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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Natural Parks in Portugal: A Way to Become More Ecologically Responsible?

Margarida Queirós

Environment and History 18 (2012): 585-611. doi: 10.3197/096734012X13466893037189

Beginning with the recent history of the early stages and development of the network of nationally protected lands, this paper aims to discuss the obstacles in Portuguese mainland society facing protected lands, such as Natural and National Parks. It aims further to demonstrate that there is no historical tradition of protecting special forests and lands, as a cultural and ethical behaviour pattern rooted in Portuguese society, and nor does Portugal have a significant vocal community of ‘visionaries’ advocating wildlife protection. This paper also discusses practices embedded in Portuguese cultural tradition, related to coping with nature and the conflict of relations between society and its ancient practices and beliefs towards protected wildlife. It argues that protected areas are always under pressure, in particular from campers, motor sports, invasive introduced species, forest fires and, on the coast, urbanisation and touristic developments. It proposes that natural parks in Portugal could be tools for increasing valuation of natural heritage, encouraging more ecological, respectful and responsible attitudes to nature, if participation in the design of protected areas and their management tools were more than a ‘top-down’ rhetoric.

KEYWORDS: Natural parks, conservation policy, environmental values, economic development, spatial plans, land use conflicts, public participation, local communities

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