Last week, President Xi Jinping unexpectedly announced the establishment of the first five national parks under China’s new national park system.
The parks – Sanjiangyuan, Giant Panda, Northeast Tiger and Leopard, Hainan Tropical Rainforest and Wuyi Mountains – had spent several years in a trial phase.
On Thursday, the State Council Information Office gave more information on the parks in an ad hoc press conference.
An official with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) said the new system is designed to address the fragmentation and fuzzy boundaries of existing protected areas by integrating them, and to aid coordination among different ministries and local governments.
The first group of five parks covers 230,000km2 and 30% of national protected wild animals and plants species.
Another NFGFA official said several aspects of the national parks are yet to be established, namely their precise boundaries, master plans, administrative bodies, and rights to natural resources. Notably, he mentioned the importance of balancing and integrating conservation and community development, as there have been concerns the parks would exclude the needs of local people.
The official also said there will be a dynamic and open “reserve system” for candidate national parks, to steer the establishment of new ones. He said China’s seas will be a priority in designating the next batch of parks.
But the event made no mention of the National Park Law, which was due to be released last year and many experts had hoped could be passed in order to guide the establishment of the first national parks. Last week in Kunming, Huang Runqiu, the minister of ecology and environment, said its legislation is still being studied, together with a separate law on nature reserves.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated China’s land area.
See our report from last week on the Yarlung Tsangpo canyon, which many experts would like to see designated as a national park.