||Areas placed under national government protection for their natural significance: many federal systems of government (e.g. USA, Canada, Germany, etc.) have state or provincial parks. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines national parks as areas of protection and restricted access containing \'ecosystems not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation\', of \'special scientific, educational and recreational interest\', or \'containing a natural landscape of great beauty\'. The concept is applicable at other scales. Some World Heritage Areas have similar attributes, but are considered exceptional on a world scale. The definition, on a broad meaning, could include national forests, game preserves and nature reserves that are not classified as national parks in the strict sense.
In 1864, a US Act of Congress transferred Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees to the State of California on the condition that they be held inalienably for \'public use, resort and recreation\' (in McCormick, 1995, p. 13). In 1872, another Act designated an area in Wyoming as Yellowstone National Park, establishing the first designated national park in the world. The creation of national parks there fitted with the idea of democratizing nature, which enabled the young USA to distinguish itself from the old Europe. It was possible to designate national parks in areas that were perceived as wilderness, despite habitation for thousands of years by indigenous people. It is important to note that contemporary national parks are not wilderness areas (large areas of public lands untrammelled by human settlement), but may contain wilderness areas within their boundaries while endeavouring to make other areas accessible for human use. National parks were also very popular with railway companies, and the promotion of rail-based tourism coincided with the construction of high-class resort facilities by railway companies in some national parks in North America. The original idea of an \'environmental experience\' in a national park was not necessarily about environmental preservation.
Numerous countries created national parks prior to the First World War, although the British system only began with the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949 (which covered England and Wales only). The influence of British ideas had been felt in colonial East Africa at least 20 years earlier, however; where conservationists, many based in London, were influential in establishing national parks which dislocated tens of thousands of peasants and pastoralists (Neumann, 1995, 1996).
National parks were often created for their scenic appeal, which was constructed through promotional material, showing mountains, rivers and gorges. Rarely are national parks found in so-called developed countries in areas that are suitable for agriculture or other uses. The initial tourist appeal of national parks has been amplified by changes in transport technology, leisure time and cultural values. This places increasing strain upon the existing national parks, and raises conflict about their role in preservation and conservation. An additional issue is the desired approach, e.g. environmental management by humans or to let nature decide without further human input. Fires in Yellowstone National Park in the USA in 1988 added to the debate about management processes in national parks. In some countries, the discovery of natural resources within national park boundaries has caused concern. Uranium mining occurs within the world heritage area of Kakadu in the north of Australia.
While the label \'national park\' may be universal, its meaning varies spatially and temporally. The World Resources Institute (1994) estimated that in 1993 the global extent of \'protected natural areas\' of all types was 792 million hectares, or 5.9 per cent of the world\'s land surface.Â (PM)
References McCormick, J. 1995: The global environmental movement, 2nd edn. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.Â Neumann, R. 1995: Local challenges to global agendas: conservation, economic liberalization and the pastoralists\' rights movement in Tanzania. Antipode 27 4: 363-82.Â Neumann, R. 1996: Dukes, Earls and ersatz Edens: aristocratic nature preservationists in colonial Africa. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14 1: 79-98.Â World Resources Institute 1994: World resources 1994-95. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.