ParksWatch : Background

The concept underlying ParksWatch arose out of a conference held at the White Oak Plantation in Florida in 1993, which convened a group of academic conservation biologists and professional conservationists to discuss the plight of tropical biodiversity. There was broad agreement among the participants that the future of tropical nature lies in protected areas, especially those with the highest legal status, such as national parks and World Heritage sites. However, it was also agreed that many tropical parks are weak as institutions and consequently suffer significant threats to their biodiversity, jocularly summed up as the scourge of the three “D’s” – Degradation, Downsizing, and Degazetting.

What could a group of academics do to make a contribution to what seemed like so overwhelming a challenge? The only rational option was to engage in a process that would exert leverage on the institutions responsible for parks. It was surmised that official neglect of parks can be explained by the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” principle. So long as parks have weak national constituencies and are situated far from the capital city, they will fall below the horizon of officials and budget managers. By appropriately publicizing the threats faced by parks and the management handicaps under which they operate, public opinion can be brought to bear on an otherwise invisible situation.

Accurate and credible information on the current state of parks would be necessary to incite public opinion. Such information could best be generated through an organized monitoring process collecting its own objective, independent information. Thus was the concept of ParksWatch born.

(A book was published as a result of the White Oaks Conference : “Last Stand: Protected Areas and the Defense of Tropical Biodiversity”).


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