Untitled Document

The "Silent Crisis" is the continued existence of "paper parks" throughout the tropics, or parks that are signed into law with much official fanfare, yet which are allowed to deteriorate in silent obscurity. Given the prevalence of paper parks and the severity of the infractions left unchallenged within them, we feel that this crisis represents one of today's most urgent conservation needs.

Most people know that the greatest storehouses of biodiversity on the planet are the world's tropical rainforests and reefs. Yet, few people know just how threatened these habitats are, even within the protected areas set up to preserve them. Protected areas currently amount to less than 5% of the tropical forest biome. However, many of these protected areas are actually paper parks lacking any budget, administration or enforcement. Many paper parks have unrealized potential as destinations for ecotourism, and are likely to remain underappreciated in the absence of any planning or investment. Perhaps most egregiously, inadequate monitoring of park conditions has failed to reveal, and much less resolve, the pervasive threats to paper parks that jeopardize the biological riches that motivated the initial conferring of reserve status.

Only rarely is up-to-date information on the conservation status of protected areas documented and brought to the public attention; even rarer is the application of corrective action before a protected area suffers from degradation. Conservation failures therefore go largely unnoticed. Inaction is further guaranteed by systematic underfunding and understaffing of parks, combined with policies depriving park guards of the authority required to carry out their managerial duties.

Inadequate implementation of parks is particularly acute in developing countries, where most of the world's biodiversity lies, and where many forces combine to threaten protected areas, including poverty, landlessness, exhaustion of natural resources, and overpopulation. Yet, in spite of competing social needs, it is becoming clear from the blossoming of conservation NGO's worldwide that nature conservation is not only valued by the industrialized world, but is in fact also of increasing interest to the developing world's citizenry. Alas, the potential consequences of the loss of tropical biodiversity and ecosystem functions are of concern to society as a whole, so that the industrialized world has a responsibility to assist these efforts to the fullest extent possible.

If humankind values intact nature, biodiversity, and wilderness, PARKS MUST WORK in protecting their natural treasures.

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