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Travel: UNESCO names new World Heritage sites

Fiji and Qatar get first-ever designation; Mt. Fuji, Mt. Etna also added

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Fujisan is one of the newest World Heritage sites. Photo courtesy UNESCO and Policy Planning Office, Minobu Town.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The fact that the world’s cultural and natural heritage transcends national boundaries is perhaps best reflected each year when UNESCO designates new World Heritage sites, and this year was no exception.

At its recent meeting in Cambodia, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added volcanoes in Asia and Europe, historic forts in Ukraine and Qatar and a Basque whaling station in Canada.

There was one new area added in North America — El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, with its distinctive dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and, in the west, the Gran Altar Desert with its ever changing and varied sand dunes that can reach a height of 200 meters. Continue reading

Many world heritage sites facing development pressures

West- and central African sites among the most threatened

Mesa Verde, well-protected as a national park, is Colorado’s only world heritage site. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Many of the planet’s 217 world heritage natural sites are facing increasing threats, including oil and gas development, and need more protection, conservation leaders said at an occasion marking the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

The 217 sites protect more than 250 million hectares of land and sea in more than 90 countries.

Nearly 8 percent of the 217 natural World Heritage Sites are on a danger list, while another 25 percent are affected by serious conservation issues. More than 60 percent of West and Central African sites are on the Danger list, and one in four of these iconic areas are threatened by planned mining, oil and gas projects. This includes Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home of the world’s last mountain gorillas.

“Too many World Heritage sites are left with few resources to ensure their proper management, risking their role as natural flagships for the protection of critical habitats and unique wildlife vital to the future of our planet,” said Tim Badman, director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “Many face a barrage of challenges, not least from mining and oil exploration.” Continue reading

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Climate: Current models underestimate coastal erosion impacts from sea level rise

Impacts could be much greater near estuaries, lagoons and river mouths

A pipe snaking across a Florida beach replenishes the eroded strand with material from a nearby inlet. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — When it comes to sea level rise, not many countries have as much to lose as the Netherlands, so it should be no surprise that Dutch researchers are closely tracking the impacts of coastal erosion.

In one of the latest studies, scientists from UNESCO, the Technical University of Delft and Deltares say the effects of coastline erosion as a result of rising sea-level rise in the vicinity of inlets, such as river estuaries, have been dramatically underestimated.

Using a new model that incorporates input specific to coastal inlets like river estuaries and lagoons, the researchers found that most existing models show only about 25 to 50 percent of the coastal erosion that will occur as the climate warms and sea level continues to rise. Continue reading

Xanadu, western Ghats added to World Heritage list

26 new sites inscribed in this year’s voting

The Lakes of Ounianga, in Chad, have been designated as a World Heritage site. Satellite photo courtesy NASA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — If you ever wondered what Xanadu, the western Ghats of India and the birthplace of Jesus have in common, think about it this way: All three are part of Earth’s shared natural and cultural heritage.

Last week, UNESCO recognized the gobal significance of all three sites, inscribing them on to the ever-growing list of world heritage sites along with 23 other locations around the world. The annual June voting helps spotlight renowned archaeological sites, natural wonders and historic treasures, often boosting preservation efforts and fostering local initiatives to increase sustainable tourism.

Colorado’s only world heritage site so far is Mesa Verde. Others in the U.S. include Redwoods National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, the Everglades and the Grand Canyon. No new U.S. sites were added this year, but the San Antonio missions were nominated and could be added to the list in the next few years, representing the important Spanish influence in the settlement of North America. Learn more about World Heritage sites in the U.S. at this National Park Service website. Continue reading

Environment: UN renews call for ocean protection

A trail of broken promises on ocean conservation …

Earth's oceans need more TLC, a new UN report says. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In preparation for the 2012 conference on sustainable development in Rio, several UN organizations last week released a new report that sounds the alarm about the health of  oceans and explains how it influences our everyday life by regulating the climate, providing highly-nutritious food and by sustaining livelihoods and economies.

Although the oceans account for 70 percent of the surface of our planet, only 1 percent of it is protected, the report explains, proposing a 10-step program to move toward a more sustainable future. Continue reading

UNESCO adds 25 new sites to World Heritage list

The Grand Canyon is one of the natural World Heritage sites in the U.S.

Cherished landscapes and historic properties highlighted by international designation, which sometimes means added resources for protection and management

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The World Heritage Committee last month inscribed a total of 25 sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including the spectacular Ningaloo Coast of Western Australia and Wadi Rum, in Jordan. In total, three natural properties were inscribed for their global values, along with 21 cultural properties and one mixed site.

Two properties were added to the World Heritage List in Danger and one was removed from that list. The World Heritage List now numbers 936 properties: 183 natural sites; 725 cultural; and 28 mixed.

U.S. World Heritage sites include the Grand Canyon and the Everglades, and there is also a list of candidate properties, including Petrified Forest National Park and White Sands National Monument. Mesa Verde was inscribed as a cultural site in 1978 and is the only World Heritage site in Colorado. Continue reading

Travel: New world heritage sites to be designated this month

Jamaican mountains, famed Jordan desert area on this year’s candidate list

Mount Rum in Wadi Rum, Jordan, stands at 1,734 meters above sea level. The mountain was named the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence of Arabia. Wadi Rum is under consideration for designation as a World Heritage site. PHOTO VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Several countries are on deck to have prominent natural areas or historic and cultural sites designated with world heritage status for the first time ever.

Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains are on the list of candidates, as is Wadi Rum in Jordan and the Saloum Delta in Senegal, a national park with intertidal mangroves and savanna forest. Saloum Delta is is an important stop-over for migrating birds on the East Atlantic Flyway. Continue reading

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