“We would appreciate a German-speaking Chapter of LT&C” – Interview with Harald Förster, Schutzstation Wattenmeer

The Wadden Sea nature conservation NGO Schutzstation Wattenmeer is a founding member of LT&C, and the International Wadden Sea is one of our largest LT&C-Examples regarding its geographical size. We are interested in how this example gains further improvement and whether other regions could learn or do replicate experiences from it. What role in that plays the Schutzstation? We, therefore, approached the CEO of the organization, Harald Förster, with a few questions to this point:

From top left to the right: Harald Förster (CEO of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer), Daniel Günther (Primeminister of Schleswig-Holstein), Johnny Waller (Chairman of the Board of the SW) together with staff and volunteers.

Harald, what was the historical contribution of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer that the Wadden Sea today can be ranked as LT&C-Example, where tourism is supporting the protection of the area?

The Schutzstation Wattenmeer was founded in 1962. At that time she was the first NGO in the Wadden sea region which combines the traditional idea of nature conservation with interests of the people living in the Wadden sea region and tourists using the environment for recreation. Today this is worldwide a common concept of nature conservation, e.g. well described in the Man and Biosphere Programme of UNESCO.
The vision of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer of the 1960s was quite progressive but received at that time harsh criticism of politicians, other NGOs and the public.

Today the Schutzstation is the leading NGO in the Wadden Sea with more than 8.000 public events per year and more than 350.000 people per year reached through events, educative excursions, exhibitions and other activities. We believe, that the fact that we over the years educated millions of visitors to the Wadden Sea about the values and protection needs of the area, had a major impact for achieving its status of national parks and World Heritage site.

In what way has the support from tourism increased in recent years, and how much of that you relate to the work of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer?

The Wadden Sea at the German North Sea coast is the most popular holiday destination in Germany with an increase of 2-5% per year. Local and regional tourism agencies use the status of the area as a World Heritage as a prominent marketing tool, and the Schutzstation Wattenmeer quite often is mentioned as a best practice example in their marketing strategies.

Which other regions could learn from the Wadden Sea example? Is there already a process to replicate the experiences you made?

Today many initiatives in the world aiming to create or develop protected areas are facing similar challenges as the Schutzstation Wattenmeer 50 years ago. Combining nature conservation and tourism can be a solution and successful strategy, which in many cases has the potential to produce win-win results. Important is to find and keep a balance of avoiding overtourism with all its negative impacts on the environment but achieving positive impacts by promoting conservation supporting forms of tourism.

The Schutzstation is very keen to assist other NGOs and tourism enterprises in their way to combine nature conservation, local people’s and tourism interests.

The annual brent goose festival is an example of local communities, NGOs and national park administration cooperating

During recent years, different people and institutions have build up partnerships and exchanges with another region with extensive tidal flats internationally important for Arctic shorebirds: the Yellow Sea of China and the Koreas. Many experiences from the Wadden Sea could probably be “exported” to the Yellow Sea when it comes to achieving also World Heritage status there. Also along the East Atlantic Flyway of coastal birds, more cooperation and exchange of experiences could be reached with other important tidal flat areas such as those on the African West coast.

Where do you see the value of being a member of LT&C and could that value be increased if we would establish a German-speaking chapter?

LT&C provides for us a very important outreach and link to the international scene of like-minded governmental and non-governmental conservation and tourism-related organisations, institutions and companies around the world. It opens up additional channels for exchanging experiences of both positive examples or coping with common problems, such as overtourism, digitalization, adapting to climate change. We are proud to be a founding member of LT&C and like to offer our experience to others in the world.

A German-speaking chapter would help to build up a growing network of LT&C members and partners in German-speaking countries for creating more communication, exchange of experiences and finally more LT&C-Examples. Another very important point could be to increase cooperation with other German-based organisations and institutions such as the Nationale Naturlandschaften (former EUROPARC Germany) and other Tourist Associations in Germany. Locally and regionally valuable cooperation examples already exist. They could be extended to national and international scales.

Therefore we would support the establishment of a German chapter of LT&C.

Annual Report 2019: Eight new and inspiring LT&C-Examples offered for replication

2019 was not only the year, where global awareness about the climate crisis has grown significantly. The urgency to protect the world’s biodiversity became equally apparent. The mission of Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C) makes more sense than ever: to make tourism supporting the completion of a global network of protected areas as the key tool to safeguard the diversity of nature on our planet. For 2019 we can proudly report that our members were able to show-case eight new LT&C-Examples, where tourism is supporting protected areas. This brings the total number of meanwhile published inspiring examples, others should learn from and replicate, to 38. 

Here you can download the full report:

Interview with Bernd Bayerköhler of Tree Top Walks from Erlebnis Akademie AG

The Tree Top Walks of the Erlebnis Akademie AG are not only fabulous LT&C-Examples, where national parks are supported by education centres, they are also a case of an LT&C-Example, which gets replicated. The business model is based on a joint venture between Tree Top Walks and a partner-company within the host country, which has important insights in the local environment, market, laws and regulations. In return, Tree Top Walks offers a platform for environmental education and job creation and hires rangers for guided tours provided by the partner organisation or directly from the national park. As LT&C is profiling examples, where tourism is supporting protected areas, so that others learn from those and ideally replicate them, we are in particular interested to identify and develop incentives for replication of LT&C-Examples. We, therefore, like to interview Bernd Bayerköhler, Speaker of the Board of the Erlebnis Akademie AG about their experience and secrets to get their Tree Top Walks continuously “exported” to other countries and national parks:

Bernd Bayerköhler, can you describe in short, how the Tree Top Walks were invented and how they support national parks and other protected areas?

The idea of the Tree Top Walks is based on cooperation with the Bavarian Forest National Park, which sought an attraction that would be interesting to a wider range of visitors. The goal was to attract tourists to the national park and the information centre in order to educate them on the natural environment. The second aspect was to regulate and concentrate visitors in one place, therefore being able to control visitor flows and protect core zones in the national park.

What are the secrets that your LT&C-Example became already replicated several times?

There are many reasons that make a visit to a Tree Top walk interesting, e.g.

  • Spectacular views – new and unique perspectives
  • Exceptional nature experience in harmony with economy and ecology
  • The distinctive nature-friendly design concept
  • Suitable for visitors of all ages
  • Accessible – suitable for wheelchairs and prams
  • Guided tours (group and theme tours) developed in cooperation with protected areas 
  • Learning & activity stations
  • Partnership with NPs and organisations according to interest and local circumstances
  • Involvement of local populations is key to make sure that they are at the centre of the product, identify with it and can benefit positively from it

If we can find a place where all these factors are met, it is a great basis for an attraction like this.

How could your model also be used for other types of LT&C-Examples? What are the principal incentives for getting good cases replicated?

  • A bottom-up approach of a well-connected and organised stakeholder network within a National Park or a Nature Park can push the destination for more visibility and certification within relevant networks
  • For lesser known destinations, a joint venture with an already established tourism organisation or company can help to give visibility to the destination on a broader market
  • Managing or concentrating visitor flows helps to protect core zones and benefits conservation efforts
  • When establishing new ecotourism products in a NP, the success of these products often rise and fall with the level of support of the National Park and the local community
  • Keeping track of the latest trends and research helps to keep your products relevant and spreads awareness of the appropriate way it can be implemented in the NP and in the market

What are your future plans to further improve and multiply Tree Top Walks and what means your membership in LT&C for you?

We do have a clear growth strategy with an attractive international project pipeline and additionally, we try to generate growth through networking and extension of our product or service offers across all existing locations.

As an LT&C Member, we can hopefully generate new contacts to develop further projects within the network, but we also want to show that ecology and economy can work hand in hand.

Buljarica cove including islets Katic in Montenegro

Buljarica cove including islets Katic in Montenegro

Credit: Ursula Nordmann

The example illustrates the importance of CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development in general and hopefully will be used as pilot project at regional, national and international level, following the structure of CBD Guidelines.

Buljarica is situated in the central part of Montenegrin coast between two hills and administratively belongs to the Municipality of Budva, the biggest cove at the Montenegrin part of the Adriatic coast with 2.250 m long sandy beach, a brackish marshland with 58 ha and hills and steep slopes of the Pastrovska gora, where the surface of its plain area is 300 ha. The total area of Buljarica cove including Pastrovska gora comprehends about 1.800 ha.

Near to Buljarica cove and in front of the small town Petrovac with 1.485 residents is the islets Katic known for its most relevant habitats and species, protected under EU Habitats Directive and the SPAMI Protocol of the Barcelona Convention (Protocol concerning specially protected areas and biological diversity in the Mediterranean).

Buljarica is one of the few remaining brackish marshes at the Adriatic coast and unique for its relatively well-conserved ecosystems and species. A major part of Buljarica cove exists as a wetland ecosystem, a habitat that is rapidly disappearing. In addition to the rich and diverse wildlife Buljarica has a population of about 200 people mainly active in extensive agriculture and tourism service.

On the other side, Buljarica area is under strong pressure mainly by construction plans for a marina, golf courses, hotels, and mixed-use tourism facilities. Such a development would destroy the natural values.

Laws, regulations, and plans

The shoreline of Buljarica (4 ha) is protected after national legislation since 1968. However, management or protection activities are lacking. 2006 Buljarica cove was designated as an Emerald Habitat under the Bern Convention and has also been included in the list of key sites in Montenegro for the Natura 2000 Network. It was recognized as a potential Important Bird Area (300 ha) because of the importance as a stopover for migratory birds. A study of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism proposed a wider area of the islet Katic encompassing Buljarica to be declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA). No MPA has yet been designated in Montenegro.

In the National Spatial Plan to 2020 (issued in 2008) Buljarica is listed as a Monument of Nature, but at the same time and contradictorily identified as an area with high potential for nautical and exclusive tourism development. And due to the Special Purpose Spatial Plan for the Coastal Zone until 2030, Buljarica could be transformed into a luxury tourist complex with villa resorts, marina, golf courses, and other tourism-related facilities.

The National Sustainable Development Strategy to 2030 identified Buljarica as a site of valuable biodiversity which leads to problems for the development of large touristic capacities and the National Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management to 2030 defined Buljarica as an area with the greatest number of habitats of international importance.

Ecological aspects

Following the ecosystem-based approach, the biodiversity of Buljarica is grouped into three main categories of specific ecosystems.

 

Marine and coastal ecosystems:

Despite restricted time and resources 94 species of animals were recorded, among them, 16 are protected under national and international law. Concerning plants, Posidonia oceanica stands out as Mediterranean endemic and one of only a few marine flowering plants, highly important for forming microhabitats for numerous forms of life. At depths of 10 to 23 m Posidonia meadows are mainly well developed, dense and very rich with benthic species and fish, mixed with Sandbanks in the middle of the bay and Coralligenous habitats and reefs at its edges.

In the area of islets Katic the following habitats and species are observed and protected under Habitats Directive Annex I: Posidonia beds, reefs, submerged caves; Annex II: Tursiops truncates; Annex IV: all species of cetacea, Lithophaga lithophaga, Pinna nobilis; Annex V: Scyllarides latus. And under SPAMI Protocol Annex II: Posidonia oceanica, Cystoseira spp., Ophidiaster ophidianus, Litophaga litophaga, Pinna nobilis, Tonna galea, Hippocampus ramulosus, Tursiops truncates; Annex III: Scyllarides latus, Scyllarus arctus, Epinephelus marginatus.

 

Freshwater and brackish systems:

This category reflects the strongest need for conservation as brackish coastal marshland ecosystems suffer from various human activities. Up to now in Buljarica marshland exists beside numerous freshwater springs a rich flora and fauna. It is a hotspot for dragonflies (41) and butterflies (66 species), more than 40% and 61% of all species of these orders in Montenegro and the most numerous among 175 insects are registered here. Four of the 41 species of dragonflies have special significance: Cordulegaster heros, Cordulegaster bidentate, Caliaeschna microstigma and Lindenia tetraphylla. The first three species are assessed as Near Threatened at European level by IUCN. Cordulegaster heros and Lindenia tetraphylla are listed in Annexes II and IV European Habitat Directive. Regarding the fauna of butterflies and the 13 species of moths, the one with the highest conservation status is Euphydryas maturna, Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, presented in Annex II Habitat Directive and Appendix II Bern Convention. There are 12 species of aquatic bugs, 27 species of beetles and 16 species of grasshoppers and crickets.

11 species of amphibians were recorded in Buljarica, representing 79% of all Montenegrin amphibians, all listed in Appendices II and III of the Bern Convention, six in Annexes II and IV Habitat Directive and Pelophylax shqipericus is endangered after the IUCN Red List.

Buljarica is the best-preserved habitat for the Balkan terrapin, Mauremys rivulata, and the study identified 22 species of reptiles, again 61% of all reptiles present in Montenegro. All species are listed in Appendices II and III Bern Convention, 19 in Annexes II and IV Habitat Directive and four have an unfavorable status Near Threatened and Vulnerable after IUCN Red List. The presence of reptile species was recorded in all three ecosystem categories! The most important ecosystems for reptiles are maquis and Eastern white oak forests.

178 species of birds are identified, 93 are breeding here. Due to the limitations of resources only the status of possible breeders was given to 12 species. Most important are Eegyptian vulture, Neophron percnopterus, Griffon vulture, Gyps fulvus and Bonelli`s eagle, Aquila fasicata. Added migratory and or wintering species the bird taxa rises to 220-250. Buljarica belongs to the “Adriatic Flyway”. The conservation status of confirmed 178 birds, 39 are listed in Annexes I and II Birds Directive and four species have an Unfavourable Status on IUCN Red List.

A remarkable diversity of mammals was noted in two of the ecosystem types in Buljarica. Due to scarce capacities, marine mammal species can’t be surveyed. The most interesting group of mammals are seven species of bats, all registered on the Habitat Directive and Appendices II and III Bern Convention and also nationally protected. Miniopterus scheibersii and Rhinolophus hipposideros are assessed as Near Threatened by IUCN.

 

Terrestrial and karstic habitats:

In this category, 36 types of habitats (17 are protected) and 250 species of vascular plants can be found. Thermophilous oak woods, cliffs, and rocky outcrops naturally occurring. The forests were significantly exploited and degraded to maquis. Various inaccessible rocky formations provide shelter for many endemic and/ or relict species.

Identified threats

In May 2016 state-owned land has been offered for sale and/ or long-term concession in a state land tender process without first considering the protection status of the area. The planned drainage of the wetland and its urbanization would cause the disappearance of natural values of Buljarica cove and resources that are also providing economic safety for the local population. The loss of important marine habitats has a great influence on the sea ecosystem.

Besides this unplanned or illegal construction and active real-estate market caused by poverty, lack of knowledge and awareness of alternative sustainable development opportunities present another serious threat to the ecosystem of Buljarica.

Main factors for the ecosystem degradation through stress are: natural succession in cultural ecosystems, habitat fragmentation, low soil quality, changing of water interaction regime between sea and lagoon water, reduction of habitat area, decrease of species population size, eutrophication, untreated communal and illegal solid waste disposal

Development aspects

The village Buljarica is situated close to Petrovac settlement with a population of around 200 people in 67 households and together 230 apartments, according to the last census 2011. Buljarica consists of two units: in Buljarica I (387 ha) the land mostly belongs to private owners but in Buljarica II (1.316 ha) the situation differs and most of the properties belong to the state.

Tourism is already now the main occupation in Buljarica and seen as the biggest potential for economic growth. 50% of the residents practice agriculture for their own needs and the majority see in the combination of agriculture, tourism, and conservation or solely tourism the biggest development potential. The sea, the landscape, and clean water are considered as the most important natural resource in Buljarica, threatened by land selling trends, unplanned construction, pollution, harmful national and local planning policies. There is little knowledge about alternatives towards the typical sun and beach tourism offered at Montenegrin coast.

As a very old settlement with remains from Prehistoric Times Buljarica has a rich cultural heritage. Most important among several old churches is Gradiste Monastery and the most famous archaeological site is the rustic villa from Roman Times. Systematic archaeological researches have never been conducted in Buljarica except for excavations in Gradiste Monastery. You can also find traditional singing und music, legends, religious practices, and rituals and crafts.

Touristic development will be successful to the extent to which the landscape, cultural and ecological values of this area are preserved. Regardless of numerous problems Buljarica still has the potential that a well – preserved nature provides good opportunities for social and economic development.

Buljarica first sustainable development destination in Montenegro

The capital for the future of Buljarica is the beautiful landscape, the extremely rich biodiversity and the cultural heritage with Gradiste Monastery at the top. The local citizens of Buljarica and Petrovac should be proud of this unique wealth. For educational and informational reasons a non-technical summary of the study named in the title should be spread to all households in both communities. Regarding the specific value, Buljarica might become the first village in South-East Europe which takes the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) as the basis for its development. The CBD is beside the Framework Convention on Climate Change the most important and highly respected international treaty of the UN. The CBD strongly encourages participatory processes and the integration of local citizens and NGOs in decision making.

Above all, we need a bottom-up organization having enough capacities that are learning, planning, managing and leading the sustainable development agenda of the region. Most PAs in the Western Balkan are ineffectively managed and tourism needs to be in service of protection. Good governance principles are fundamental for any successful case. Consensus building being possible most rewarding for decision making. Management which includes those close to the resources and not centralized government organizations guarantees a participative and empowering process.

It is important to admit that resources for environmental protection are nowhere enough for implementing Aichi and other conservation targets. attracting and gathering all actors that can support the objective based on conservation is necessary.

In terms of monitoring and adjusting the planning and development, it is important to understand that the uncertainty, complex and changing are integral components of nature. It is not, which we often consider, something static and therefore it is vital to set biomonitor of the effects of our actions. Most projects have indicators on activity superior levels, but which resigns with the project goals, lacking to measure what effect this has on the ecosystem and its dynamics, the services they provide.

 

First goal: Protection of biodiversity

As already described at the beginning this part will be very brief. The island Katic and Buljarica cove should be declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA). The beach of Buljarica, apart from a few hundred meters at each corner because of an existing settlement, the marshland and a part of the mainland should be protected as Natura 2000 site. As a consequence, the camp at the beach should be reduced or even closed and the existing dam removed or at least interrupted at several places.

 

Second goal: Sustainable use

Buljarica should keep its typical characteristic as a small village with individual houses offering private accommodation, a few small hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants. Within the settlement, some new buildings may exist during the next years but the size of Buljarica should generally stay as it is. The introduction of solar energy for houses should be supported. Purification of wastewater is urgent and the existing illegal waste collection in some places and streets may no longer occur.

Gradually Buljarica could develop to an eco-village with walking, riding and biking trails and routes so that visitors can observe the beauty of nature and cultural heritage. Local tour guides offer hiking tours, visiting tours of the hidden hinterland. As a protected natural good the conditions for establishing health tourism are good. All these offers may establish quality tourism for the whole year and not only in summer times as it is now.

Organic farming can be excellently combined with nature protection and the products may be welcomed by tourists and local citizens. The abandoned land can systematically be re-used for agriculture. In private gardens and orchards fruits and vegetables could be produced in the same way. Bee-keeping, animal-keeping, fishery in form of aquaculture are further possibilities.

 

Third goal: Access and benefit-sharing

The valorization of biodiversity in Buljarica can start in a way that each adult visitor should pay an eco-tax of 0,50 EURO a day to a fund established by the local citizens. The income will be spent on capacity building of nature guides, waste management, infrastructure for walking and biking tours and even the restoration of monuments and churches. The local citizens may additionally establish a foundation or a community-based society that can buy continuously land owned by the state to use it for sustainable development. As already described at the beginning this part will be very brief. The island Katic and Buljarica cove should be declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA). The beach of Buljarica, apart from a few hundred meters at each corner because of existing settlement, the marshland and a part of the mainland should be protected as Natura 2000 site. As consequence the camp at the beach should be reduced or even closed and the existing dam removed or at least interrupted at several places.

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Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program

Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program

Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Rennett Stowe

The Greater Yellowstone region is the largest intact ecosystem in the continental United States and at the southern end of a corridor of wild lands stretching to the Yukon. Approximately 98% of the land and bodies of water in Teton County, Wyoming have some level of protection, including the world’s first national park: Yellowstone. Four million visitors come to experience the incomparable wildlife, scenery, and quality of the environment. The source of water for our nation is Yellowstone National Park which serves as the wellspring for 8 major rivers. The opportunities are innumerable and unparalleled to recreate, enjoy life, receive inspiration, and be well.

The Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program was created by the Riverwind Foundation to strengthen and unify the programs, policies, and practices for environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic vitality in Teton County, Wyoming. The Program was created to address:

• The results of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council Destination Criteria Early Adopters Program in 2012
• The resolution passed by the Town of Jackson and Teton County for Jackson Hole to be a world-leading sustainable community and destination in 2017
• The findings from EarthCheck Destination Certification Program in 2019.

The Riverwind Foundation is the coordinator of the Program. The Program has a seven-member working team, twelve-member tactical steering committee, and 57-member strategic council. The Program establishes partnerships on a project-by-project basis and has engaged over 300 businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and schools. These projects include sustainability training and technical assistance, assessments and certification, and resident and visitor outreach and education. Ultimately, the Program will assist the communities that comprise Jackson Hole in creating a Tourism Management Plan in 2020-21 that focuses on resident and visitor management and sustainability.

The Riverwind Foundation and Jackson Hole have received awards and recognition, including:

• National Geographic as a Destination Leadership Finalist in the 2017 World Legacy Awards
• World Travel & Tourism Council as a Destination Finalist in the 2018 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards
• Green Destinations’ Top 100 Sustainable Destination in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
• Jackson Hole received EarthCheck Sustainable Destination Certification in March 2020, as first destination in North America.

Tourism is the basis of Jackson Hole’s and the Greater Yellowstone region’s economy and a significant source of economic support for the national parks, forests, rivers and lakes, wildlife refuges, and private protected areas as well as businesses and local government. The Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan and land development regulations prioritize environmental stewardship over all land uses. Local stakeholders have the opportunity and responsibility to communicate our values for environmental protection and integrity to the millions of annual visitors with the intention of influencing their behavior during and after their visit.

Visitors generate $8.8 million in entrance fee revenue for Yellowstone National Park’s 2019 budget of $37 million and $6.8 million for Grand Teton National Park’s 2019 budget of $15 million.  These funds support accessibility improvements, campgrounds, infrastructure, roads, native fish restoration, aquatic invasive species mitigation, and more.  In addition, there are nonprofit organizations that contribute funding to enhance and protect Yellowstone’s and Grand Teton National Park’s cultural, historic, and natural resources.  In return, the annual economic impact of tourism in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park to surrounding communities is more than $1 billion and 15,000 jobs, important for supporting the numerous local, regional, and national conservation organizations that work to protect public and private lands in the Greater Yellowstone region.

The Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program supports the sustainability programs of the parks and other protected areas through training workshops, facilitating collaboration with private sector organizations and resources to increase the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives, and promoting government messaging on conservation and sustainable behaviors to residents and visitors.  In addition, the Program provides information resources and strategies to support local, regional, and national conservation organization’s programs to manage, restore, and protect public and private lands, wildlife, and natural resources.

Riverwind Foundation has assisted local government and the private sector in understanding and prioritizing sustainability and responsible tourism. This support has resulted in:

• The passage of a resolution by the Town of Jackson and Teton County in 2017 for Jackson Hole to be a world-leading sustainable community and destination
• An overarching community and destination sustainability policy in 2019, and
• The Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board approving funding to create a Tourism Management Plan in in 2020-21 focused on visitor management and destination sustainability.

Financial support for the Riverwind Foundation’s Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program comes from government grants (23%), private foundation grants and donations (73%), and program receipts (4%). The projects supported by this funding have accomplished the following:

– Trained and assisted over 300 businesses in sustainability planning and practices
– Inventoried the sustainability activities of over 120 local stakeholders
– Created or enhanced 49 local green collar jobs and educate over 250 students
– Doubled the RRR Business Leaders to over 200 and TripAdvisor Green Leaders to 43 through the Hotshots Program
– Created the Business Emerald Sustainability Tier (BEST) Program for increasing the sustainability performance and recognition of the most committed RRR BLs and assist 4 of the top RRR Business Leaders to achieve BEST Certification
– Created & distributed the Jackson Hole Sustainability Code of Conduct to over 100,000
– Created & distributed the first five issues of Green Matters in Jackson Hole to 7,800+
– Created & distributed the first annual Jackson Hole Sustainability Report Card to 7,800+

In addition to the resolution for Jackson Hole to be a world-leading sustainable community and destination, a five-year goal of the Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program was to achieve sustainable destination certification by a GSTC –accredited body. On March 2020, Jackson Hole received EarthCheck Sustainable Destination Certification, the first destination to do so in North America.

Several key improvements for destination management and sustainability have been identified through the certification process, most notably the development of a Tourism Management Plan focused on visitor management and destination sustainability, including conservation of our wildlife, wild lands, and other natural resources. A destination stewardship council comprised of representatives from the diverse segments of the community and destination will be established to oversee the development and implementation of the Tourism Management Plan and coordinate this plan with other key management plans and initiatives. A significant input to the composition of the Tourism Management Plan will be the results of resident and visitor surveys.

Coincident with the implementation of this Plan will be the continued sustainability training and technical support of businesses and organizations, education of school faculty and students, and outreach and engagement of the public. In addition, plans are being discussed for the establishment of a sustainability manager position in local government that coordinates and integrates public-private sector activities to ensure that the community’s priorities for sustainability, including ecosystem stewardship, community resiliency, cultural and historic preservation, and climate action, are implemented.

These and other improvements will be addressed further in light of plans for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The projects and activities of Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program serve as a model or menu from which other communities that are tourism destinations can plan their own sustainable tourism programs. This model can be summarized as follows:

• Baseline assessment of community/destination sustainability using an international standard for destination sustainability
• Inventory of sustainability and sustainable tourism assets and attractions
• Stakeholder training and technical assistance
• Education and outreach to residents and visitors
• Business sustainability certification and recognition
• Destination sustainability certification and recognition
• Destination stewardship council establishment
• Tourism policy and strategic plan development and implementation

The lessons learned from the Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program that can support other communities and destinations include the following:

• Establish a goal early that all stakeholders embrace and are inspired by, and regularly articulate it
• Consider an initiating event(s) to create or build momentum for stakeholder and public engagement
• Destination management and integration is dependent on relationships – take the time to build relationships with one-on-one and group meetings
• Communications to destination stakeholders need to be regular and content-rich. Do not under-resource communications. Coordinate communications with key sustainability stakeholders
• Educate, educate, and train. This builds stakeholder sustainability literacy, interest, and involvement
• Diversify funding streams: Federal and local government grants, national and private foundation grants, private cash and in-kind contribution
• Strengthen local capacity whenever possible. Minimize the export of work and reliance on outside parties for management and technical support
• Focus on understanding strengths and areas needing improvement for destination, and place priority on building and sustaining collaborative partnerships (rather than competing with existing organizations and programs for resources)

  • Grand Teton National Park and Yelllowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
  • Protected Planet information
  • Author: Timothy O'Donoghue
  • riverwind@wyoming.com
  • 13076903316
  • Project website

LT&C moved to Torvgata 7, the Sustainability House in Arendal

After being hosted the last 5 years by Arendal municipality in its Kunnskapshavn, LT&C this month moved its office in Arendal to the “Sustainability House” at Torvgata 7. This is a co-worker house right at the marketplace of the town. In the basement, you are welcomed in an alternative (“unwrapped” products) shop-cafe, and offices in open landscape, as well as meeting rooms, are on the upper floors. Good reasons for LT&C to move here are that everybody is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There is potential for synergy between the different organisations and companies. While others are working with climate, renewable energy or sustainable production and consumption, Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C) continues its focus on the biodiversity SDGs.

In times where global awareness about the need of protecting both climate and biodiversity is rapidly growing, LT&C’s mission as conservation organisation makes more sense than ever: to ensure tourism supporting the completion of a global network of protected areas as a key tool to safeguard the diversity of nature on our planet. Therefore we are an organisation that is strongly aligned with what the world had agreed to under the UN Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD): To protect, by 2020, 17% of the land and 10% of the oceans, representing the different ecosystems and habitats. We expect that the new goals to be decided this year for 2030 will be more ambitious. To protect at least 30% of the world for safeguarding biodiversity should be a goal, the tourism industry, which most benefit from national parks and other protected natural areas, should also naturally support.

LT&C continues as a voluntary organisation carrying out its mission with a very lean administration. We do not have any paid staff but bases all of its activities on the voluntary work of its Board and other members.

Join us for our Annual General Meeting in Slovakia, coupled with a Conference on “Opportunities for Ecotourism in Slovakia”

This year, LT&C is combining its AGM with a hands-on conference and a series of workshops in Slovakia, where we have partnered up with the environmental NGO Aevis in their efforts to develop ecotourism in protected areas in Slovakia. Our half-day AGM will be followed by workshops for LT&C members and Aevis partners from Slovakia to discuss first hand some of the burning issues for ecotourism development in Slovakia, learn from LT&C member experience and jointly find practical solutions. The conference will give an overview of the ongoing project “Fewer barriers for more benefits in utilising nature” and introduce the work Aevis is conducting, as well as presenting a practical handbook LT&C has developed.

There will also be an opportunity for LT&C members to present relevant tools and success stories for developing eco-Infortourism. Please send us your expression of interest to present your initiative until May 31st 2020 to info@ltandc.org

Following the AGM and conference, our project partner Aevis has prepared field visits to some interesting ecotourism spots in Slovakia, such as Veľká Fatra National Park, Slovenský raj National Park or Muránska Planina National Park. Guided tours to some of Europe’s last wilderness areas involve wildlife watching, stargazing and visits to canyons and caves. We will publish a detailed field visit agenda soon.

Information on the preliminary programme, venue and how to travel to Banská Bystrica,  you find on our Events-page

To express your interest and receive more information on transport and accommodation, please

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