A nature park, or sometimes natural park, is a designation for a protected landscape by means of long-term planning, sustainable use and agriculture. These valuable landscapes are preserved in their present state and promoted for tourism purposes.
In most countries nature parks are subject to legally regulated protection, which is part of their conservation laws.
In terms of level of protection, a category "Nature Park" is not the same as a "National Park", which is defined by the IUCN and its World Commission on Protected Areas as a category II type of protected area. A "Nature Park" designation, depending on local specifics, falls between category III and category VI according to IUCN categorization, in most cases closer to category VI. However some nature parks have later been turned into national parks.
The first international nature park in Europe, the present-day Pieniny National Park was founded jointly by Poland and Slovakia in 1932.
There are currently 47 nature parks in Austria with a total area of around 500,000 ha (as at April 2010). They are host to nearly 20 million visitors annually.The designation of "nature park" is awarded by the respective state governments. To achieve this award, the 4 pillars of a nature park have to be met: conservation, recreation, education and regional development.
In 1995 all the Austrian nature parks agreed to be represented by the Association of Austrian Nature Parks (Verband der Naturparke Österreichs) or VNÖ.
Currently there are nature parks in the following states:
In Belgium, there are two different structures. In Flanders, their name is Regionale Landschappen and in Wallonia, the Natural Parks. There are 17 Regionale Landschappen in Flanders and 9 Natural Parks in Wallonia.
In Croatia there is a total of eight national parks and twelve nature parks. Under nature park protection are the following regions:
In the Czech Republic a Nature Park (Přírodní Park) is defined as a large area serving the protection of a landscape against activities that could decrease its natural and esthetic value. They can be established by any State Environment Protection body.
The Nature park is one of the options for area-based nature conservation provided for under the Federal Nature Conservation Act (the BNatSchG). On 6 June 1956 in the former capital city of Bonn at the annual meeting of the Nature Reserve Association (in the presence of President Theodor Heuss and Minister Heinrich Lübke)., the environmentalist and entrepreneur, Alfred Toepfer, presented a programme developed jointly with the Central Office for Nature Conservation and Landscape Management and other institutions to set up (initially) 25 nature parks in West Germany. Five percent of the area of the old Federal Republic of Germany was to be spared from major environmental damage as a result.
The definition of the category of nature park is laid down in federal law (§ 27 of the BNatSchG). Details, especially with regard to the identification, investigation or recognition as a nature park vary in each state depending on the provisions of local conservation law.
§ 27 of the BnatSchG determines that natural parks are large areas that are to be developed and managed as a single unit, that consist mainly of protected landscapes or nature reserves, that have a large variety of species and habitats and that have a landscape that exhibits a variety of uses.
In nature parks, the aim is to strive for environmentally sustainable land use and they should be especially suitable for recreation and for sustainable tourism because of their topographical features.
The underlying idea is a "protection through usage", so the acceptance and participation of the population in the protection of the cultural landscape and nature is very important. In doing so the nature conservation and the needs of recreation users should be linked so that both sides benefit: sustainable tourism with respect for the value of nature and landscape is paramount.
Basically all actions, interventions and projects that would be contrary to the purpose of conservation are prohibited.
Nature parks are to be considered in zoning and must be represented and considered in local development plans. This is called an acquisition memorandum. They are binding and cannot be waived because of a higher common good.
The sponsors of nature parks are usually clubs or local special purpose associations.
The German nature parks come together in the Association of German Nature Parks.
In Germany today there are 101 nature parks (as at: March 2009), that occupy some 25% of the land area. They are an important building block for nature conservation and help to preserve the sites of natural beauty, cultural landscapes, rare species and biotopes and to make them accessible to later generations.
South Tyrol has 8 nature parks and part of a national park
In the Philippines, Natural Parks are a type of protected area. They are defined by Republic Act No. 7586 as: "relatively large areas not materially altered by human activity where extractive resource uses are not allowed and maintained to protect outstanding natural and scenic areas of national or international significance for scientific, educational and recreational use."
In Switzerland the establishment of regional nature parks is regulated by the Federal Act on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage.The three categories are:
National parks and nature experience parks have very strict protected areas, something which does not exist in regional nature parks.The latter focus much more on striking a balance in the level of support between nature conservation and the regional economy.
In Spain, a natural park (Spanish: parque natural) is a natural space protected for its biology, geology, or landscape, with ecological, aesthetic, educational, or scientific value whose preservation merits preferential attention on the part of public administration. The regulation of the activities that may occur there attempts to assure its protection.Natural parks focus their attention on the conservation and maintenance of flora, fauna, and terrain. Natural parks may be maritime or terrestrial and can be in the mountains, along the coasts, in the desert, or any other geographically defined space.
Spain distinguishes natural parks from national parks. The categories of protected areas in Spain under Law 4/1989 are not based on higher or lower levels of protection, but on functions and characteristics:
The largest protected space in Spain, and also its largest natural park, is the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park in the province of Jaén, at the headwaters of the Guadalquivir. 9.1 percent of the surface area of Spain is protected, including 42 percent of the Canary Islands, 30.5 percent of Andalusia,and 21.51 percent of Catalonia, with lesser percentages in the other autonomous communities. Andalusia, being far larger than the Canary Islands or Catalonia, has 36 percent of the total protected areas in the country.
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Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organizations involved. Generally speaking though, protected areas are understood to be those in which human presence or at least the exploitation of natural resources is limited.
A nature reserve, is a protected area of importance for flora, fauna, or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for purposes of conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. They may be designated by government institutions in some countries, or by private landowners, such as charities and research institutions. Nature reserves fall into different IUCN categories depending on the level of protection afforded by local laws. Normally it is more strictly protected than a nature park. Various jurisdictions may use other terminology, such as ecological protection area or private protected area in legislation and in official titles of the reserves.
Wilderness or wildlands, are natural environments on Earth that have not been significantly modified by human activity or any nonurbanized land not under extensive agricultural cultivation. The term has traditionally referred to terrestrial environments, though growing attention is being placed on marine wilderness. Recent maps of wilderness suggest it covers roughly one quarter of Earth's terrestrial surface, but is being rapidly degraded by human activity. Even less wilderness remains in the ocean, with only 13.2% free from intense human activity.
The protected areas of the United States are managed by an array of different federal, state, tribal and local level authorities and receive widely varying levels of protection. Some areas are managed as wilderness, while others are operated with acceptable commercial exploitation. As of 2020, the 36,283 protected areas covered 1,118,917 km2 (432,016 sq mi), or 12 percent of the land area of the United States. This is also one-tenth of the protected land area of the world. The U.S. also had a total of 787 National Marine Protected Areas, covering an additional 3,210,908 km2 (1,239,739 sq mi), or 37 percent of the total marine area of the United States.
Protected areas of Brazil included various classes of area according to the National System of Conservation Units (SNUC), a formal, unified system for federal, state and municipal parks created in 2000.
The Alto Mayo Protection Forest is an area of protected forest land in northern Peru. It is located in Rioja and Moyobamba provinces within the region of San Martin, with a small part in Rodriguez de Mendoza province, in the region of Amazonas. This area preserves a portion of the tropical yungas forest in the upper Mayo River basin, while protecting soil and water from erosion by deforestation, as the area is the water supply of populations in the Mayo valley.
Protected areas of Estonia are regulated by the Nature Conservation Act, which was passed by the Estonian parliament on April 21, 2004 and entered into force May 10, 2004.
The Federal Inventory of Landscapes and Natural Monuments in Switzerland aims to protect landscapes of national importance. The inventory is part of a 1977 Ordinance of the Swiss Federal Council implementing the Federal Law on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage.
Domestic violence in Argentina is a serious issue. Since the 1990s onwards, the Government of Argentina has taken steps to address this problem. However, the policies of Argentina have been criticized for being weak, primarily due to focusing on civil, rather than criminal dealing with this form of violence, and for stressing conciliation between victim and perpetrator. The policy dealing with domestic violence has also been made more difficult due to the decentralized nature of the country: Argentina being a federal state with 23 provinces has caused significant regional variation between provincial policies on domestic violence, with women across the country having differing levels of protection.
The Canary Islands Network for Protected Natural Areas is a conservation organization in the Canary Islands.
Categories of Natural Environment Protected Areas of Ukraine were reestablished (redefined) by the national parliament of Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. On June 16, 1992 the President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk signed the law on the Nature-Preservation Fund of Ukraine. The law redefined already the established system of environment protection management for Ukraine as a fully sovereign and independent country. National Parks in Ukraine and other Protected Areas of Ukraine include Ramsar Sites in Ukraine, *Biosphere Preserves of Ukraine, National Nature Parks of Ukraine, Nature Preserves of Ukraine, Regional landscape parks of Ukraine, Nature monuments of Ukraine, Protected tracts of Ukraine and Habitat / Species Managed Areas of Ukraine.
IUCN protected area categories, or IUCN protected area management categories, are categories used to classify protected areas in a system developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
A strict nature reserve or wilderness area is the highest category of protected area recognised by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), a body which is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These category I areas are the most stringently protected natural landscapes.
The Nature Protection Service is a unit of the Spanish Civil Guard responsible for nature conservation and management of the hunting and fishing industry. It serves to carry out and oversee State provisions to preserve nature, the environment, water resources, and preserving wealth in hunting, fish farming, forestry and other nature related industries. They are also heavily involved in work against spills and contamination, illegal trade of protected species, unregulated hunting and fishing activities, protection of natural spaces, and prevention and extinction of fires.
The Protected Areas of the Azores are the basic administrative-territorial and conservation structures in the archipelago of the Azores and the surrounding oceans. The areas integrate the entirety of the Azores within its Exclusive Economic Zone, as well as the surrounding waters, under the international agreements and conventions. The network realizes the categorization of management for protected areas adopted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), adapting it to the specific geographical, environmental, cultural and political-administrative territory of the archipelago.
Switzerland has eighteen official natural parks classified in three categories.
Many parts of Scotland are protected in accordance with a number of national and international designations because of their environmental, historical or cultural value. Protected areas can be divided according to the type of resource which each seeks to protect. NatureScot has various roles in the delivery of many environmental designations in Scotland, i.e. those aimed at protecting flora and fauna, scenic qualities and geological features. Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designations that protect sites of historic and cultural importance. Some international designations, such as World Heritage Sites, can cover both categories of site.