflies. A second appendix describes the North
American Area Database based on a Canadian template.

Certain themes resound repeatedly: ecosystem approaches for
conservation, the need for monitoring, involving all stakeholders in
discussions, the role of ENGOs, and political realism. The style is
direct; photographs are used to remind us of the beautiful terrain; and
tables, figures, and boxes summarize issues, but in a very tiny font.
This book will interest everyone managing or using a national park.


“Protected Areas and the Regional Planning Imperative in North America,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,