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Parks, people, and change: the importance of multistakeholder engagement in adaptation planning for conserved areas

Corrine N. Knapp, Department of Environment and Sustainability, Western State Colorado University
F. Stuart Chapin III, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
Gary P. Kofinas, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
Nancy Fresco, Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
Courtney Carothers, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
Amy Craver, Denali National Park and Preserve


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Climate change challenges the traditional goals and conservation strategies of protected areas, necessitating adaptation to changing conditions. Denali National Park and Preserve (Denali) in south central Alaska, USA, is a vast landscape that is responding to climate change in ways that will impact both ecological resources and local communities. Local observations help to inform understanding of climate change and adaptation planning, but whose knowledge is most important to consider? For this project we interviewed long-term Denali staff, scientists, subsistence community members, bus drivers, and business owners to assess what types of observations each can contribute, how climate change is impacting each, and what they think the National Park Service should do to adapt. The project shows that each type of long-term observer has different types of observations, but that those who depend more directly on natural resources for their livelihoods have more and different observations than those who do not. These findings suggest that engaging multiple groups of stakeholders who interact with the park in distinct ways adds substantially to the information provided by Denali staff and scientists and offers a broader foundation for adaptation planning. It also suggests that traditional protected area paradigms that fail to learn from and foster appropriate engagement of people may be maladaptive in the context of climate change.

Key words

Conservation; climate change; local knowledge; National Park; resilience; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087