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close this bookPlanning National Parks for Ecodevelopment - Methods and Cases from Latin America (Peace Corps, 1982)
close this folderChapter VI. A practical method for planning national park systems
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThree fundamental concepts
View the documentCharacteristics of systems planning
View the documentThe method for planning systems of national parks in general terms
View the documentThe method for planning systems of national parks in detail
View the documentAppendix VI-A. Checklist - Steps of the planning method for national park systems
View the documentAppendix VI-B. Summary of systems planning experience in Latin America
View the documentReferences to chapter VI

The method for planning systems of national parks in general terms

A review of systems planning experience from Latin America is presented in the appendices. The major systems planning efforts in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador and Peru included a conceptual framework where ideas and principles were placed into order, where past experience was examined, and where a view to "what should be" was given. These studies then included field work to examine existing and proposed conservation areas. Some existing units did not meet the criteria, and some new park sites had to be sought. Each study made some reference to the national development plan.

From these experiences, it is now possible to deduce a practical method for planning park systems. The objective is to guide wildland planners in the selection of a set of conservation units which are capable of providing the products and services expected from the national park category of management.

The quality of the park system will depend upon many factors, not the least of which is the information available on the natural and cultural resources of the country. With limited information, a park system can be conceptualized initially from bibliographic references and maps. Individual biologists, foresters and others can contribute their wealth of knowledge to support an orderly exploration of little-known parts of the continent. Alternatively, as the intensity of field knowledge increases, the park system can become more specifically defined.

It is a fundamental premise that a park system study can be initiated in any nation, at any time, starting from available information. As information becomes more abundant, the conceptual framework can be designed more completely and the individual areas selected more specifically.

Since options to select conservation units which are capable of supporting ecodevelopment are rapidly closing, work on systems planning should be started as soon as possible. Similar to the planning of individual parks, work on systems planning is a never-ending job. The experience of countries with long traditions of planning park systems shows that with increased technological, economic and social development come new and constantly evolving perceptions and needs of man concerning his habitat.

If systems planning is to be started regardless of the information available, and if managers are faced with constantly changing human needs, then obviously there is considerable risk in this type of work. The risks come from the managers' lack of ecological knowledge, their inability to evaluate all of. the factors involved in any decision on park systems, and their inability to predict human future needs from, and impacts upon the human environment. Such risks can be taken into account by managers primarily by treating openly and directly those factors about which they are unclear or uncertain, and by providing sufficient flexibility in the plans being made to absorb changes as they arise.

Finally, the term NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM carries certain ambiguity as to the kinds of conservation units to be included. Commonly, the so-called national park system includes national parks, as well as such categories as national monuments, biological reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. The categories of wildlands not included therein are covered in other management systems. However, for the purpose of presenting suggested methodology for systems planning, the term national park system will be herein considered to include only the national park category per se (as designated in Table I-1 and Table III-I). that is, monuments, reserves and sanctuaries will require similar systems studies to that for national parks. For example, there can be a national monument system, biological reserve system, wildlife sanctuary system, national forest system, etc. Taken together, they collectively form the national wildland system. To the extent that various categories are combined within particular government departments, the various categories can logically be combined. The organizational aspects of park management will be discussed in Chapter VIII.

The method for planning systems of national parks will be presented in a step-by-step format, somewhat parallel to the method for planning individual parks suggested in Chapter V. As before, these steps are interrelated and interdependent, which means that the planners will find it necessary to work forwards and backwards among the steps, to check from step to step searching for consistency, and to maintain the perspective that all steps are elements of one single ultimate decision.

The systems planning procedure can be presented in seven steps:

1. Design the Conceptual Framework for the Park system,

2. Study Existing Conservation Units

3. Classify and Qualify each Conservation Unit

4. Summarize the Information and propose a Draft Park System

5. Search for New Areas to Fill "Open Niches" and Propose Them for Inclusion in the Park System

6. Suggest Adjustments in and Re-allocation of Existing or Proposed Units not Suitable for Inclusion in the Park System

7. Propose the National Park System. Cross-check with other Wildland Categories and the National Development Plan.

In reality, the steps continue into decisions on PRIORITY, NATIONAL STRATEGY, and MANAGEMENT CAPACITY aspects which will be treated specifically in Chapters VII and VIII.

Step 1 - Design the conceptual framework of the park system

A large portion of systems planning takes place in the office. An office room is established and furnished to facilitate the planning effort. A team is organized which represents the related disciplines and institutions.

The team members initiate their work with a thorough review of the NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN, background information on the natural and cultural resources of the country and the existing and proposed parks and reserves.

The conceptual framework then centers upon the what, how and who of wildland management: what are the objectives of management, how will these objectives be achieved, and who will see that the work gets done?

The NATIONAL WILDLAND SYSTEM is defined by relating primary conservation objectives to the alternative means by which these objectives can be achieved. An analysis of the laws, policies and capacities of the existing institutions related to natural and cultural resources is made to determine which organizations relate most appropriately to each management category.

One alternative means to achieve the primary conservation objectives will generally be the NATIONAL PARK category which is defined and given criteria. To check the consistency, the step finalizes by cross-checking the park category within the wildland system and within the national development plan.

Step 2 - Study existing conservation units

A work sheet is designed which will guide the orderly gathering of information on each existing national park or other type of conservation unit. A sheet will be filled out during subsequent steps in the planning process to form the basic piece of information on each conservation unit.

The planning team presents a workshop for all personnel which will work in the study. The participants will come from the park department as well as other organizations to formulate and practice in the use of field methods for the study.

Particular attention is given to the logistics required to support the study of national parks which exist. The team heads for the field. As each area is visited, the field work sheet is completed to describe each conservation unit in terms of the various criteria.

Step 3 - Classify and qualify each conservation unit

Each conservation unit is then classified in terms of the most appropriate category for its management. This will depend upon the conservation objectives which the area is capable of supporting and the combination of objectives consistent with the long-term stability of the ecosystem

Having collected the field data for each area, the team can then qualify each unit in terms of the criteria. The team expresses the relative quality of each area in terms of each criteria on a series of charts and maps which serve to give order to rather complex decisions.

The work sheets on each park are then placed into the respective conservation unit files to be completed in subsequent steps.

Step 4 - Summarize the information and propose a draft park system

The maps for individual criteria are raved, one over the other, to show graphically those units which qualify highly for several criteria at the same time. This information is correlated with that from the charts where each unit is qualified. From this integration of data, a summary chart is prepared which shows at a glance how each existing and proposed national park measures up to the criteria and to each other.

Prom all of the conservation units, those which most highly qualify for inclusion in the park system can be chosen and noted on the summary chart. Those units which were deemed not to qualify are held until Step 6.

Step 5 - Search for new areas to fill "open niches" and propose them for inclusion in the park system

The summary chart will show "open niches" where existing conservation units do not qualify to met the requirements for a park in that particular situation, or where no existing conservation unit covers that situation. These open niches can be described in conceptual terms according to the criteria: What are the characteristics of such a site?

Specifications for each "new area" are designed on a conservation area worksheet which serves to guide the team in locating such an area in the field. Once such is found, the procedure returns to the elements of Step 3, where the team classifies and qualifies the area and places it on the charts and maps related to each criteria and on the summary chart of Step 4.

The field worksheets on the new areas are placed on the appropriate files in parallel fashion with those of existing areas.

Step 6 - Suggest adjustments in and the re-allocation in existing or proposed units not suitable for Inclusion in the Park System

Each of the areas which was rejected for inclusion in the park system is then examined. For those which were rejected because they are, or should be, managed under a management category other than national park, they may remain within the jurisdiction of the parks department but under a more appropriate category. Other units may be suggested for management under a different category and for transfer to another department of government. Some units may be combined with another to form larger blocks of contiguous wildland. In this way, most of the existing wildland units probably will remain as units of the national wildland system. Some few may pass to local levels of government such as a municipal parks department or a local historical society. Occasionally, some units may not qualify for any category, and will be recommended for transfer to a non-wildland type of use such as agriculture.

The suggestions for each conservation unit are integrated into the summary chart.

Step 7 - Propose the park system, cross-check with other wildland categories and the national development Plan

The information from the summary chart can be shown on a national map which is then a statement of the proposed national park system.

The system of national parks can be compared with networks of other categories of wildland management which may have been established in the country. There may be a system of national forests, wildlife sanctuaries, cultural monuments or recreation areas. Some of these other categories may, in fact, be managed as elements of the "park system" but the need for this suggested analysis holds in any case. The team searches for overlap and redundancy and notes any points of conflict for land use and the attainment of conservation objectives. The national park system should form an integral part of the national wildland system and compliment the other management categories.

Similarly, the park system is compared with the various sectors of the national development plan. Particular interest is focused upon transportation, energy, education, land use, water works, rural development policies, agricultural development and agrarian reform.

To the extent that these cross-checks have identified conflicts, the team will make the necessary adjustments to the proposed park system. In some cases it may be appropriate and necessary to suggest that changes be made in other categories of wildland or even in the national development plan rather than the national park system.

(The team then moves on to consider priorities, national park system strategy and management capacity which shall be taker up in subsequent chapters below.)