The most effective way to conserve biodiversity and wildlife is a hotly debated topic. Although there are many models of conservation programs, the majority of them can be placed into two categories, the fortress model of conservation and rights based conservation programs. In the presentation given at the mid-term conference, both forms were compared and the benefits and drawbacks of each one were examined.
The fortress model of conservation focuses solely on protecting wildlife and its habitat from contact with humans. Under this model, conservation programs seek to remove humans completely from an ecosystem in order to protect it. Proponents of the fortress model believe that conservation goals must be held above human needs, and that human wellbeing must sometimes be sacrificed in order to protect nature. The fortress model also operates under the assumption that nature should be protected for its intrinsic value, not because of its value to humans.
A prominent example of fortress model of conservation given in the presentation was the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In order to create the park, tribes and families that had been living on parkland for generations were removed. Additionally, future development and resource use in the park were prohibited.
Fortress model conservation programs are often very effective at protecting wildlife and maintaining biodiversity. Where they falter, however, is in their inability to meet the needs of people. When fortress model programs are put into effect, the rights of people living in the areas covered by the program are often ignored. Indigenous people are forced off their land, and their traditional rights to resource use are lost. This is particularly problematic as the environmental concerns that lead to the creation of protected areas are often the result of actions from outside actors, not the people living within the protected area.
The second model of conservation discussed was rights based conservation efforts. This model focuses on community based conservation programs that maintain the rights of indigenous peoples. Rather than creating protected areas and excluding human activity, areas of conservation concern are managed as resources for historic resources users.
In rights based conservation schemes, local knowledge of conservation issues is valued and resources are managed in the way that indigenous people have always used them. The idea behind these conservation programs is that if local people continue to see value in the ecosystems around them, they will do their best to protect them and use resources in a sustainable manner.
By Joseph Friedland