Wilderness information systems for education : a proposed management framework.
South Africa's well-established history of formally protected areas has resulted in it becoming a global leader in resource conservation and a pioneer of new management techniques. Roughly thirty years ago, South Africa became one of the earliest countries in the world to legislatively recognise wilderness. Since the first wilderness areas were designated, use and management issues have become increasingly complex as managers strive to balance the biological and social values of wilderness areas. Consequently, it is imperative that management techniques and strategies evolve to preserve wilderness values and resources in South Africa. Wilderness visitor education and information programs are a critical part of an effective wilderness management strategy. To ensure that wilderness education and information systems are inclusive and able to evolve over time three elements are needed. A management framework must be in place to ensure that a system-wide approach is established and maintained. Once a system-wide framework is established, wilderness education and information systems can be inventoried and monitored against established management goals. This information can then be used to continually refine and improve wilderness information and education systems as they evolve through increased understanding of use and management Issues. Lastly, increased wilderness-specific research and continued testing of current research in the South African context is needed, to ensure that management strategies stay relevant and adaptive. These adaptive management strategies will serve as the foundation for wider coordination of wilderness management and research at the provincial and national levels, further developing South Africa's leadership role in protected area management in Africa and the global community.
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