PROTOCOL ON GEOCONSERVATION
The natural heritage of any country includes its geological heritage, made up of many key geosites, as well as landscapes, profoundly shaped and defined by their geology. Fossils, rocks and minerals are just as much part of our natural heritage as living plants and animals. However, everywhere geological heritage is under-valued and under threat, even in countries that have relevant conservation legislation. Practice is so variable between countries: in one a scientifically unique site might be being quarried away or filled with waste; in another valid geological research is obstructed by oppressive bureaucratic regulations; while in a third commercial dealers at some sites are busy carting off every fossil they can for sale - leaving little behind for scientific pursuits or wider educational use.
In a minority of countries geoconservation is seen as an essential activity. However, in many there is still absolutely no official recognition even that geosites are cultural and scientific goods of national importance (and worth protecting). And yet, the vital evidence for the 4,500 million year history of the Earth is an undisputed, shared international heritage. This was first widely recognised at the ProGEO Digne geoheritage symposium in 1991, and it immediately informed UNESCO's re-examination of geological sites under the World Heritage Convention. Later it influenced the initiation of ideas on geoparks within ProGEO and then UNESCO, it informed the IUGS/ProGEO Geosites project, and then a declaration on geoconservation from the ministers of the Council of Europe, and, most recently, it led to the launching of the Geoheritage journal.
Many years of conservation effort and the initiation of effective methodologies and actions have usually gone unnoticed by a wider society. Nowadays, a lot of new people are joining in with heritage and conservation activity, some coming from a wider public, some from non-geological disciplines, some focussing on protecting or simply promoting an isolated site or local area. Some have ideas purely of touristic exploitation. Therefore, there are lots of people trying to start at the beginning, some unaware of even the words "geoheritage" and "geoconservation", and equally of their historical development over the years. So ProGEO has drawn together some principles and facts - a protocol for geoheritage and its practical conservation. The text is to assist anyone who is getting started in the valuable field of geoheritage. To the initiated there will be few surprises, but for those new to the subject we hope that it will provide some guidance and help.
Welcome to read the Protocol!