Countries of the Region
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Grenadines, Greenland, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, USA
The region is fortunate in having many active professional members able to support the WCPA in its work. In the past, a member of the region has served as Chair of the WCPA (Hal Eidsvik), and current members lead and participate in several of the WCPA theme programs, global task forces and networks. Members have also volunteered their time to take part in numerous World Heritage Site reviews, field missions and assisted with the work of other Regions.
The region's program provides the opportunity for members to take an active role in the work of the WCPA on the global level.
There is an active North American Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Working Group, led by Kathryn Ries with the participation of scientists, managers, academics, environmental activists and other individuals from Mexico, Canada and the U.S.
Past accomplishments of WCPA - North America include development of a Regional Action Plan and holding regional meetings in Banff National Park (1995) and in Montreal at the First IUCN World Conservation Congress (1996
The region covers the three countries of Canada, United States and Mexico and associated marine waters. This is one of the original WCPA regions and was host to the World Parks Congress in 1962 (Seattle, USA) and 1972 (Yellowstone National Park, USA).
North America is a continent rich in diversity. Climatic types range from the polar arctic to tropical forests. Topographically, the continent contains a valley with the lowest elevation on earth and also extensive chains of tall mountains. It is blessed with rich natural resources as well as an unmatched variety of scenic natural beauty. Possessed of great variety among its population of native animals and plants, since before recorded history it has also seen the development of a rich diversity in human cultures. Ecologically, North America is a mosaic. Many of its ecosystems possess unique natural features of worldwide significance and of great individuality. The ecological regions of North America are shown on the map (map taken from the Commission of Environmental Cooperation Report "Ecological Regions of North America : Towards a Common Perspective".)
North America is the home of the national park concept which began with Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Since then, each of the three countries has developed extensive and diverse systems of parks, wildlife areas and ecological reserves to meet a range of management objectives. But protected areas in North America face growing challenges. Certain biomes (such as marine, coastal and grasslands) are not adequately represented in protected areas systems. Development pressures are causing habitat alteration and fragmentation which increasingly reduce protected areas to "islands" which cannot guarantee biodiversity conservation. The ecological integrity of most protected areas is under stress from internal factors such as expanding visitor use, and from external ones such as climate change and the spread of exotic species. Also, new forms of effective management must be devised involving local people, especially indigenous people, to ensure that they derive economic and cultural benefits.
Lava fountain (Hawaiian type eruptions) in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Photo: Jim Thorsell