Mount Royal University’s Director of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability Michael Quinn is going worldwide with transboundary conservation — a term used for protected areas that connect across political boundaries and are managed cooperatively for conservation purposes. A special category of these transboundary parks is ‘Peace Parks’, areas established to promote peace and collaboration across borders.
On Feb. 28, 2013, Quinn will discuss his new book Parks, Peace and Partnership: Global Initiatives in Transboundary Conservation, and the elements that go into protected area collaboration.
“The establishment of national parks is just a little over a century old. The thing about just drawing lines on maps is that those lines don’t mean anything to a grizzly bear, wolf, or river which move back and forth across borders,” explains Quinn. “Over time, the more people looked at protected areas the more they realized that movement across artificial lines was really important and that it made sense to manage them collaboratively.”
The first formal International Peace Park agreement was between Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in the United States. That same year, there was another agreement established between Poland and the former Czechoslovakia.
Since that time, the notion of transboundary conservation has caught on, and more countries are now establishing new internationally protected areas.
In 2007, Quinn organized a conference that marked the 75th anniversary of the world’s first international peace park. The event bought transboundary protected area managers from over 30 countries together to talk about transboundary protection.
“The main impetus for creating the book came from organizing that conference,” Quinn explains. “I worked with a number of participants who wrote individual chapters so the book carries the voices of many different places from around the world.”
“One of my favourite parts of the process was working the different authors. It really made me feel like “a citizen of the world” because I was talking to people about common issues happening in every area across the globe.”
Getting his hands dirty with conservation
One major benefit of transboundary agreements is that areas are able to share costs around research, search and rescue missions and forest fire prevention and control.
For instance, South Africa shares a border with Mozambique. One area is quite stable and the other has gone through a lot or turmoil, so through a transboundary agreement both areas benefit by sharing resources across the border and eventually, things balance out.
Monetary restraints are not the only reason transboundary conservation agreements are important.
“A great example is the elephants in Africa. In certain countries there is an overpopulation of elephants that are knocking down trees and eating themselves out of house and home,” Quinn says. “Some of these places have fences put up on the border and elephants aren’t able to get to the other side.
“By establishing a protected area, the fences come down and the elephants are able to move seamlessly across the border and reestablish their population.”
A look inside the book
Although Quinn’s main focus of the book included editing and collaborating with individual authors, he had the opportunity to write a few chapters.
“I wrote a chapter with a previous PhD student of mine on the connections between Canada and Mexico,” says Quinn.
“Canada shares species with Mexico that go back and forth between the two countries,” Quinn explains. “We are connected through the annual movements of monarch butterflies, burrowing owls and a number of hawks.
There are also connections along the Canadian coasts. Grey Whales, for example, will pass the coast of Vancouver Island a month from now and when it’s winter they will travel the coast of Mexico.
The future of conservation
Quinn plans on bringing his vast fieldwork knowledge to campus.
He currently runs a joint program with the University of Calgary and the University of Montana that includes a transboundary course where students will learn first-hand what it’s like to manage transboundary conservation programs. He is hoping to make this opportunity available to students at Mount Royal University as well.
“I want to raise the profile on campus of environment and sustainability issues and coordinate research opportunities for students and faculty,” says Quinn. “I also want to establish a protected area parks working group.
Currently, Quinn is working on an agreement with the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park just west of Calgary for research opportunities.
“Without transboundary conservation we would lose critical movement across borders that is not only nice to have, but is essential to have,” he says. “Without the movement of water, pollutants, animals and people we would be faced with a major problem in the future.”
— Angela Sengaus, Feb. 28, 2013