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16 | 2017
Urban Nature(s)

Thinking together cities and protected areas
Editor's notes

A few decades ago, the theme of the connection between cities and protected areas was not as relevant as today. The national parks and other strong environmental protections were typically located in remote areas, and the environmental issue was a marginal question for cities facing urban growth and planning difficulties.

Nevertheless, many urban national parks do exist today, sometimes in large metropolises. This new spatial combination is also related to tourism and urban leisure, due to urban development but also to some new visions of what a protected area may be. It generates a new relationship between “natural” protected areas and cities - and even maybe some kind of hybrid spaces, intermingling what was considered in a modern theoretical perspective as the respective symbols of nature and culture.

The different fields studied in this issue deal with this three main points:

- In a sense, this new spatial and functional combination leads to a redefinition of what a protected area is, and, conversely, of what a city is. Does the increasing willingness of main cities to be considered as green and sustainable places induce some change in the management of the urban protected areas? The classical city gardens, mainly considered on an aesthetic and recreational point of view, can easily be integrated in some sustainable discourses about city planning. But the protection purposes, such as gazetted lands and biodiversity, lead to some new issues for environmental managers and may induce some evolution in the definition of the metropolis developed by city planners. Beyond the iconic image of the green city and its sustainable objectives (waste, access to water, pollution etc), the protected areas, by their territorial aspects, may generate some new definitions of the physical urban space, but also of the urban governance, in a more integrated and participative way.

- Are the protected areas in urban context a Fab Lab to innovative governance system? From a theoretical point of view, they may be. But the reality seems quite different, and our second objective is to question the different conflicts induced by the combination between cities and strictly protected areas. The academic literature contains many studies on the structural conflicts linked to the protection projects, which always function to restrain some peoples’ rights. But the original situation of these areas of (inter)national interest must be confronted to the metropolises’ scale.

- Finally, we will try to understand if these trends are as international as they seem. How do national contexts, and its consequences in terms of environmental legislation, but also of administrative frame, produce some nuances in this theoretical panorama?

This issue, coordinated by Dr. Véronique Fourault-Cauët, UMR Lavue, Laboratoire Mosaïques, University of Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense, will be published in 2017.

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