China's National Development and Reform Commission, in cooperation with United States-based think tank Paulson Group, issued a white paper earlier this week concerned with establishing a national park system. The two entities plan to establish pilot projects in nine Chinese provinces over the next three years.
The undertaking will borrow heavily from planning and management practices first put into use 140 years ago in the United States. Officials in Beijing have been pushing for an integrated national park management system since President Xi Jinping green-lighted the idea in 2013, The New York Times is reporting (requires proxy). Coordination and standardization of park management across the country is lacking, and, according to the policy paper:
At present, China has thousands of protected areas in different categories, including nature reserves, scenic areas, world heritage sites, forest parks and geological parks. These protected areas cover about 18 [percent] of China's total land territory, above the world's average. However, due to many legislative, policy, governance and management challenges, these protected areas are not sufficiently safeguarding China's rich and unique biodiversity and ecologically critical ecosystems and effectively preserving diverse natural and cultural resources.
A press release by Paulson Group outlines how experts and long-time US National Park Service veterans will work with representatives from Tsinghua University in Beijing. The group will hold its first meeting June 11 at Wuyishan (武夷山) in Fujian province, near the site of a proposed national park.
Among Paulson Group's representatives will be chief conservation officer Rose Niu, who was born and raised in Yunnan. Previously she worked closely with officials in her home province to establish Pudacuo National Park (普达措国家公园) in 2007, the country's first such endeavor. Successful conservation and preservation efforts in Pudacuo, and Niu's links to the park, could mean it will provide a national model.
Nestled deep in the mountains of northwest Yunnan at an elevation ranging from 3,500 to 4,000 meters, Pudacuo is an integral part of the Three Parallel Rivers Scenic Area, recognized as much for its dramatic topological contours and rich biodiversity, as for its stunning natural beauty. Although covering only 390 square kilometers, Pudacuo contains more than 20 percent of China's plant species, roughly one-third of its mammal and bird species and almost 100 endangered species.
Balancing conservation and tourism has been a hallmark of the US park system, and one China hopes to emulate. For Niu, such efforts are not only wanted by the general public, but are a necessary next step for the country:
The Chinese want beautiful places and beautiful landscapes. They want to enjoy the natural resources. These kinds of resources are less and less in China. China not only needs to fight pollution of air, water and soil, but it also needs to invest in its natural capital.