Abstract Over the past decade, the protection of natural areas has acquired a new urgency, even as the concepts underlying park protection have undergone significant change and evolution. Several emergent issues have added to this sense of urgency: the recognition that the earth's biological diversity is rapidly being depleted as critical habitats are permanently lost, the increasing rapidity of tropical deforestation, of concern in connection with both biological diversity and climate change due to the “greenhouse effect”, and the emergence of concern for sustainable economic development in the Third World. The experience of park managers around the world over this same period has led to new imperatives in accommodating a variety of human needs in park planning and management. A new way of thinking about the goals and objectives of parks in many of the world's nations is emerging, and many experienced observers report that these new concepts are critical if existing parks are to remain protected and if new protected areas are to succeed in achieving their goals. These new concepts and imperatives emerge clearly from the papers on local population interactions with national parks and equivalent reserves presented at the June 1988 Second Symposium on Social Science in Resource Management at the University of Illinois.