In one of the last remote regions of the world, the Chinese Government is pushing back against development and towards its version of the United States’ national park system. In what has been dubbed China’s “Yellowstone”—the first national park in the United Stated—stakeholders aim to protect and preserve the remaining natural space and wildlife of the Tibetan plateau.
This summer, policymakers, and scientists from China, the US, and other countries met to start work on this national park system. The AP refers to the intended system as “a unified system with clear standards for limiting development and protecting ecosystems.” Additionally, Chinese officials visited several national parks, including Yellowstone, of course. The Chinese Government is also seeking expertise from conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Paulson Institute, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The AP reports that Qinghai will be home to the first pilot park. They say that this region in western China is both adjacent to Tibet and culturally similar. Additionally, it is home to iconic species such as the snow leopard and incorporates the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Mekong Rivers. Mining and hydropower permits have been halted in the region.
A vital concern of the creation of the park system is incorporating local populations. Previous infrastructures in China led to resettlements that resulted in many homeless farmers left without a livelihood. The AP states that the national park plans intend to give conservation-related jobs to locals so that they can stay and work on their land. In the “One Family, One Ranger” program, for example, one family member is paid monthly to pick up trash or monitor for illegal activity.
According to the AP, Ouyang Zhiyun—the deputy director at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Research Center for Eco-Environmental Services—led a “national ecosystem assessment.” Satellite images, field surveys, and endangered and threatened plant and animal surveys are being used to identify priority areas for protection. Zhiyun told AP reporters that they are focusing on habitats of endangered species endemic to China, because “if we lose it here, it’s gone.”