National park

A national park is a reserve of natural or semi-natural land, declared or owned by a government, set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, and protected from most development. While ideas for national parks had been suggested previously, what is held to be the first one established was the United States' Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872. An international organization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its World Commission on Protected Areas, has defined National Parks as its category II type of protected areas. The largest national park in the world meeting the IUCN definition is the Northeast Greenland National Park, which was established in 1974. According to the IUCN, there are now 6,555 national parks worldwide (2006 figure)[1].

In 1969 the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) declared a national park to be a relatively large area with particular defining characteristics[2]. A national park was deemed to be a place where:



one or several ecosystems are not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation, where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites and habitats are of special scientific, educative and recreative interest or which contain a natural landscape of great beauty. the highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate as soon as possible exploitation or occupation in the whole area and to enforce effectively the respect of ecological, geomorphological or aesthetic features which have led to its establishment. visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educative, cultural and recreative purposes.

In 1971 these criteria were further expanded upon leading to more clear and defined benchmarks to evaluate a national park. These include:
y y y y

a minimum size of 1,000 hectares within zones in which protection of nature takes precedence statutory legal protection a budget and staff sufficient to provide sufficient effective protection prohibition of exploitation of natural resources (including the development of dams) qualified by such activities as sport, fishing, the need for management, facilities, etc.

While national parks are generally understood to be administered by national governments (hence the name), in Australia national parks are run by State Governments and predate the Federation of Australia.

The painter George Catlin, in his travels through the American West, wrote in 1832 that the Native Americans in the United States might be preserved
"by some great protecting policy of government a magnificent park ...A nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!"

Similar ideas were expressed in other countries²in Sweden, for instance, the Finnish-born Baron Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld made such a proposition in 1880. The Scottish-American naturalist John Muir was inspirational in the foundation of national parks, anticipating many ideas of conservationism, environmentalism, and the animal rights movement.

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