Protected areas are the land and/or water areas with well-defined boundaries that have the acknowledged scientific, ecological, cultural and other values, and on which the special protection and use regime is imposed. The Lithuanian protected areas have the following aims:
- to preserve the territorial complexes and objects (values) of the natural and cultural heritage, landscape and biodiversity, as well as the genetic foundation;
- to ensure the ecological balance of the landscape, balanced use and restoration of natural sources;
- to create conditions for educational tourism, scientific research and observation of environmental state;
- to promote the territorial complexes and objects (values) of the natural and cultural heritage, landscape protection ideas, traditional lifestyle and ethnocultural customs.
As humans were developing industry, energy, forestry, agriculture, cities and settlements, they lost and keep losing natural territories and cultural heritage. There are some countries in the world already where the real nature may be seen only in the protected areas or in pictures. There is no civilised country that would not endeavour to preserve the values of natural and cultural heritage for future generations.
The protected areas create appropriate preconditions to preserve the values of natural and cultural heritage. They are established in all the countries of the world to preserve natural and human creations, landscape and biodiversity, and values of natural and cultural heritage, to foster and use them appropriately. The protected areas are the storage of priceless values of our planet.
The protected areas provide spiritual, recreational and other values to humans. In addition to the main goal – to preserve the values of natural and cultural heritage – the protected areas help society to benefit from qualitative natural sources including drinking water, soil and air, and the provision of natural resources to local communities. These create conditions for society’s recreation and ensure protection of generic resources; they also help to preserve the climate balance. The protected areas create conditions for the existence of all the life forms there, and to record information about all the aspects of wildlife and inanimate nature. This information is necessary for human development and new technologies, for example making medicines. The care of plants and animals also allows us to manifest our spiritual capacities and to refine feelings. Care of the cultural heritage is an expression of respect to the ancestors and past generations. All the above teach us to love nature in a wider sense, to understand the universal laws of the universe, to develop human morals and to foster the culture of the nation and human beings. However, the most important thing is that protected areas serve as a balm for the human soul.
The benefit of the protected areas to humans is also felt outside these territories, and preservation is easier and cheaper than restoration.