New Administrative Measures Issued to Facilitate the Building of a Nature Reserve System
NFGA released the Measures for the Administration of National Nature Parks (for trial implementation) on October 10th. It aims to establish a unified system for the establishment, adjustment, planning, zoning, and protection management of national nature parks by authorities at the local (subprovincial) level. In 2018, the management of geological parks, scenic and historic areas, marine parks, and other such places that were originally governed by different departments were unified under the NFGA and became collectively designated as ‘nature parks’. The new Measures clarify the national nature parks (NNPs) include: national scenic and historic areas, national forest parks, national geological parks, national marine parks, national wetland parks, national desert (rocky desert) parks, and national grassland parks. However, the Measures only apply to 6 types of NNPs, excluding national scenic and historic areas. The forestry and grassland authorities at the county level or above are responsible for supervising and managing NNPs within their administrative regions, while the management units of NNPs are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of their respective parks.
The Measures also mentions that NNPs should be included in the ecological red lines, and they are managed as general control zones, where human activities are restricted. While regarding the detailed planning of functional zoning, these parks can be planned with ecological conservation zones and reasonable utilization zones, undertaking the functions of ecosystem protection and restoration, and tourist activities respectively.
The Guidelines on Building a Nature Reserve System with National Parks as the Main Body issued in 2019 put forward the concept of a nature reserve system. There are three types of nature reserves: national parks, nature protection areas, and nature parks, categorised by the ecological value and level of protection intensity. National parks play a key role in the system, nature protection areas serve as the foundation, and nature parks are supplementary. In other words, nature parks are the least protected areas with the lowest ecological values among these three types of nature reserves. The Guidelines also set the goal of improving the legal framework and the systems of administration and supervision by 2025 . The new Measures, which focus on the administration issues of NNPs are an important step toward achieving this goal.
However, experts expressed concern about the conflicts of laws since the higher-level national park law and revised regulations on nature protection areas have not been issued . In addition, scenic and historic areas, such as Jiuzhai Valley and Taihu, emain outside the scope of these Measures. They are addressed in another draft document issued by NFGA, which revises the Regulations of Scenic and Historic Areas, and which is now requesting public comments. The draft regulation mentions that areas with important ecological functions and sensitive and fragile ecological environments within the scenic and historic areas should be included in the ecological red lines and managed as general control zones. This is different from the Measures, which include the whole areas of the other six types of NNPs in the ecological red lines. The NFGA, MEE, MNR, and some other departments will jointly engage in the management.