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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

(Re)Centering socioenvironmental justice: Thinking about co-management of and access to parks and protected areas in the United States


An international group of graduate students utilized the 2021 George Wright Society Student Summit to come together and discuss potential practices to bolster socioenvironmental justice implementation within the United States National Park Service (NPS). Focusing on accessibility and co-management perspectives, this group reflected on various definitions of terms, historical contexts of the Park Service nationally and globally, and how partnerships are essential to inclusivity and relevance building. This led to further discourse about potential methods of incorporating socioenvironmental justice aims into specific areas of NPS by reviewing its current practices and global case studies surrounding accessibility and co-management of protected areas. Major conclusions emphasize streamlining definitions surrounding access, accessibility, and co-management; understanding that co-management is not a monolithic framework but one dependent on local communities; continued recognition of historical exclusions of marginalized peoples; and embracing partnerships by providing stakeholders with equal positions of power, authority, and access. This thought piece aims to catalyze discourse surrounding a potential transition toward more inclusive co-management practices within US protected areas, while still remaining true to the missions and goals of their respective organizations. We recognize and do not intend to discredit any of the work that NPS and other organizations have produced towards improving sustainable co-management strategies, but rather suggest that there is always room for improvement. In doing so, we offer some potential strategies and big picture notions to be mindful of when engaging in socially just co-management practices.

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