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Conservation policy assumes that national parks and protected areas (PAs) are permanent fixtures on the landscape, but recent research demonstrates widespread PA downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD). Conservative estimates reveal over 320 instances of PADDD in Africa, totalling more than 225,000 km2 in 26 countries. Further, at least 10 PAs (including iconic parks such as the Serengeti NP) have recently faced proposals to downgrade, downsize, or degazette. Though PADDD can–in theory–advance conservation ends through more efficient allocation of conservation assets and more effective forms of resource governance, empirical evidence suggests that PADDD is rarely “pro-conservation.” In Africa and around the world, PADDD is a patchy, episodic phenomenon most commonly associated with industrial-scale natural resource extraction and development; local land pressures and land claims; and conservation planning. To foster transparency and accountability in natural resource decision-making, WWF has developed PADDDtracker.org–a participatory (crowd-sourcing) website for monitoring historic and proposed PADDD. PADDDtracker.org empowers civil society, conservation organizations, government agencies, and citizens with detailed PADDD data and a mechanism to share their insights with a global community.

~ Mike Maschia