The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Known as light-red coral, this fungus was photographed in the Ursus Valley in the Clayquot Biosphere Reserve on Vancouver Island.
Image by Adrian Dorst.

Core Reserves

Other creatures need protected habitat to survive and evolve and many can only do so in the absence of human development.

A few animals such as raccoons and coyotes thrive around human settlement. But many creatures need spaces undisturbed by roads, dams, and other encroachments of civilization.

It isn't the actual presence of people that is detrimental, but rather the resources they take away and the footprints they leave behind. If they cut trees, they keep the woods from developing into a deep dark forest that is needed by species such as spotted owls. If they hunt or trap, they are apt to skew the balance between predator and prey, and to appropriate for human use the meat that would otherwise feed bear, cougar, and other carnivores.

Core Reserves may be established in either pristine or recovering areas. In either case, their purpose is to maintain fully functional ecosystems with a complete suite of native species. Reserves provide essential habitat for a wide range of plants, mammals, insects, birds, fish, and other organisms. Within a reserve system, there should be full representation of populations, species, habitats, landscapes, and ecosystem types, particularly those that are scarce or endangered.

The reserve system should capture a complete transect of a bioregion, from low-to-high elevation; terrestrial, freshwater, and marine; wetlands, rivers, forests, prairies, and other ecosystem types; and the full range of climate, soil types, geology, and so forth. At this point in history, human numbers are so great, and the reach of our technology so pervasive, that these Core Reserves are essential for the preservation of Biodiversity.

Core Reserves must be large enough, and sufficiently Green connected to other protected areas, so that they can support viable populations of all native species. They should also be large enough to support the fires, floods, and storms that play a critical role in natural systems. These processes must either be present, or carefully mimicked through management techniques, to provide evolutionary continuity.

Core Reserves should be managed in a way that honors long-stranding, benign uses by local people. They are essential places of spiritual and cultural renewal. With appropriate safeguards, they may be managed as an Ecotourism destination. However, they must remain off-limits to all extractive activity and high-impact recreation.

Set aside large tracts of land and aquatic habitat where the needs of the more-than-human world come first, the commercial extraction of commodities is banned, and people may visit only if they keep their impact to an absolute minimum. Ensure broad representation of species and ecosystem types in a bioregional Core Reserve system.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Gap Analysis is a program that identifies "gaps" in the protection of biodiversity on a state by state basis. The key components of this program are the mapping of land cover according to dominant plant groups, the mapping of the distribution of vertebrate animal species, and the delineation of the level of protection within a state. Display of this information using a GIS format, and analysis of the data collected, provides a snapshot of the status of plant and animal communities. It also provides land and resource managers with the key information they need to make scientifically-based resource decisions. A cooperative effort among regional, state, and federal agencies, and private groups, GAP is coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Clayoquot Sound
As a result of the 1993 Land Use Decision, almost 900 square kilometres (350 square miles) 34 percent of Clayoquot Sound is now preserved for all time. The protected area forms a natural reserve linking the interior mountains to the ocean shore. It includes the largest intact watershed on Vancouver Island, significant old growth forest, lake and river salmon spawning habitat, rare marine ecosystems, and 29 rare plant species. It also includes over 700 square kilometres (270 square miles) of coastal temperate rainforest.

The Haisla Nation of British Columbia led indigenous peoples and environmentalists to a great victory in 1994. Their work saved most of the million-acre Greater Kitlope Ecosystem, the world's largest known, intact, coastal, temperate rainforest watershed. The Haisla and Henaaksiala people have worked for years to ensure protection of the cultural and ecological integrity of the Kitlope. They achieved a critical first step when West Fraser Timber voluntarily relinquished logging rights to 800,000 acres of the Kitlope without seeking compensation. On August 16, the Haisla Nation and B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt announced permanent protection of the Kitlope Valley, three-fourths of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

BC Spaces for Nature

The Nature Conservancy

Trust for Public Land


Noss, R.F, M.A. O'Connell and D.D. Murphy. The Science of Conservation Planning: Habitat Conservation Under the Endangered Species Act. . Washington, DC. 1997.

Noss, Reed F and Allen Y. Cooperrider. Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press. Washington, DC. 1994.

Peck, Sheila. Planning for Biodiversity: Issues and Examples. Island Press. Washington, DC. 1998.

Soule, M.E., ed. Conservation Biology: The Science of Scarcity and Diversity. Sinauer. Sunderland, MA. 1986.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling