The Nature Conservancy - Parks in Peril
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Darien Biosphere ReserveSince 1986, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been a major partner and contributor to The Nature Conservancy's work in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). TNC developed the Parks in Peril (PIP) Program as an urgent effort to safeguard the most imperiled natural ecosystems, communities, and species in the LAC region. In 1990, USAID and TNC entered into what became a 17-year partnership to support PIP initiatives. PIP operated in threatened national parks and reserves of global biological significance, and sought to conserve these critically important ecosystems by building local institutional capacity for on-site management. Since the launch of PIP, USAID has provided key support to TNC and its partners in the pursuit of these objectives.

Photo: Conservation planning with local communities, Darien Biosphere Reserve, Panama
© Janie M. Greene

Parks in Peril (1990-1999)

In September of 1990, the Latin American and Caribbean Bureau of USAID and TNC formed a relationship to support PIP activities through the end of 1995. This first phase of PIP was guided by the first four goals of on-site protection, long-term management, long-term financing, and building local constituency for site conservation. In 1995 PIP began a new phase as TNC drew upon the first years of the collaboration with USAID, as well as the results of an external evaluation of the first four years of PIP implementation, to prepare a comprehensive, multi-year plan for the new PIP project. Eventually extended through 2002, the new project proposed to consolidate current site-based activities for long-term management in 28 protected areas through Latin America and the Caribbean, to add an additional 9 sites to the “PIP network” (for a total of 37), and to leverage the lessons learned into a broader audience of sites and conservation organizations through its “Balancing Themes” component. In all, over its first 12 years, the program brought over $62 million to important protected areas throughout the region – $37.5 from USAID, and $24.8 from TNC and its local partner organizations.

Parks in Peril 2000 (2001-2007)

In 2001, TNC and USAID entered into a new phase of PIP. This project, titled PIP 2000 – A Conservation Partnership for the Americas built on the successes and experiences of earlier phases of Parks in Peril, leveraging those experiences to a larger number of protected areas. Originally proposed to extend from 2001 to 2006 (with a year of overlap with the previous PIP project), PIP 2000 would include $22,868,000 from USAID, plus matching funds from TNC and local partner organizations for a total expected investment of nearly $30 million. The project was later extended to last a total of 6 years and, because of its successes, to include additional funding from USAID in-country Missions, bringing the total of USAID funding for PIP 2000 to $35.7 million; including matching funds from TNC and partner organizations, the total project investment was about $45 million over 6 years. PIP 2000 strived to achieve conservation success through site-based, intensive site consolidation activities at target sites to install long-term, sustainable conservation management; system-level strategies that use PIP’s network of partner organizations and sites to leverage conservation success to entire systems of conservation areas; and international alliances of organizations to confront the most important conservation problems we face today, also know as Multi-Site Strategies (MSS).

PIP 2000 improved the management status of 12 consolidation sites (the total number of sites since 1990 is 45 because four of the original 37 sites were enlarged and included in PIP 2000), as well as in implementing MS Strategies. PIP’s consolidation achievements include measurable progress in establishing effective management presence at sites, development of management plans based on strategic assessment of priority conservation targets and conservation threats, generation of sources of sustainable funding to continue conservation activities after PIP ended, development of policies supportive of conservation, and including local communities in conservation of protected areas. MS Strategies have included developing national programs for conservation of private lands, training national systems of protected areas in better management practices, Ecoregional Planning that brings government authorities and major conservation organizations together to establish landscape-scale priorities for conservation, establishment of trust funds and creating financing mechanisms to provide funding for conservation, institutional development to build strong conservation organizations, and international agreements to improve conservation of important border areas.  PIP’s Multi-Site and Alliance achievements include:


Conservation Area Planning guiding approved management plans in each of the 12 PiP 2000 sites, and CAP introduced as an approved conservation planning methodology in the national protected area systems in many LAC countries.


The largest international, Private Lands Conservation program in existence, with an improved legal framework for PLC and various PLC support structures in place, and private reserves established, in Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia.

A robust framework for prosecuting illegal loggers and poachers in Peru, supporting enforcement efforts particularly in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

Completed Ecoregional Plans to guide conservation efforts of conservation institutions in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.

The Caribbean Decision Support System, and innovative tool granting access by any conservation organization to ecoregional planning data, and a establishment of freshwater and Marine conservation priorities on the South American continent.

In fulfillment of the COP-7 Programme of Work on Protected Areas, signed National Implementation Support Partnership agreements, in nearly every country where PiP has been active.

Completed gap analyses, capacity strategies, and/or finance strategies for systems of protected areas in most of these countries.

New tools to address large infrastructure projects as both conservation strategies and potential threats to biodiversity.

Completed Tropical Forest Conservation Act debt-for-nature swaps in Peru, Panama, Guatemala, and Jamaica.

Better management of protected areas that straddle international boundaries through cooperation among the government institutions responsible, especially in La Amistad International Park in Panama and Costa Rica, and Sama Watershed in Argentina and Bolivia.

Creation of municipal protected areas in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Guatemala.

Built on local recognition of the importance of biodiversity conservation and resource management for local livelihoods and health, these pilots provide mechanisms for improved biodiversity conservation in parallel with regional trends towards decentralization of governance responsibilities.

In Jamaica, successful insertion of bauxite mining as a topic in the public discussion of biodiversity and resource management.  This parallels PiP support for launch of “Local Forest Management Committees,” through which the national government has formalized the role of local communities in resource management.

Adoption of the Central Selva Biosphere Reserve by the Oxapampa Provincial Government as a foundation for its provincial development strategy.

In Ecuador, establishment of the National Water Fund, which generates funding based on the value of water provided by Condor Bioreserve, using it to fund conservation activities in Condor.

PiP has also supported community development to help indigenous communities reduce expansion into the reserve; on result has been a 100% reduction in Andean bears shot by local inhabitants after killing cattle grazed in the periphery of the reserve, and creation of a fund to compensate the owners of cattle that are killed.

Establishment of the first tourism entrance fee system for Bolivia’s protected area system at Eduardo Avaroa Reserve which in addition to generating over $750k since its inception in 1999, provided a template for replication across Bolivia. As a result of these efforts a presidential decree creating the legal framework for this new policy was promulgated in early 2006.

Through economic valuation studies in Ecuador and Peru, established a new approach for establishing a technical basis for determining tourism management costs and revenue potential for protected areas.

A Program of Success

Since 1990, PIP has become well known for its success in transforming what had formerly been "paper parks" into functional protected areas. We call this “Site Consolidation”—consolidating the infrastructure, staff, tools, institutional and technical capacity, and financing necessary to protect and manage protected areas of globally-important biological diversity. Between 1990 and 2002, PiP worked in 45 protected areas in 18 countries, where it built or renovated over 100 headquarters, visitor centers, and other protection facilities; trained over 1,000 rangers, protected area managers, and extensionists; and provided continuous institutional development guidance, financial support, and technical assistance to local conservation organizations. At each PIP site, the Program engaged local communities in management decisions and conservation activities, fostering support for the protection of these areas. The PIP Program also catalyzed innovative methods for improving the long-term financial stability of these sites. In a number of countries, the Program successfully engaged local partners in promoting important changes in the policy and regulatory contexts that make successful long-term conservation possible. TNC’s focus on building strong conservation partnerships has given the PIP Program its most important tool and its most enduring legacy. Working closely with counterpart NGOs, government agencies and local communities, the Conservancy has made the development of lasting institutional capacity an explicit objective in all that it does.

  • Future (2008 and Beyond) 

    Parks in Peril ends in 2007 as scheduled, having succeeded in its primary goal:  building local capacity for conservation.  It strengthened regional institutions for better conservation, and leaves them engaged in collaborative efforts.  Many individuals trained by PiP have continued in influential government and non-government leadership positions.  PiP’s legacy includes this foundation for continuing and future conservation success in the region.

    Learn more about how PIP has worked...