History of Protected Areas in Argentina: A Seesaw of Shifting Priorities and Policies in a Developing Country
Protected Areas (PAs) are key to avoiding habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. Most research conducted in PAs has focused on the geological, biological or ecological aspects of sites, while few studies have examined the policymaking process. However, PA designation might reflect the political history of a country regarding environmental protection and whether PA designation is based on a strong conservation commitment or is instead propaganda yielding ‘paper parks’. Argentina, the first Latin American nation to set land aside to protect it, provides a case study of the process of constructing a PA system, and certain elements apply to other developing countries. Its first national park was created in 1922, and the first law concerning PAs was promulgated in 1934. Since then, a succession of democratic governments interrupted by military regimes has modified parks and promulgated laws changing conservation priorities. The conservation goal of PAs was not always manifest in government policies. Despite the number of PAs (48 by 2019) and area covered (14,718,420 hectares total by 2019), most of these lands face the same challenges as PAs in many other developing nations, including limited budgets, lack of field staff, absence of strategic planning, insufficient political support and corruption. Since the return to democracy in 1983, new laws have been enacted based on experience gathered in other nations. However, existence of a law does not guarantee its enforcement. Environmental NGOs, the scientific community and a growing concerned citizenry nowadays constitute the most important forces supporting the conservation function of PAs and environmental conservation in general in Argentina.
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