Creating protected areas like national parks can be a great way to save rainforests and other ecosystems. Protected areas are locations preserved because of their environmental or cultural value. Generally, protected areas are managed by governments and use park rangers and guards to enforce the rules of the park and protect against illegal activities like hunting, mining, and the cutting down of trees.

Today, parks protect many of the world’s most endangered species. Animals like pandas are found only in protected areas.

Parks are most successful when they have the support of local people living in and around the protected area. If local people have an interest in the park they may form a “community watch” to protect the park from illegal logging and wildlife poaching.

An effective way to protect rainforests is to involve indigenous people in park management. Indigenous people know more about the forest than anyone and have an interest in safeguarding it as a productive ecosystem that provides them food, shelter, and clean water. Research has found that in some cases, “indigenous reserves” may actually protect rainforest than “national parks” in the Amazon. Helping indigenous peoples secure land rights is now recognized as one of the best ways to conserve forests.

Parks can also help the economy in rainforest countries by attracting foreign tourists who pay entrance fees, hire local wilderness guides, and buy local handicrafts.

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Review questions

  • Why is it important to have buy-in from people who live in and around protected areas?
  • What do indigenous lands rights have to do with rainforest conservation?
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