National Parks
  Image source :
A national park, according to international criteria, is a relatively large area, at least 1,000 ha (2,471 acres) or more, whose natural features  and ecology, including plants and animals, are great beauty, scientific interest, and recreational and educational value. National parks are protected by laws and law-enforcement officers and are entered by visitors only under special conditions that preserve the features for which the parks were established.
Because much of the world's unique heritage is endangered by pollution, the advance of human settlements, conflict over the use of land and resources, and other problems, many countries are setting aside national parks as rapidly as possible. In the 1880s fewer than ten national parks existed, in Australia, Canada, and the United States. By the late 1980s far more than 2,000 national parks and equivalent reserves had been established by more than 100 countries, with the number of  few parks increasing each year.
Based largely on the United States model, an immense collection of national parks has come into being around the world. Australia established its first park in 1879; New Zealand, in 1894. What was to become South Africa's famed 19, 485-km2 in 1898 (national park status:1926). Sweden (1909), Russia (1911), France (1913), Switzerland (1914), and many other countries soon established parks. Great strides were made in 1930s in Argentina, Chile, and Equador. Japanese officials, after visiting the United States, began (1934) to build a system that now occupies slightly more than 5% of the country's total land area. After World War II a number of outstanding African parks were set aside; some of the largest included Serengeti (Tanzania), Ruwenzori (Uganda), Tsavo (Kenya), Wankie (Zimbabwe), and Kafue (Zambia). The world's highest and most scenic waterfalls, and many of the highest and most scenic mountains, on nearly every continent are in national parks.

Many parks constitute immense wild-animal reserves, as on the African plains. Some wildlife concentrations have great historic significance, such as those island species studied (1835) by Charles Darwin in what is now Galapagos National Park, Ecuador. Certain parks are important as the last refuges of animal species once nearly extinct, such as Bialoweiza National Park (Poland), which protects the European bison.

The tendency of many governments has been to establish as many parks as possible before advancing civilization alters the character of natural environments. Likewise, the sizes of individual parks have reached extremes. Greenland National Park (1974), for example, covers one-third of Greenland, an area larger than Texas.
Whereas the most important goal of national parks is preserving the national heritage, the developing countries place special emphasis on economic benefits, especially through tourism. Mostly because of national parks, tourism in Kenya is the country's largest source of foreign exchange. It is a difficult task, however, to find local experts who can plan and manage parks in developing countries. Frequently, these countries do not posses the economic means to establish and maintain areas at national-park standard. Students and officials of numerous nations have undertaken training in the United States and elsewhere. As a result, expertise within countries rose dramatically during the 1970s.(Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia).

The Problem & Prospect
Some of the associated with national parks result when the delicate balance of the natural environment is disrupted. One problem is the presence of exotic or introduced species that encroach on the habitats of native animals. Goats are a widespread culprit, as destruction in the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere attests. Many other such out-of-place animals are causing widespread damage that calls for stringent measures.
Even native animals given protection may multiply so rapidly that their large number threaten to destroy the park environment. Other animal species may suffer, and plant and water resources are endangered. Two examples of this are the African elephant and the Yellowstone elk.

The most challenging problems facing national parks result from human impact. Sometimes these problems originate outside the park. Acid rain, plus pollutants in rivers, the sea, and the air, bring into pristine park environments chemicals against which native life forms have envolved no protection. Consequently, life in lakes, and bays has been threatened, damaged, or destroyed.

With the tremendous growth of popular interest in national parks beginning during the 1960s, overuse became a serious problem in many countries, including the United States and Japan. In the United States the National Parks Service created a special police force to handle the large numbers of visitors. Increased use places a strain on the parks environment and makes misuse harder to control. Such problems as poaching of protected species have proved exceedingly difficult to control, especially in the big-game parks of East Africa.

When early national parks were created,
such as those in Western U.S. the Indians lands
were alienated
Special problems results when national parks occupy the home of traditional indigenous peoples. When early national parks were created, such as those in the western United States, the Indians lands were alienated. In many countries, however, traditional groups still occupy, the land, as at Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (South Africa), where the San (Bushmen) live. When indigenous people live within the parks, their economic and social system are often threatened both by restrictive measures designed to protect the environment and by their contact with visitors. Some governments, therefore, allow the groups to retain varying degrees of control over the parks, in Australia, Kakadu National Park is the home of Aborigines whose tribal council gave the land in trust to the federal government for 99 years. The tribe members are allowed to hunt and decide where visitors may go.

As more wild areas are established, and even more are sought, a cry arises from miners, farmers, and developers: how much wilderness is enough? These conflicts are increasing as the world's resources become scarcer. Many national parks were created to preserve ares of outstanding scenic beauty, such as mountains. At the time of establishment it was often believed that the land was not economically usable. Many parks, however, do possess exploitable resources, and their control is a source of conflict between conservationists and developers. Portions of Australia's Great Barrier Reef were threatened (1960s) by mining interests seeking to conduct exploratory offshore drilling, but the park itself was expanded.
Conflicts over water are common and frequently result from proposed dams threatening parkland's. Despite a bitter struggle during the mid 1960s, U.S. conservationists were unable to prevent the Colorado River in Glen Canyon from being dammed to create Lake Powell. In recent years many parks throughout the world have lost timber to the logging industry, including Nahuel Huapi, the largest national park in Argentina. Because public lands, often uninhabited, have been largely acquired for park purpose's already, it is no longer as easy to establish parks.

Some countries, mostly developing nations, are now attempting to eliminate the adversary relationship between conservationists and developers before parks are established by integrating both preservation and long-term resource needs in the planning stages. The actual location of the park becomes a key factor. In Brazil some national parks are surrounded by protected areas where multiple land use is permitted, thus "cushioning" the fragile inner environment while allowing controlled resource exploitation in the surrounding area.
Thus some long-range trends have become clear. Scores of governments have demonstrated a fundamental desire to conserve natural and historic places. Visitors are better informed about the world around them. And there is a more acute awareness of the extraordinary economic benefits of national parks. Given all this, it seems safe to conclude that governments throughout the world are adopting various versions of the 1916 congressional act that mandated the work of the U.S National Parks Service. This service, said the act, shall conserve the parks in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. (Ann and Myron Sutton)