Project Description

Canadian Protected Areas Management Effectiveness (PAME) Project

Parks and protected areas are designed to protect the ecological values of Canada’s terrestrial, aquatic or marine diversity.  There are over 7500 parks and protected areas within Canada protecting over 100 million ha or 6% of terrestrial environments and just under 1% of the marine environment (Canadian Council on Ecological Areas, 2014)[1]. The federal government administers just under half of that area largely within 50 national parks. However, more than 7000 of these protected areas and over half of the area falls within a number of different designations within provinces and territories. In British Columbia for example, there are over 1000 protected areas most designated as BC Provincial Parks, Protected Areas or Ecological Reserves.

Concern about the effectiveness of protected areas in meeting objectives such as biodiversity conservation and supporting local communities is increasing (Bruner et al., 2001; Hayes, 2006; Leverington, Hockings, & Costa, 2008; Rodrigues et al., 2004; Vanclay, 2001; Yahnke, de Fox, & Colman, 1998).  In response, there has been a significant movement to examine protected areas management effectiveness (PAME) internationally.

The global Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), specifically Target 11, commits signatories like Canada to not only significantly increase designation of terrestrial and marine protected areas by 2020 but to ensure these areas are “effectively and equitably managed” (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2004). More specifically, goal 4.2 commits signatories to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of protected areas management.  Furthering this, the Program of Work for protected areas (POWPA Target) made commitments (Target 4.2.2) towards management effectiveness evaluation for at least 30% of each signatory’s protected areas by 2010 increasing to 60% by 2015. Numerous other international conventions and targets (e.g., IUCN Global Areas Programme) have echoed this need and set similar, or more lofty targets.

PAME is defined as an “assessment of how well protected areas are being managed – primarily the extent to which management is protecting values and achieving goals and objectives”(Hockings, 2006). While implementation of a PAME process serves to meet international obligations under the Convention on Biodiversity it has more direct benefits to individual parks, agencies, partners and governments. Management effectiveness evaluation can help:

  • To improve conservation management of protected areas (Leverington et al., 2010);
  • Provide support for increased political and financial resources;
  • To increase transparency and improve accountability;
  • To achieve international recognition (e.g., IUCN Green List of Protected Areas); and
  • Improve management of protected areas for human well-being (Woodhouse et al., 2015).

There has been a significant body of work conducted by non-governmental agencies, governments and research organizations to study management effectiveness evaluations and to develop tools to conduct PAME (Hawthorn, Kirik, & Eagles, 2002; Hockings, 2006; Leverington et al., 2010). However, by and large the research and approaches have been conducted in developing nations with only a small handful of individual protected areas and are less applicable in developed nations with significant numbers of protected areas.  As a signatory and participant in these conventions and programs Canada is obligated to meet these commitments yet to date has taken no action to begin to address the issue outside a handful of individual assessments done largely as masters’ thesis projects and a recent project by Environment Canada. In the USA, research and implementation of PAME’s is likewise stalled.  Not only are their greater jurisdictional complexities in developing nations, and typically significantly greater numbers of protected areas but the existing PAME research and application is based largely on professional opinion and is quite imprecise. While using many of these tools would help Canada meet its reporting obligations it would not provide information with sufficient rigor to improve management of protected areas.

Project Overview:

Currently the scope of the project is working in joint partnership with Alberta Parks and with Ontario Protected Areas  to pilot the examination of protected areas management effectiveness in a small sample of protected areas (e.g., 5-6 in each province) exploring the feasibility, utility, cost, and benefits of PAME approaches to help develop an implementation strategy. More specifically, the project is intended to:

  • Task 1. Help the organization identify the specific purposes, objectives, desired outcomes, scope and scale of management effectiveness evaluation approaches;
  • Task 2. Facilitate evaluation of a short-list of PAME tools that address the identified needs and customize the tool(s) to the AB context in a manner consistent with the need to report against the common IUCN framework and potential applicability to other Canadian jurisdictions;
  • Task 3. Conduct a pilot data collection and reporting project across a range of sites to determine if the approach contributes to the understanding of management effectiveness;
  • Task 4. Track and identify the costs associated with applying the PAME tool both for development, initial implementation (e.g., first approximation across Alberta) and subsequent repeat application); and
  • Task 5. Provide support in the development of a province-wide implementation strategy.

[1] Note that this proposal refers to parks and protected areas that legislatively are designed to serve a conservation purpose in addition to important recreation, health and economic values. Given that their management intent does not generally include conservation, regional, municipal and urban parks and recreation spaces are not included in these numbers or in this proposal.