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Ecological and sociopolitical assessment of congressional and presidential designation of federal protected areas

Creech, Tyler G., Williamson, Matthew A.
Ecological applications 2019 v.29 no.4 pp. e01888
biodiversity, climate, conservation areas, industry, laws and regulations, monuments, national parks, politics, United States
Protected areas are one of the most effective means by which biodiversity is conserved, but are often criticized for either neglecting the importance of local communities or sacrificing conservation objectives for political expedience. In the United States, federal protected areas can be designated via a democratic legislation process or via executive action, which allows for comparison of the ecological and sociopolitical context of these top‐down and bottom‐up processes. We compared protected areas resulting from congressional designation vs. presidential designation with respect to their ecological context (using measures of biodiversity and climate refugial potential) and sociopolitical context (using measures of local support for conservation and reliance on natural resource‐based industries). We found minimal differences between these designation modes for both ecological and sociopolitical variables. These results suggest that presidentially designated protected areas tend to be no more burdensome to local communities and no less valuable for ecological conservation than more widely accepted federal protected areas such as national parks, and they provide new evidence to inform the current debate over national monuments.