US Fish & Wildlife Service


Date of this Version



Published in Weber, Samantha, and David Harmon, eds. 2008. Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 2007 GWS Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.


Fundamental changes in protected area outreach and education strategies are dissolving old boundaries and fostering innovative approaches to civic engagement. The practice of community-based ecosystem management as presented by Meffe et al. (2002) provides an organizing framework blending ecological, institutional and sociocultural perspectives. This framework flows from a definition of ecosystem management that considers sustaining ecosystem structure and processes across spatial and temporal scales in tandem with societal priorities. The decision-making authority in this system, envisioned as collaborative and participatory, can present challenges for traditionally trained protected area managers. This definition views ecosystem management as: . . . an approach to maintaining or restoring the composition, structure, and function of natural and modified ecosystems for the goal of long-term sustainability. It is based on a collaboratively developed vision of desired future conditions that integrates ecological, socioeconomic and institutional perspectives, applied within a geographic framework defined primarily by natural ecological boundaries (Meffe et al. 2002:70, emphasis added).