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Over the last 130 years, over 100,000 protected areas have been established, covering more area than India and China put together.

We have a history of protecting natural areas for thousands of years for various religious and cultural reasons. For example, there were sacred forests of South and Southeast Asia and parts of Africa, and sacred hunting and burial grounds of various pre-industrial people in the New World. In past centuries, Kings and Emperors in various European and Asian countries set aside game reserves for their own personal hunting. The modern era of protecting natural areas began in 1872 with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. This movement picked up momentum worldwide in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

By the early 20th century, many countries had established natural protected areas
By the early 20th century, many countries had established natural protected areas and several had established government agencies with the sole purpose of protecting and managing those parks. In the early 20th century, the United States and Canada established bilateral treaties that would protect endangered species or areas that crossed international borders. This movement of internationalizing protecting natural spaces became much more widespread with the establishment of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 1948.

The first protected areas in the United States were used for recreation and conservation together. In the 1980s, it was understood that protected areas for the purposes of nature protection and science alone, conservation alone, or conservation and recreation were not popular with many lower-income countries because they still rely on the protected spaces for resources.

The IUCN and the WCPA (World Commission of Protected Areas), which is an organization within the IUCN, have been adapting their regulations to try to better match the needs of these developing countries to allow them to still have limited uses of the protected lands. In 1994, the category of "Extractive Reserves" was added, which not only included a number of regions in developing countries, but also US National Forests and National Grasslands.

Even more: News and the FAQ
Encyclopedia of the Earth - Protected Spaces
Review of international regulations regarding protected spaces, including IUCN classifications
Click now to view
Encyclopedia of the Earth - Protected Spaces
Review of international regulations regarding protected spaces, including IUCN classifications
Click now to view
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