Protected Area Initiatives
North America Protected Areas Initiatives
Interior Wetbelt, British Columbia, Canada
The Interior Wetbelt of British Columbia harbors one of the world’s rarest and least known rainforests: the Inland Rainforest (See Mongabay article). This unique rainforest is home to some of the oldest trees and most carbon-dense forests on Earth, but is under massive threat from logging, including removal of 1,000+ year old cedars which are converted to carbon-polluting bio-pellets and shipped overseas as “clean, renewable, energy.”
Our goal is to extend primary forest protection levels from the current and inadequate 3% to all primary forests. By comparison, the coastal Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia faced similarly dire prospects in the 1990s with only 5% in protection. Decades of efforts and partnerships between conservation organizations and First Nations resulted in over 80% of the Great Bear Rainforest old-growth now in some form of protection. With an infusion of conservation investment, the Inland Rainforest of BC can become the next great conservation victory for Canada and the world. Wild Heritage is working towards this goal with Conservation North.
A U.S. Forest Carbon Reserve
The United States has some of the most carbon-dense forests in the world, much of which are concentrated along the west coast, from the iconic redwoods to Alaska’s temperate rainforests. If protected in a new, “national carbon reserve” network of federal lands, these forests could play a key role in helping us transition to a climate-safe economy. These forests already store the equivalent of 7 times US annual emissions: protecting them is vital to a safe climate.
Wild Heritage is working with scientists at Woodwell Climate Research Center and Griffith University (Australia) in assessing the carbon values of U.S. forests, and with partners including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council in advocating for a national carbon reserve that would protects over 50 million acres coast to coast.
The Greater Pacific Northwest Bioregion
This bioregion extends from California to Washington with several smaller ecoregions nested within (see Klamath-Siskiyou and Sierra Nevada below), some of which have world-class biodiversity status as WWF Global 200 ecoregions and as Biodiversity Hotspots. These forests need to be protected for climate and biodiversity benefits. The Northwest Forest Plan is a global model of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management on 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of federal lands with roughly one-third of the forests in reserves. The plan will soon be revised by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and there are efforts to undermine it. We are providing technical expertise to local conservation groups working to safeguard the Northwest Forest Plan.
The World-Class Klamath-Siskiyou and Sierra Nevada Conifer Forests
Wild Heritage has a particular focus on two world class ecoregions – the Klamath Siskiyou of southwest Oregon/northern California and the Sierra Nevada Conifer Forests – which also form part of the California Floristic Province Biodiversity Hotspot.
The Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion is a critical climate sanctuary for hundreds of imperiled plants and wildlife facing unprecedented climate change losses and land use impacts. We are working with partners to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the nation’s only monument focused on biodiversity protection. Our expansion proposal is for climate concerns as the monument is too small to accommodate climate forced wildlife migrations.
The Sierra Nevada ecoregion of California also has extraordinary levels of biodiversity and the most massive trees on Earth (giant sequoia) which store vast quantities of carbon. In this ecoregion we are supporting conservation groups working to protect a Yellowstone-size area between Yosemite and Kings Canyon Parks as a national monument.
In both ecoregions, we work with land managers, conservation groups, and decision makers in providing ways to co-exist safely with wildfires given the very nature of these fire-adapted forests depends on periodic fires of mixed intensities that rejuvenate ecosystems. Our work includes defending bedrock environmental laws, policies, and protected areas from inappropriate proposals to increase logging in response to forest fires.
The Tongass Rainforest
The Tongass rainforest in southeast Alaska is at the northern limits of the North Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest biome that extends from the coast redwoods in California to southcentral Alaska. The nearly 7 million hectare forest is the crown-jewel of the USDA National Forest system and one of the world’s last remaining relatively intact temperate rainforests. Ancient cedars and hemlocks tower into the Alaskan sky, prolific salmon runs resemble rush hour traffic jams, brown bears, wolves, and bald eagles feed on spawned out carcasses that supply critical nutrients to rainforest trees.
Wild Heritage is working with dozens of conservation groups and Native American tribes to prevent rollbacks on protections on nearly 4 million hectares of intact and carbon dense roadless areas. We are working with the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts to map out the carbon in these forests so that they can be considered for future protections as a carbon-wildlife rainforest reserve.
World Heritage Sites: Protecting the Best Places on Earth
World Heritage Sites and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
IUCN is the official Advisory Body to the World Heritage Convention for natural (and “mixed” nature/culture) World Heritage Sites. Wild Heritage Executive Director Cyril Kormos serves on IUCN-WCPA’s Steering Committee as Vice Chair for World Heritage and chairs the IUCN-WCPA World Heritage Network. He is also a member of IUCN’s delegation to World Heritage Committee meetings (the executive body of the World Heritage Convention) and serves on IUCN’s World Heritage Panel, which reviews nominations by national governments for new World Heritage Sites and provides recommendations to the World Heritage Committee.
The Okavango Delta World Heritage Site
Cyril Kormos is representing IUCN on the Steering Committee for the Transboundary Extension of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Property (on which IUCN sits as an observer). This is a hugely exciting and ambitious project, led by the Botswana, Namibia and Angola Governments, to extend the Okavango Delta World Heritage Property from the Delta in Botswana across Namibia’s Caprivi and up into Angola – or in other words encompassing the entire system, from the Delta all the way up the Cubango-Okavango River Basin, and into the headwaters forests. This would be a historic achievement, protecting one of the wildest places on Earth while also protecting the livelihoods, rights and cultural resources of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the region.
World Heritage and The Himalayas
Wild Heritage is partnering with IUCN, ICIMOD and National Geographic on a scoping exercise to identify opportunities for new and expanded World Heritage sites in the Himalayan region. Report forthcoming!
Our World Heritage
Cyril Kormos is a founding member and on the Steering Committee for Our World Heritage, a civil society initiative to raise awareness of the World Heritage Convention and to ensure that the Convention functions as intended to protect the greatest places on Earth and safeguard them from threat for future generations. This initiative will launch in 2020, continue throughout 2021, and culminate during the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2022. The World Heritage Convention is a unique and important international instrument and it has a critical role to play in protecting the planet’s most exceptional sites – but it is becoming increasingly politicized, often straying from its core mission. It is critically important that the World Heritage Convention stay on course! Wild Heritage will help launch this initiative and will be coordinating the Climate Change and Biodiversity Theme in August 2021, in partnership with Griffith University in Brisbane Australia.