Difference Between National Park and National Forest

National Park vs National Forest

Conservation of nature through protecting the wildlife has come to the common aware for some decades by now and there are many protected areas declared by national and international organizations. However, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) has defined categories of protected areas in seven types, where each category has a global standard. Both national park and national forest fall in the IUCN categorizations directly or indirectly. The important differences between national parks and forests could be identified mainly based on the category characteristics.

National Park

National park was first introduced in 1969, by the IUCN as a mean of a protected area with a definition. However, in the 19th century, some western naturalists and explorers have put forward the ideas of preserving ecosystems in order to conserve wildlife without active human interference. Additionally, those ideas have been implemented successfully despite the lack of legislation around 1830 in USA, by declaring the Hot Springs Reservation in Arkansas. According to the IUCN categorizations, a national park is the Category-II, which has the third priority in the list behind Strict Nature Reserve (Category-Ia) and Wilderness Area (Category-Ib).

A national park has a defined boundary, through which no person can get into the park without approval. Only an approved person can enter into a national park, either via paying a visitor ticket or an approved letter from the governing body (mostly the government). The visitors can only observe the park inside a vehicle that routes through defined trails and they cannot get out the vehicle for any reason unless there is an approved place for visitors. Photographs are allowed, but research and educational work can only be done with prior permission. The park cannot be used for any reason viz. collecting firewood, timber, fruits…etc. With all these regulations, the national parks are established to conserve the natural habitats of the wild fauna and flora with a minimum degree of human interference.

National Forest

National forest is an area declared in the United States according to the Federal Lands classification by the Land Revision Act of 1891. It follows the characteristics of the IUCN protected area Category-VI that came after 1969. However, the system of national forests in the United States has been declared in the late 19th century with the objectives of conserving the natural environment of the San Gabriel Mountains in California. All the declared national forests (155 in total) in the United States cover about 190 million acres. There are two main types of national forests known as natural (located west from the Great Plains) and originally-owned forests (located east from the Great Plains).

The national forests can be used for sustainable development through some permitted activities. Therefore, the natural resources exist in a national forest could be harvested for economic benefits in such a way that the environment and wildlife would not be disturbed significantly. Therefore, it becomes clear that both protected area and community are profited, which means national forest is a mutually benefitted protected area. Some of the permitted activities in national forests are timber harvesting, water extraction, grazing grounds for livestock, and recreational activities.

What is the difference between National Park and National Forest?

• According to the IUCN categorization, national park belongs to Category-II, whereas national forest falls in the types of Category-VI.

• National forests were declared according to an Act in the United States, whereas national parks were declared as per the IUCN regulations.

• National forests are found in the United States while national parks are found all over the world.

• National forests were declared much earlier than the declaration of national parks.

• Human interference is much less inside a national park than in a national forest.

• National forests can be used for sustainable development through harvesting natural resources but not the national parks.