Protected areas are areas of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means (IUCN 1994). The creation of Protected Areas (PAs) is a primary strategy to conserve biological diversity in situ. There is, however, a large gap between designation and implementation and most PAs face various types of pressure that prevent them from achieving their conservation goals (Dudley et al., 1999). National parks face problems such as the following:
Air, soil, and water pollution;
Habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation;
Invasion of exotic species; and
Loss of biological and cultural diversity.
Most of these problems are related to the increase in human use (legal or illegal) inside and outside park boundaries (PCA 2000) and to the lack of alternatives for alleviating poverty.
Different uses around protected areas (South Africa)
Pictures (clockwise starting from top left): Hluhluwe Game Reserve,
Eucalyptus Plantation, Grazing, Firewood, Wildlife at Hluhluwe,
Local children dancing for visitors
To preserve the integrity of ecosystems inside protected areas is a priority for protected areas managers. In Canada, for instance, this priority is clearly defined in the National Parks Act (GC 2000). Ecosystems have integrity when their native components (plants, animals and other organisms) and processes (such as growth and reproduction) are intact (PCA 2000). This quality of ecosystems is undermined by the environmental cumulative effects that result from human activity (such as recreation, infrastructure, or resource development) undermine the ecological integrity of protected areas (Green et al. 1996, PCA 2000). For instance, when not managed properly, logging on lands adjacent to a national park could undermine its ability to maintain viable populations of species that move across park boundaries.
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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA)
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the systematic process of evaluating and documenting information on the potential, capacity and function of natural resources and systems. Its purpose is to facilitate planning for sustainable development and decision-making in general, and to anticipate and manage the negative effects and consequences of development proposals. An EIA's purpose is to facilitate decision-making when there is a need for information on the environmental effects, risks, and consequences of development proposals (Saldler 1996). EIAs have been used as a tool for decision-making regarding development proposals since the 1970's. However, two factors called the attention over the need for a deeper analysis of cumulative effects. First, a tendency to centre the assessments on the direct effects of proposed activities. Second, the evidence that the most overwhelming effects on the ecosystems resulted from minor individual effects that were considered negligible when evaluated in isolation, but that were significant when combined with other effects of multiple actions occurring on the long term (CEQ 1997)
Industry outside Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alta. Canada
Therefore, Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) is considered as a recent and advanced practice with respect to the way in which EIA has been practiced traditionally. This kind of assessment involves a more detailed treatment of cumulative effects (CEs), which are defined as the impacts on the environment resulting from the incremental impact of a given action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency or person undertakes such other actions. CEs result from actions that, when viewed individually, are not considered as a source of significant impacts, but which are significant when added to other actions (CEQ, 1997). Cumulative effects can result from multiple pathways and be manifested on both biophysical and socio-economic resources (Canter 1999).
Mountainenvironment. Castle Mountian. Banff national Park.
The ultimate purpose of EIAs is to help reconcile environmental protection and sustainable development (Sadler, 1996). Consequently, environmental and protected areas legislation in countries such as Canada and Mexico consider EIA as a tool that can help improve the management of protected areas. The instruments that specify the requirements for conducting environmental assessments when protected areas may be affected by the impacts of human activities are, in Canada, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (GC 1992) and the Canadian National Parks Act (GC 2000). In Mexico, these are the Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y Protección al Ambiente (LGEEPA - General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, SEMARNAT, 1996), the Reglamento de la LGEEPA en Material de Impacto Ambiental (Regulation of the in matter of environmental assessment, SEMARNAT 2002ª) and the Reglamento de la LGEEPA en Material de Areas Naturales Protegidas (Regulation of the LGEEPA in matter of natural protected areas, SEMARNAT 2000).
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Itza-Popo National Park, Mexico.
The objective of this study is to evaluate the similarities and differences in the use of EIA as a management tool for protected areas in Canada and Mexico. This is intended to provide recommendations to help improve the professional practice of EIA for protected areas.
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The information for this research will be analyzed using the principles of grounded theory and data gathering will rely on various methods:
Interviews with key informants (park managers, EIA practitioners),
Document reviews: EIA reports, CEA reports,
Comparison of legal instruments that regulate protected areas and the use of EIAs in Canada and Mexico.
Canter, L. 1999. Cumulative Effects Assessment. In Handbook of environmental impact assessment. Edited by J. Petts. Blackwell Science, Ltd., Oxford, U.K. pp. 405-440.
(CEQ) Council on Environmental Quality. 1997. Considering Cumulative Effects under the National Environmental Policy Act. Council on Environmental Quality. Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C.
Dudley, N., Gujja, B., Jackson, B., Jeanrenaud, J.-P., Oviedo, G., Phillips, A., Rosabel, P., and Stolton, S.W.S. 1999. Challenges for protected areas in the 21st century. In Partnerships for protection. New strategies for planning and management for protected areas. Edited by S. Stolton and N. Dudley. IUCN/Earthscan, London, U.K. 283 pp. pp. 3-12.
(GC) Government of Canada.1992. Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 1992, C. 37. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Accessed 7/14/00, http://www.ceaa.gc.ca./act/
(GC) Government of Canada. 2000. Canada National Parks Act. Bill C-27. Assented to 20th. October 2000. Canada Gazette, Part III, vol. 23(4). chapter 32.
Green, J., C. Pacas, L. Cornwell, and S. Bayley. 1996. Ecological Outlooks Project: Cumulative Effects Assessment at Futures Outlook. Final Report. Prepared for the Banff-Bow Valley Study, Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, ON.
IUCN (World Conservation Union). 1994. Guidelines for protected area management categories. CNPPA with the assistance of WCMC. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambrigde, UK.
(PCA) Parks Canada Agency. 2000. "Unimpaired for Future Generations" Protecting Ecological Integrity with Canada's National Parks. Report of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks. Minister of Public Works and Government Services. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Sadler, B. 1996. Environmental assessment in a changing world: evaluating practice to improve performance. International study of the effectiveness of environmental assessment. Final Report. International Association for Impact Assessment/Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Minister of Supply and Services, Canada.
(SEMARNAP) Secretaria del Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca. 1996. Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente. Gaceta Ecológica 40:71-120.
(SEMARNAP) Secretaria del Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca. 2000. Reglamento de la Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente en Materia de Áreas Naturales Protegidas. México, D. F., Diario Oficial de la Federación, 30 de Noviembre de 2000. Pp. 43-72.
(SEMARNAP) Secretaria del Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca. 2000ª. Reglamento de la Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente en Materia de Evaluación del Impacto Ambiental. México, D. F., Diario Oficial de la Federación, 30 de Mayo de 2000. 26 pp.
Papers on Environmental Impact Assessment and Protected Areas
Please contact me if you would like to receive copies of these papers.
Mendoza, A. 2004. Environmental Impact Assessment as management tool for protected areas in Canada and Mexico. Proceedings, 24th Annual Conference, International Association for Impact Assessment. IAIA'04-Impact Assessment for Industrial Development: Whose Business Is It?," April 26-29, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Mendoza, A. 2002. Environmental impact and management of natural protected areas in Canada and Mexico. Latin America: Between representations and realities. Conference of the Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Table on Economy and Environment in Mexico. Montreal, Quebec, October 24-26, 2002.
Mendoza, A., Spaling, and Ross, W.2002. Review of cumulative effects assessments for protected areas. Pp: 345-363. In Cumulative Environmental Effects Management, tools and approaches (Kennedy, A., Ed), Alberta Society of Professional Biologists. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
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