Red Rocks Initiatives recovery planning for a more sustainable future

Red Rocks Initiative Rwanda, founded by Emperor Penguin Greg Bakunzi, is a non-profit community-based organization that is dedicated to integrating tourism and conservation for sustainable community development in the Virunga massif region’s development agenda. He is the provider of three LT&C-Examples, and two years ago his engagement was awarded by Green Destinations as “Best of Africa“. It is the organization’s mission to enhance the standards of living of the local communities through trade in their talents, art, music, and cultural diversity.

Amidst the current crisis, we asked our LT&C-Example providers how they are affected by the current situation, what measures they are taking and if they have a certain message they would like to share. Thus, Greg Bakunzi has shared Red Rocks Initiatives’ vision on recovery planning for a sustainable future within the region:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring carnage on earth, devastating many communities with the outbreak felt all over the globe, this widespread crisis is now both a health and humanity challenge calling for rapid responses. Now, to tackle the catastrophe, and later on, to ensure we are prepared for the aftermath, which includes social and economic dimensions that will be caused by the crisis.

While COVID-19 is causing a huge impact across all industries, the tourism & hospitality sector is experiencing a greater impact to date given travel restrictions, event cancellations and overall risk related to travel internationally and domestically. But despite the fact that our community is going through the immediate impacts, it’s time to also think about the future and what our recovery plans or strategies should be for our community.

Many community members in the area depend on cultural tourism for additional income. Photo: Red Rocks Initiative

As tourism numbers are now totally down, the Red Rocks Initiative is embracing a re-approach program, committed to supporting our community bounce back through a relief and response campaign. The concept is based on the belief that we shall only be able to pioneer growth by putting people first. Our plans aim to start off with skills training and also teach individuals who will be left without work post the COVID-19 crisis. We are digging deep into providing more comprehensive job support, such as hands-on life skills such as bakery, housekeeping skills, and tourist guiding. We hope this will help us retain our employees after retraining them and can also encourage other community cooperatives, businesses, and social enterprises to pursue the same course to re-position themselves and capture growth when the situation improves.

The Initiative is looking at starting up cooperative member training for targeted and specific groups, plus workshops for the local population to equip people post the pandemic. By putting people at the forefront of our work, we can together rebuild our society and allow for both social and economic gradual growth at a community level.

Many of our cooperative members have had to cut down production affecting many female weavers and local artisan groups engaged in handmade or souvenir products production shut down completely – the virus has put many jobs at risk and our aim is to find new opportunities for the affected community members.

Despite having no certainty on when COVID-19 lockdown measures will be relaxed across the world and particularly in our village as a travel destination, one thing we can control in the immediate future on how to prepare for recovery. The Red Rocks Initiatives for sustainable development is optimistic that once the outbreak is under control, it would take joining efforts together as a global village and fight the struggle caused by COVID-19 by acknowledging that we are not alone. It’s through cooperation that we can return to normal lives and tourism has shown an unparalleled ability to lead wider societal recovery, driving back our economic growth by creating jobs and transforming lives.”

Making the case for a sustainable tourism industry – Helpful resources for tourism stakeholders during this time of crisis

As tourism has come to a halt globally, this is having fundamental effects on all of our fellow penguins and LT&C-Examples in all corners of the world. It is an economically challenging time and the crisis is putting at risk effective protected area management, especially in terms of funding crucial activities, such as anti-poaching patrols. However, it is also a time to take a step back and rethink tourism on a more strategic level and to strengthen the case for sustainable tourism.

Many great resources are appearing across the internet, many of which highlight the importance of sustainable tourism in reviving the industry and creating more resilient and innovative destinations.

We want to take a first step here to list some of the handbooks, articles, inspiring examples and innovative crisis responses that we have found. Feel free to share more resources or ways how you are dealing with the crisis via the contact form below. Now more than ever it is important to connect with fellow LT&C penguins and to work together to support, strengthen and revive those tourism examples which directly support biodiversity and the related Global Goals, as described in our recent article.

Competition

UNWTO calls for innovators and entrepreneurs to submit ideas that can help the tourism sector mitigate the impact of the pandemic and kickstart recovery efforts.  (deadline 10 April 2020): https://www.unwto.org/healing-solutions-tourism-challenge

Blog

News, stories and resources for a sustainable tourism response to the COVID-19 emergency: https://www.resilientdestinations.com/blog

Guide

A nonprofit survival guide with useful tips on leadership, how to communicate with donors and how to find savings and growth opportunities in these times of crisis: https://www.thebrandedstartup.com/survivalguide

Business advice

Article from LT&C member mascontour: Key considerations for your business in dealing with the crisis: https://www.mascontour.info/en/sustainable-solutions/covid19.html

Survey

Sustainability Leaders conducted a survey on the impacts of the pandemic on the sustainable tourism community and which potential benefits it may bring at a systemic level: https://sustainability-leaders.com/what-corona-pandemic-means-for-sustainable-toursim/

Online get-togethers

The online travel platform Travel Massive is hosting weekly member calls for tourism professionals from around the world to discuss their response to the crisis:  https://travelmassive.com/events/2020/04/live-show-6

Group calls

The Long Run offers weekly Corona group calls for its members to discuss marketing, booking and other relevant matters and exchange experience among members in these challenging times.

List of resources

Anna Spenceley, chair of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group published a list of articles and resources: https://annaspenceley.wordpress.com/2020/04/02/covid-19-and-sustainable-tourism/

Communication videos

Many destinations have responded to the crisis by publishing (video) messages of hope and resilience, such as:

Namibia

Namibia – Endless Horizons

Publisert av Namibia Tourism Board Lørdag 28. mars 2020

South Afrika

Scotland

Portugal

Do you know of any other examples or initiatives to share knowledge, hope, and support? Please let us know!

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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

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

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Discover the Wild11 program – 11th World Wilderness Congress postponed (see below)

2020 is a key year in the protection of our planet’s natural places and as such you most probably heard of the 11th World Wilderness Congress (WILD11), organized by our partner the WILD Foundation. It is due to happen between March 19-26, 2020 in Jaipur India where participants will join the great gathering for the protection of life. The event also features LT&C-Example Ranthambhore National Park and Tiger Reserve, to which we offer an exciting study tour that will add value to your visit to WILD11.

The program is now live and packed with speakers and events that have the goal to make wild nature the top priority of the international agenda. Check out their website to view the program overview and the live program.

Dear 11th World Wilderness Congress Delegates and Friends,

WILD11 is facing the global uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 in the best way possible – which is not easy. This email is to inform you of the decision to indefinitely postpone the 11th World Wilderness Congress (WILD11). The safety of our delegates and the larger community is our prevailing concern as the world confronts the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Even as I write this email, new COVID-19 cases are emerging in Jaipur, the city to host WILD11.

While this is the unambiguously right decision to make, it does not come without missed opportunities. Which is why we still need you to engage, on another level, with the ideas and actions we had planned for WILD11.
Information on registration, tour, airport transfer, hotel, and travel refunds will be found here as soon as it is available. Thank you for your patience as we continue to provide information on this page in the coming days. As we all know by now, COVID-19 was born out of an unhealthy, irresponsible, and exploitative relationship with the natural world, as so many other recent novel viruses have been. And we are encouraged by China’s new commitment to halt the legal trade of wildlife and the so-called “wet markets” that abuse wild nature and spawn novel diseases that jeopardize global human health.
 
But the dilemma of our broken relationship with nature is much larger than wet markets and the legal and illegal trafficking of wild animals.Even as the United Nations prepares to gather later this year in the hopes of setting ambitious and urgently needed protected area targets for the next decade, other sectors of society continue to accelerate the destruction of Earth’s life-giving landscapes. In the next 30 years, our species is set to double the amount of urban square footage at the same time it is expected to lay 25 million kilometres of road – enough to encircle Earth 600 times.
 
The 11th World Wilderness Congress was the platform upon which we would unify the dual emergencies of climate breakdown and mass extinction with a single solution: wild nature. It was also a global gathering specifically planned to challenge world leaders with the following questions:
How much nature do we need to survive? When is it more feasible to protect nature, when it is still relatively intact (as it is now) or thirty years from now, when it is even more fragmented than it is today and requires restoration on an almost unimaginable scale?
This year, 2020, already beset by the many drawbacks of a dangerously unhealthy relationship with nature, is also rich in unprecedented opportunities to change course on a planetary scale and take the first steps toward a better and more stable future.
 
And that is why we still need you to engage with the ideas and outcomes to come out of the process leading up to WILD11, especially the Survival Revolution.
 
The biodiversity crisis underlies the climate emergency and is the greatest threat to life on Earth, but still many around the world do not understand just how much we all depend on wild nature for our own survival. The Survival Revolution is poised to help change that by expanding public awareness and the demand for immediate public action around the world, and especially in five cornerstone countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS).
 
We are recruiting ambassadors and influencers for the Survival Revolution and ask that you sign up here. Details of how you can help influence the coming United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity will be forthcoming.
 
Additionally, we urge you to embark upon your own journey of discovery with these other practical outcomes to emerge from the WILD11 process:
In early March, I will participate in the very first national-scale climate emergency capacity building workshop for Indian state-level officials. This is funded by the Tata Trusts and India Climate Collaborative, and a first-level WILD11 programme.A Global Charter for Rewilding, developed by world-class conservation experts, to be launched as a result of the process leading up to WILD11.Expansion of the Survival Revolution public outreach network.
Finally, we ask that you stay tuned in the coming months for news about next steps, new plans, and upcoming gatherings to build dynamic and powerful communities and coalitions for the protection of our wild and healthy Earth.
 
In deep appreciation for your support now and in the future as we build support for a wild and healthy planet, I conclude this difficult, but very right and necessary message.
 
In strength and love, and moving forward,
 
Vance G. Martin
President
WILD Foundation

Cycling Africa Cape to Cape: LT&C member George Podaras has reached Sudan

As we reported in summer last year, in September 2019, aspiring videographer, cyclist and member of LT&C, George Podaras took on an exciting journey across Africa’s most southern point to the most northern. His mission: to document the continent’s abundant wildlife and how tourism benefits nature conservation in its National Parks. On his way he has passed several members and LT&C-Examples including the Cape Whale Coast, South Africa, Friends of Karura Community Forest Association, Colors of Zanzibar and the Borana Conservancy and Lodge in Kenya.

After some ups and downs, setbacks and victories, George has made it to Sudan marking the challenging last thirds of his journey through Africa:

After cycling approximately 8000 KM, I had made it to Khartoum, Sudan all the way from the most southern point of Africa. It has been a journey of highs and lows but i have managed to keep pushing on, witnessing incredible landscapes and fascinsting cultures.

Kenya allowed me to dive deep into a few national parks including Borana park, which have done a magnificent job of maintaining the precious wildlife there, including both the white and black rhino. Thanks to Borana Lodge, they were kind enough to give me a roof over my head and take me to the vast protected lands which fun fact;  lot of was what the Lion King was based on.

Entering Ethiopia seemed daunting due to the high altitudes i had to climb and reputation of people throwing stones but i was so pleasantly suprised by the frriendly people and though some of the mountains were certainly hard to climb; the view was worth every sweating moment. The amazing 5p coffee was a great source of energy. Another good motivation is that there are no mosquitos after 2000 feet!

Now in the realm of the Sahara, I am officialy in North Africa. The changing environment is refreshing but challenging due to the opposing winds. I try to look at it as Gods air condition for me! Sudan is huge with a low population which makes it easier to camp, and anyone I do come across always welcomes me in for a coffee and a warm bed. I feel I am now at the beginning of the end of my journey. Hard to beleive that I made it all the way up here and have 30 days left of cycling.

I have witnessed issues due to climate change, mainly drought, which explained the unprecedented amount of elephants in Botswana and Zambia looking for water holes, causing friction between humans. Locals had told me they had never seen Victoria Falls this dry for this long. People in Malwai were also concerned with the low water. Finally the locals of Kenya and Tanazania expected some rain in November; they assured me it had never been this intense with flooding – ever in their lifetime. As I am raising money for ocean life I thought it was relevant to include some of the issues I witnessed towards the environment, among the beautiful fragility of it.

Thank you for anyone who had sponsored and supported me this far. Remember its all for a good cause and from what I have seen I can assure you this planet is absolutely worth fighting for.

To support George on his mission, you are welcome to make a donation to LT&C’s Member, the Dyer Conservation Trust – a dedicated charity with the mission to protect marine life and tackle the fight against plastic and the decline of wildlife – on his GoFundMe page, or follow him on Strava.

Misool Private Marine Reserve, Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia

Misool Private Marine Reserve, Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia

The Misool Private Marine Reserve protects a spectacular amount of biodiversity. Home to many endemic marine species like the charismatic bamboo shark, and colourful Nursalim Flasher Wrasse, the Misool Reserve supports the highest concentrations of reef fish biomass in the area. Located within the Indonesian archipelago of the Raja Ampat Islands, the reserve has an area of 1220 km2. Composed of two separate no-take zones which are connected by a gear-restricted corridor, the Misool Private Marine Reserve is committed to amalgamating tourism and marine conservation.

The Misool Reserve is jointly managed by the Misool Foundation and Misool Resort. In 2008 the Misool Resort opened to guests and began working with the Raja Ampat government to establish explicit regulations regarding ecotourism development, and operations in the region.

The Misool Resort provides financial contributions in tandem with industry partners and private donors to the Misool Private Marine Reserve. The Misool Private Marine Reserve has helped create over 200 local jobs in partnership with the Misool Resort and Misool Foundation. Tourism management is the main focus of Misool Private Marine Reserve, and the management team effectively enforces tourist based regulations as demand increases. In April 2017 the Misool Reserve won the Tourism for Tomorrow Award in the Environment category, in recognition of their successful practice of sustainable tourism. Due to its importance to biodiversity and strong effective regulations, the Misool Private Marine Reserve received a Platinum Blue Park Award in 2018.

Between 2007 and 2013 fish biomass increased on average of 250% within the reserve, and up to 600% at individual sites. These increases are due to the effective enforcement activities of park rangers. Enforcing the protective regulations of the reserve is crucially supported by the tourism based income acquired from Misool Resort. The budget of the Misool Private Marine Reserve is composed of grants, fundraising efforts, government stipends, corporate donations, and donations from Misool Resort. However, in 2018 the donations from Misool Resort comprised 25% of the total income for Misool Reserve. The significant financial resources received push Misool Reserve toward financial solvency, and fund their continued conservation success. The management teams from Misool Resort and Misool Reserve work together to effectively regulate tourism and produce real results for marine conservation.

The management plan of Misool Private Marine Reserve is reviewed every three years, and consistently updated. Management of this MPA is currently focused on regulation of tourism, as they continue to use tourism to drive their conservation efforts. Established in 2011, the Misool Manta Project collects population and behavioural data on manta populations. This project has produced a robust collection of data on the migratory and resident manta populations. Mantas can also be “adopted” by guests, further contributing to the funding of this Misool Reserve. In 2019 Misool Resort also doubled its contribution commitment from US $50 per guest to US $100 per guest.

A high importance is placed on educating local communities, especially promoting and fostering a culture of ocean stewardship in children from local villages. The Misool Foundation prioritizes the education of future generations as ocean guardians. They have further programs in place to create attractive alternative livelihoods for fishermen who are repeatedly caught fishing inside the reserve.

The Misool Foundation uses a conservation model that works with, employs, and supports the local communities. MPAs will not succeed without the help and guidance of local communities. The efforts of management to educate local fishermen is a key pillar of their success. The Misool Manta Project is another aspect that can be repeated in other areas linked by tourism and conservation. Using tourists to collect scientific data while also helping to fund MPAs is an incredibly successful model. Projects like this can provide a significant amount of data to the government, NGOs, and researchers to leverage further conservation efforts.

Area Marina Protetta di Torre Guaceto, Italy

Area Marina Protetta di Torre Guaceto, Italy

Area Marina Protetta di Torre Guaceto protects 22.3 km2 of marine and wetland space along the Adriatic Coast of South-East Italy. Founded in 1991 by the Italian Ministry of Environment on collaboration with the local Municipality of Carovigno and World Wildlife Fund Italy, Torre Guaceto was established in order to “safeguard marine biodiversity and biological resources and to promote and enhance the local economic activities provided which are compatible with the naturalistic aspects and landscapes of the area.” (GLORES Evaluation Report 2019)

In 2014 Torre Guaceto was found to be one of the richest examples of marine life in the Mediterranean. This marine life can be found in the seagrass beds, covering approximately half of the marine protected area, which protect hundreds of juveniles of crustaceans, fish, sponges and molluscs. There are also rare gorgonian coral formations found throughout the subtidal zone of Torre Guaceto as well. Along with being a designated marine protected area, Torre Guaceto is also recognized by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance as “Ramsar Site 215” and in 2019, Torre Guaceto MPA further earned a silver level Blue Park Award for conservation excellence.

To learn more about tourism activities within Area Marina Protetta di Torre Guaceto check out the Puglia tourism website here or Torre Guaceto’s website here. The Torre Guaceto website offers examples of common tourist itineraries for the park as well as all of the activities available to the public.

Torre Guaceto’s management uses community engagement and tourism as a tool to help support the MPA both financially and through public awareness. The Torre Guaceto Visitor Centre was created and operates with the intended purpose of engaging with tourists, schools, and the local communities. The Centre hosts regular trekking excursions, wildlife watching activities, and snorkelling and sailing lessons. Additionally, as part of a collaborative project with WWF-Italy, the MPA has a turtle rehab and education Centre intended to increase the public and tourist’s knowledge of sea turtle habitat throughout the Mediterranean.

The Area Marina Protetta di Torre Guaceto is a regular feature of local tours like the “Discover the Valle d’ltria (Trulli land)” tour hosted by the Vito Maurogiovanni Tour Guide. These tours include the MPA as well as other points of historical interest throughout Puglia. Along with traditional tours, Torre Guaceto has a public beach which is heralded as one of the very best in the region which is regularly flocked to on summer weekends by both tourists and locals alike. 

As all points of public engagement with the MPA are funnelled through the Visitor Centre each visitor to the MPA has access to information about the incredible biological diversity and importance of the space as well as the rules for use which help protect it. Torre Guaceto is purposefully designed as an accessible space for both tourists and local residents alike making it a sustainable and equitable example of tourism and conservation.

Yes! There are currently four main conservation goals for Torre Guaceto’s management. One of which is the “Promotion of socio-economic development compatible with the aims of the reserve alongside existing traditional activities.” For Torre Guaceto this includes the continuation of existing conservation projects like the collaborative sea turtle monitoring program as well as the development of new collaborative programs to engage the public and tourists in monitoring for invasive species.

Maintaining equitability between local access and tourism is a key factor in the success of Torre Guaceto. This should be a priority for other protected areas around the world who have local communities who regularly access the intended protected space, therefore, increasing willingness to abide by protective regulations within both local residents as well as short term visitors. Programs which engage both user groups should be a priority for protected areas seeking to emulate Torre Guaceto’s model of tourism and conservation.

Ten Years of Education at the Hermanus Whale Festival

The eco tent at the Hermanus Whale Festival was a real winner this year with many interested visitors. Our LT&C-Example member, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust/ Marine Dynamics Team was there, for their tenth year, and had excellent engagement with children and adults alike.

 “The displays encourage children to
understand our marine species and how scientists study them. As such, we had
some shark fin matches, as well as matching of whale callosities. Our team of
marine biologists was on hand to answer everyone’s questions. We hosted talks
on sharks, penguins, marine pollution and solutions, and entertained with a fun
penguin dance,” said Trust educator Pinkey Ngewu. “Many ‘surfed’ our wave of
change made from recycled plastic bottles and sponsored by our corporate donor
Volkswagen SA. The images of plastic in our ocean are a wake-up call to all of
us and our projects such as the fishing line bin and the storm drain nets go a
long way to mitigate injuries and possible death of our marine wildlife. Well
done to the festival organisers. There were many families there enjoying the
vibe of the festival and looking out for the southern right whales, who enjoy
the sheltered bays at this time of the year, for mating and calving.”

Blue, one of eight Gansbaai penguins was
there. Visit Blue at the Great White House and find all other seven penguins in
Gansbaai and you could win a trip with Dyer Island Cruises. https://xplorio.com/gansbaai/gansbaai-penguin-campaign/

Early counts indicate the festival was visited by approximately 100 000 people. Save the dates for next year 24-27 September 2020!