National parks are the most popular and widespread categories of specially guarding natural territories which have the functions of nature protection, ecological education, scientific research and recreation.
After organizing in 1872 the first in the world Yellowstone national park (USA) the idea of national parks won the leading place among all other form of territorial protection, and national parks appeared in many countries of the world. In different countries more than 2,000 parks were organized and their total area is about 2% of the whole land territory.
The state system of national nature parks of the Russian Federation started to be formed not long ago and is now in the making. The first national parks of Russia, “Sochinsky” and “Losiny Ostrov”, were organized in 1983. Now there are 35 national parks in Russia occupying the area of more than 6.5 million hectares.
According to the Russian nature protection legislation the national parks are organized to preserve the natural complexes of special ecological, historic and aesthetic value and to use them for recreation, education and culture. They are institutions of nature protection, ecological education and scientific research. Besides the protected natural complexes, the economically developed territories of cultural landscapes can be within the borders of the parks. They make a single whole with the natural complex and are often of cultural and economic significance.
The national parks have the following objectives:
1. To preserve the natural landscapes, historic and cultural monuments for recreation, education and science;
2. To create the conditions for tourism and recreation, to make people acquainted with the nature of the national park, with the cultural and historic monuments;
3. To work out and introduce scientific methods of preserving the natural complexes in the conditions of recreational utilization;
4. Ecological education;
5. Ecological monitoring;
6. To restore the damaged natural and historic and cultural complexes and objects (Articles 12, 13 of the Law on SGNT).
On the territories of the national parks differentiated protection regimen is established with the regard for their specific peculiarities. In each park protective zones and blanket zones are distinguished. Such zones occupy up to 64% of the parks’ area. In the rest of the territory where the natural and cultural resources are also protected, access is allowed limited by a corresponding regimen, or there are intensive recreation zones. In some parks they occupy up to 76% of the total area. The territories not excluded of economic usage (not all the national parks have them) occupy up to 50% of the total parks area. Agricultural enterprises work there, there are populated areas and historic and cultural monuments.
The natural complexes of some Russian national parks are of international significance. In 1995 the territory of the national park of “Yugydva” together with the Pechoro-Ilychsky nature reserve adjacent in the south and its buffer zone were included into the UNESCO List of the World Heritage sites in the nomination “The Komi Republic Virgin Forests”.
In future it is planned to organize more than 40 national parks with the total area of 10.0 million hectares.