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    Are Parks Protecting the Wildlife and Places They Were Created to Save?

    Elephant patrol As a former director with the International League of Conservation Photographers, Trevor Frost has been keeping a close eye on the world's imperiled places for years. Cleanest Line readers might recognize some of the stories Trevor has helped bring us, such as the Rios Libres series (dedicated to protecting Chile's free-flowing rivers) and, more recently, an initiative to protect the Sacred Headwaters region of western Canada. Today's post is an update on Frost's latest work - this time he's turning his attention to the world's "paper parks," those places that have been set aside - in theory - to protect the world's endangered landscapes and wildlife. Trevor offers this update on what's really going on:

    Parks or protected areas remain our best tool for safeguarding wildlife and wild places and that is why more than 100,000 parks dot the globe protecting reefs and rainforests and mountain ranges. But while some of these parks are doing a great job, many, some would say a majority, are failing to protect the wildlife and wild spaces inside their borders. A closer look at the parks that are struggling often reveals there is little to no on-the-ground-protection for the parks in the form of park rangers, equipment, and even boundary signs to mark park borders.

    [Rangers in Sumatra typically conduct their patrols on foot, but are known to take advantage of alternative transportation when available.  Photo: Rhett A. Butler, 2011, courtesy of Trevor Frost and]

    Illegal logging These parks, protected on maps and in legal documents, are known as 'paper parks' because they are protected only on paper. Paper parks are found throughout the world, including the United States, but in some places the problem is particularly serious. In Indonesia, for example, where I hope to work with a grant from the National Geographic Society, the Ministry of Forestry released a report a few years ago that revealed 37 of their 41 national parks have illegal logging operations inside park borders and in the worst cases, up to 50% of some of the park's forests had been impacted by illegal logging. The same report found that all of the national parks in Indonesia have illegal hunting inside their borders and that 10 of the national parks have illegal mining operations guarded by private security forces with machine guns and helicopters.

    The problem is alarming and there are stories from around the world of parks under siege. Many scientists and leading conservation groups agree that the only way to protect these parks, and therefore the wildlife and ecosystems they were created protect, is by establishing community enforcement programs - whereby people from the local communities who know the land and the wildlife better than anyone - become the park rangers and monitors, the eyes of the forest, if you will. The bottom line is, if we don't start focusing as much energy on taking care of existing parks as we do on creating new parks, we are going to be left with a bunch of parks devoid of life that are just lines on a map.

    Frost.portrait To find out how you can help Patagonia friend and National Geographic Young Explorer Trevor Frost secure a grant from the National Geographic to help local communities and park rangers protect national parks in Sumatra please follow the link below:

    [Above,right - Timber that has been illegally sourced at the edge of Gunung Palung National Park, Borneo, awaits shipment to China, where it will be used to construct the scaffolding required to harvest the swiftlet nests used to make birds-nest soup, a delicacy in China. Photo, Rhett Butler (March 2011), courtesy of Trevor Frost and

    Bottom, left - Trevor Frost. Photo courtesy of Frost.]

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