National park

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A national park is a reserve of natural or semi-natural land, declared or owned by a government, set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, animal and environmental protection and restricted from most development. While ideas for national parks had been suggested previously, the first one established, in 1872, was the United States' Yellowstone National Park. An international organization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its World Commission on Protected Areas, has defined National Parks as its category II type of protected areas. The largest national park in the world meeting the IUCN definition is the Northeast Greenland National Park, which was established in 1974. According to the IUCN, there are about 7000 national parks worldwide (2010 figure).[3]



In 1969 the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) declared a national park to be a relatively large area with particular defining characteristics.[4] A national park was deemed to be a place

  • with one or several ecosystems not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation, where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites and habitats are of special scientific, educative and recreative interest or which contain a natural landscape of great beauty.
  • the highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate as soon as possible exploitation or occupation in the whole area and to enforce effectively the respect of ecological, geomorphological or aesthetic features which have led to its establishment.
  • visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educative, cultural and recreative purposes.

In 1971 these criteria were further expanded upon leading to more clear and defined benchmarks to evaluate a national park. These include:

  • a minimum size of 1,000 hectares within zones in which protection of nature takes precedence
  • statutory legal protection
  • a budget and staff sufficient to provide sufficient effective protection
  • prohibition of exploitation of natural resources (including the development of dams) qualified by such activities as sport, fishing, the need for management, facilities, etc.

While national parks are generally understood to be administered by national governments (hence the name), in Australia national parks are run by State Governments and predate the Federation of Australia.


In 1810, the English poet William Wordsworth described the Lake District as a

"sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy".

The painter George Catlin, in his travels through the American West, wrote in 1832 that the Native Americans in the United States might be preserved

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