Governing Change and Adaptation at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (Canada) and Saadani National Park (Tanzania)

Date

2016-01-18

Authors

Orozco-Quintero, Alejandra

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Abstract

In what can be characterized as a period of rapid ecological change, the global community has now reached an agreement on the importance of protecting what remains of the world’s biological diversity. In 2011, world governments pledged to extend protected areas (PAs) to 17% of the earth’s surface. Although, accumulated research documents the role PAs areas play in coping with environmental change, much of conservation practice remains at odds with the actual purpose of conservation: to enable natural and human systems to adapt and sustain life. Challenges in PA planning and management, and their connections (or lack thereof) to wider socio-economic and institutional frameworks have made environmental governance a leading concern in the study of PAs. This research examined the nature and dimensions of environmental governance affecting adaptive capacity and the sustainability of protected landscapes, particularly for PAs deemed to have been established and/or operating through ‘participatory’ governance. These issues are explored through comparative research based on case studies of two coastal PAs: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in Canada, and Saadani National Park in Tanzania. Methods utilized included gathering qualitative and spatial data through interactions with decision-making bodies and representatives of agencies at the village/First Nations and park levels, interviews with state authorities at district and higher levels and document research. The research findings on the two PAs and adjacent communities unravel the nature and dynamics of steering institutions, institutional interplay and spatial interconnectedness as they relate to cooperation, agency and adaptability within and around protected landscapes. An examination of spatial and institutional arrangements within national frameworks, and an examination of governance and management practice at the level of individual parks reveal significant mismatches between policy discourses on multi-level cooperation and actual practice in state-based conservation. This research also reveals ways in which sustainability can be conceived and addressed through institutions and institutional interplay among park and community actors. The research analyzed ways in which encompassing frameworks shaped institutions, relationships and activities on the ground, and spatial interconnectedness and interdependence shaped the actions and agency of grassroots actors. The findings also demonstrate that there are critical differences between participation and the exercising of agency. While it is important to achieve a fair distribution of burdens and benefits across levels, it is shared jurisdiction and fair institutional interplay, rather than economic benefits, which can better enable all levels of social organizations to contribute to sustainability. In this regard, enhancing agency is essential to enabling adaptability and goes beyond addressing disruptive power relations; it also entails redefining perceptions of human nature and of spatial interconnectedness among communities and natural landscapes in the design of environmental institutions. It is through institutionally-driven processes, such as giving full political and financial support to states fixed on gaining spatial control of culturally diverse landscapes through restrictive conservation approaches, that conservation has become an instrument of oppression, and it is only through institutionally-driven means that acknowledge the importance and role of indigenous approaches to preserve ecological diversity that PAs can be made to serve their purpose: to preserve nature and cultural heritage for present and future generations.

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Keywords

environmental governance, protected area governance, protected area management, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Saadani National Park, State-led conservation, national parks, geographies of conservation

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