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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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Deserts to get more World Heritage love

IUCN says it will make systematic effort to recognize and protect arid regions

With the IUCN targeting deserts for conservation, Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park might someday be listed as one of the global treasures under the World Heritage Convention. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Any desert rat will tell you that deserts get a bad rap. Far from being just arid inhospitable places, they are unique and fragile environments and surprisingly full of life. But up to now, deserts have been under-represented on the list of world heritage sites that are recognized for their global cultural or natural values.

But the International Union for the Conservation of Nature aims to change that with a systematic effort to identify, list and conserve more deserts through the World Heritage Convention. The IUCN will dedicate a study to deserts to be published in September, which could be the first step toward listing places like Death Valley or the Atacama Desert in South America.

“Deserts host unique and rare fauna and flora specially adapted to extreme conditions but they are often overlooked,” said IUCN world heritage project manager Tilman Jaeger “For instance, few people know that the Bodélé Depression in Chad is the largest source of dust on earth, delivering nutrients to the oceans and as far as the Caribbean.” Continue reading

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