National parks are primarily designated for conservation purposes, yet globally they have become major eco- nomic generators through countryside tourism. Protected areas across Northern Ireland currently suffer from a management deficit and as a result natural landscapes in Northern Ireland are said to be degrading rapidly. The tourism industry in Northern Ireland relies heavily on the marketable potential of its natural heritage. There- fore, a predicted rise in tourist arrivals could accelerate environmental degradation, potentially jeopardising the future marketable value of countryside tourism. National park designation represents one possible mechanism for managing this tourism resource paradox. However, a recent attempt to proceed towards national park desig- nation in Northern Ireland crystallises the complex governance challenges associated with designating national parks in multi-functional, privately owned and highly contested landscapes. The Mournes case study is drawn upon to highlight how local governance challenges represent a potential obstacle to securing widespread stake- holder support for the sustainability principles associated with contemporary national park models.
environmental governance, national park, resource paradox, sustainable development
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