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Protected Areas and the Regional Planning Imperative in North America.

Protected Areas and the Regional Planning Imperative in North America. Edited by J. G. Nelson, J. C. Day, Lucy M. Sportza, James Loucky, and Carlos Vasquez. University of Calgary Press and Michigan State University Press. 2003. 480 pp. $39.95.

This monograph, which represents a proceedings of sorts, presents a series of papers that were either delivered at or developed subsequent to the workshop Regional Approaches to Parks and Protected Areas in North America, held in Tijuana, Mexico, in March of 1999. It is a very important work that should be essential to practitioners, scholars, and students of planning whether for land use, conservation of natural areas, and/or biodiversity.

The workshop, a first of its kind, brought together conservation practitioners from Canada, Mexico, and the United States to review the context of and opportunities for regional and continental scale protection in addition to current successes. The papers are organized in a similar fashion with overviews, local case studies and several more theoretically and conceptually based discussions, and retrospectives all arranged with respect to national units. Many of the authors highlighted the practical value of the experience, and many of the papers were subsequently published in various journals. A number of papers were in fact collected and published in a single issue of the scholarly journal Environments 27(3).

The value of the text lies in four main areas. First, it provides the reader with an enhanced understanding of the policy and land tenure frameworks that underlie conservation planning in each nation. Key opportunities and shortcomings for the successful development of protected areas of different types (the typology of the World Conservation Union--IUCN--is utilized throughout) as well as transboundary efforts are clearly identified. The case studies expand on this by providing in-depth analyses of specific conservation activities that have occurred in each place. Second, several of the papers providing more critical analyses of conservation efforts are grounded in the social or human dimension of national economic policy, especially with respect to conservation activities in Mexico and Canada, which points to the need for strong support of conservation work by national governments. Third, the regional conservation framework that is presented is both visionary and ecologically necessary, that it is imperative to the success of protecting biodiversity is clearly demonstrated. Indeed, the scope of regional efforts such as the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) conservation initiative, the Baja to Bering Sea (B2B) marine initiative, and the Sky Islands Wildlands Network are at the same time intriguing and exciting. Will these lead to another initiative for the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Lawrence Gulf (G2G)? And fourth, the facilitative role of nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations including The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlands Project, and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in regional conservation initiatives and planning is highlighted through discussion and examples of specific activities.

As with any published work, however, shortcomings can be identified. With respect to the work being considered here, four of these are apparent. First, the organization of the text, though intuitively straightforward given the subject matter, becomes somewhat problematic given that a number of papers might have been more logically placed either in sections corresponding to other nations, or in the retrospective. Several of the papers that were more theoretical or analytical seemed out of place alongside the case studies. Also, in comparison with the depth of the papers contained in the sections that preceded it, the retrospective was fairly weak and might have benefited significantly from inclusion of the more general analytical papers. Second, while the administrative and policy structures for planning in Canada and Mexico were well described, authors who presented work from the U.S. didn't adequately consider the state role in planning for land uses that facilitate conservation (i.e., conservation easements, the preservation of low intensity working landscapes, etc.) such as underlie the land use planning programs in a number of our states. Third, none of the contributions considered carefully enough the impact of NAFTA on planning, environmental sustainability, or the human dimension of natural areas. True, there is an abundant literature on this topic, but it is seemingly a very important factor that will affect the success of conservation planning in North America. Lastly, anticipating and planning for global change was another area that was seemingly neglected by the contributors who were otherwise careful to consider planning efforts in the context of the precautionary principle and adaptive management approaches. Again, a significant literature exists on this topic. A final point is that, like any text of this sort, there are several typographical and bibliographic errors that can be found on close examination, and one more review prior to publication might have eliminated these.

These are relatively minor shortcomings however, and are easily rectified by broader study by prospective readers. All in all, this book should be an essential item in the libraries of planning practitioners, scholars, and students. It fills an important gap in the planning literature--the critical role of regional protected areas in conserving biodiversity--and fleshes out a geographically broader yet more inclusive planning framework. It considers the contradictions inherent in eco-tourism, the critical role of education in conservation, and the growing recognition of the impact of genetic diversity in achieving success in conservation. In referring to the need for ecoregion-based conservation in the context of the Chihuahuan Desert (but extended here to all the landscapes and ecoregions of North America), Williams and Nelson noted: "The core of a biodiversity vision for the Chihuahuan Desert's terrestrial landscape, rivers, and springs, must be idealistic, focusing on what this ecoregion should look like fifty years from now rather than accepting what remains on the map today.... A long-term vision for the conservation of the Chihuahuan Desert will promote the application of 'biodiversity-friendly' land use and wildlife practices." (2003: 254-56) Regional planning for biodiversity is indeed imperative.

David D. Shively

Central Michigan University
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Title Annotation:Books
Author:Shively, David D.
Publication:Michigan Academician
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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