Private Protected Area


In the conservation world, private areas are increasingly set aside for public benefit, either as the primary motivation or as a significant secondary objective.

Origins of the private approach to protected areas can be traced to private initiatives to create conventional, public protected areas, and in most cases are inextricably linked to government conservation regimes. (Examples of private individuals creating protected areas and gifting them to the public for governments to manage are many and familiar. Some are centre pieces of national systems of protected areas.) What sets private protected areas apart is that land ownership is not relinquished to the state, or at least not fully.

The origin of the word private is the Latin privatus, “withdrawn from public life,” in turn derived from privus, “single, individual.” But oddly neither of these necessarily apply to private protected areas. Though private ownership is retained, when truly managed as protected areas private reserves have public benefits – either direct (e.g. immediate public access) or indirect (biodiversity conservation or ecological services). And privus need not apply: in fact a majority of PPAs are not owned by a single individual.

The definition of private protected area crafted at the 2003 IUCN World Parks Congress was “a land parcel of any size that is 1) predominantly managed for biodiversity conservation; 2) protected with or without formal government recognition; and 3) is owned or otherwise secured by individuals, communities, corporations or non-governmental organisations.” Thus, ownership (or functional equivalent) can be held by a variety of actors. Of the four main governance types recognized by IUCN—a) government managed; b) co-managed (i.e. multi-stakeholder management); c) privately managed; and d) indigenous and community conserved areas)—private protected areas are the least understood. The specialist group is conducting a global assessment of them, the first of its kind, to be reported at the next World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, in 2014.

Sendero Sonia Hiriart

Sendero Sonia Hiriart

Photo: Brent Mitchell

  • WCPA
Brent Mitchell
  • Brent Mitchell

WCPA Specialist Group on Private Protected Areas and Nature Stewardship Leader