Local Environmental Movements: A Comparative Study of the United States and Japan

By Pradyumna P. Karan; Unryu Suganuma | Go to book overview

Chapter 17
The Management of Mountain Natural
Parks by Local Communities in Japan

Teiji Watanabe

High mountainous areas in Japan have not historically been targeted for intensive use by animal herders, having been considered sacred since at least the sixth or seventh century (Koizumi 2001). Use patterns have begun to change, however. With the construction of roads and the development of recreational facilities, the mountains have become a resort destination. And with this change also has come natural resource deterioration, such as rapid soil erosion on trails, the accumulation of human waste and trash, and the loss of alpine vegetation by trampling and by illegal collection.

Most high mountainous areas in Japan are designated as natural parks, whether national, quasi-national,1 or prefectural. The highest areas—those above sixteen hundred meters on Hokkaido Island in northern Japan and above twenty-six hundred meters on Honshu Island in central Japan—are alpine zones characterized by extremely strong winter winds and an uneven distribution of snow cover that ranges from zero to more than twenty meters. The result is beautiful, highaltitude landscapes, complex, patchy patterns of dwarf pine (Pinus pumila), alpine meadows, permanent snow, and active periglacial landforms. Nineteen of twenty-eight national parks are in high mountainous areas (Norihisa and Suzuki 2006).

The national park system of Japan is described in Hiwasaki (2005, 2006) and Norihisa and Suzuki (2006). One of its distinctive features is that, unlike the system prevailing in the United States, the government can, under the Natural Parks Law (which regulates national, quasi-national, and prefectural natural parks), establish national parks without first procuring the land (Norihisa and Suzuki 2006).

This chapter first discusses trail deterioration, describing the present state of park trails and the causes of deterioration; provides examples of grassroots movements attempting to protect parkland; considers the role that grassroots movements played in the amending of the Natural Parks Law in 2002; and discusses the importance of the continued involvement of grassroots movements in protecting mountain natural parks.


Nature Deterioration and Its
Management

A trail is the basis of the management and use of mountain national parks, which normally have roads (paved and unpaved, for both vehicles and hikers) only in buffer zones. The deterioration of natural conditions usually starts on and near trails. It can be observed in the form of soil erosion, sedimentation of the eroded soils, and damage to surrounding vegetation. Many of the major trails in Japanese mountains are among the most severely deteriorated in the world.

Soil erosion on trails has been studied most in Daisetsuzan National Park (DNP), located in the central part of Hokkaido Island, northern Japan (see figure 17.1). Determining the extent of soil erosion is difficult,

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