MacArthur Foundation Supports Himalayan Conservation

CHICAGO, Illinois, May 4, 2005 (ENS) - Biodiversity conservation work across a thousand mile stretch of the Eastern Himalayas is advancing due to a round of grants announced at Earth Day by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The funds go to help create and manage parks, increase the skills of local governmental and nongovernmental institutions and individuals, and strengthen environmental law and policy.

Twelve grants worth more than $3.6 million will be distributed to groups based in the United States and locally to protect three large landscapes - the Kangchenjunga-Sikkim landscape in Nepal and India, the Bhutan landscape, and the Arunachal Pradesh-Yunnan landscape that stretches from India into China.

"There is growing concern about the environment and biodiversity preservation within China," said Jonathan Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation. "Some estimates place the number of civil society groups interested in conservation in the hundreds."

MacArthur is concentrating its support on the forests of western Yunnan Province in China, part of the Himalaya region. Fanton said, "The area is rich in species diversity and has some of the best primary forests found anywhere in the country."

Yunnan Province, China

  • The Center for United States-China Arts Exchange of Columbia University in New York City received a grant of $400,000 over three years to build local capacity to protect the biodiversity of the Gaoligongshan Mountain National Nature Reserve.

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    Gaoligongshan Mountain National Nature Reserve (Photo courtesy Chinese Academy of Sciences)
    Grant funds will be used to develop an understanding of the social, cultural and political environment of the nature reserve; build local capacity to protect the Nu River and related resources; and work with local communities to develop ecotourism in the region.

    The Gaoligongshan Mountain Reserve, covers an area of more 400,000 hectares, ranging along the China-Myanmar border. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) calls the area "one of the world's biodiversity treasure houses."

    According statistics provided by Professor Li Heng from the CAS Kunming Institute of Botany, 4,303 species of seed plants, 699 species of vertebrate animals and 1,690 species of insects have been described in the reserve. Of these, 61 plant species and 81 animal species are listed in China's Redbook as rare and endangered species.

    The land-locked mountainous enclave was declared part of the UNESCO World Biosphere's Protection Network in 2001.

  • The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco received a MacArthur Foundation grant of $225,000 over three years to carry out biodiversity surveys of the Gaoligong Mountain Range in collaboration with Chinese partner agencies in Yunnan Province. The mountains are included in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas situated in southwest China.

    The Gaoligong Mountain National Park was declared by China in 1983 and the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve is managed by the Chinese government as a strict nature reserve.

  • A grant of $145,000 over two years was awarded to the World Resources Institute based in Washington, DC to promote improved governance of natural resources and biodiversity in Yunnan.

    Grant funds will be used for research and analysis on the evolving state of environmental governance in the province and to convene a series of dialogues with local organizations and agencies. Opportunities for international organizations to collaborate with local institutions in natural resources and biodiversity governance will be identified.

    Kangchenjunga Mountain Complex, Nepal and India

    At 8,586 metres (28,169 feet) Kangchenjunga is the third tallest mountain in the world, surpassed in height only by Everest and K2. Encompassing five peaks, it straddles the border with Sikkim in the remote northeast region of Nepal. Kangchenjunga

    Mountaineers' camp dwarfed by the peaks of Kangchenjunga. (Photo courtesy Carsten Nebel)

  • The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal, received a grant of $315,000, to help strengthen the institutional and policy innovations for conservation across international boundaries in the Eastern Himalayan region, using the Kangchenjunga landscape as the case study.

    ICIMOD will work with local and national institutions in eastern Nepal, Darjeeling and Sikkim in India, and western Bhutan to conserve the corridor districts in these countries that link protected areas in the landscape.

  • A grant of $300,000 over three years was awarded to the Mountain Institute based in Washington, DC to promote effective conservation management of the Kangchenjunga landscape in eastern Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim through direct community participation.

  • A grant of $300,000 over three years was awarded to World Wildlife Fundís Nepal Programme in Kathmandu to help establish the first community managed protected area in Nepal. Grant funds will be used to strengthen the capacity of the newly established Kangchenjunga Conservation Area management Council and local civil society institutions.

  • Resources Himalaya, based in Kathmandu, was awarded a grant of $150,000 over three years to upgrade its GIS and mapping facilities and strengthen its ability to provide technical support to conservation organizations in the region.

    Northeast India

  • Community Forestry International, based in Santa Barbara, California, received a grant of $350,000 over three years for a project to create new approaches that the state forest departments and local nongovernmental organizations can use to support community forest conservation in Northeast India.

  • A grant of $320,000 over three years was awarded to the Inner Asian Conservation based in Hamden, Connecticut to help increase the size of the protected area network in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and to enhance the management capacity of staff working in two protected areas.

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) New Delhi office received a grant of $200,000 over three years to study traditional ecological knowledge systems of the indigenous peoples of Northeast India to learn how these traditional societies can contribute to conservation, ecological balance and sustainable development.

    Kingdom of Bhutan

  • The World Wildlife Fundís Bhutan Programme, based in Thimphu, Bhutan, received a grant of $700,00 over three years to help the Bhutanese government upgrade the management structure of Bhutanís newest protected area in the eastern region of the country: Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. Grant funds will also be used to survey a new corridor system and develop plans to create the corridors.

    Temperate forests of eastern blue pine and the largest number of the rhododendron species in Bhutan cover this 650 sq km (253 sq mi) sanctuary in the easternmost part of the kingdom. Sakteng is unique as the only reserve in the world created specifically to protect the habitat of the yeti, known in Bhutan as the migoi, or strong man.

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    Endangered black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, flies over Bhutan's Phobjikha Valley. (Photo courtesy TZ)
  • A grant of $215,000 over three years was awarded to the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature based in Thimphu to work with the Bhutan government and a community of 4,700 residents to develop a management plan for declaring Phobjikha an official conservation area. The plan is intended to provide a model for the many communities across Bhutan that are located adjacent to protected areas or within biological corridors.

    The Phobjikha Valley is a high glacial valley just beyond the Pele La pass. A few hundred of the world's population of 6,000 endangered black-necked cranes fly to Phobjikha for the winter, arriving in October and leaving in February. The valley has no electricity, except solar and mini-hydro, or telephones for fear that stringing up power lines could injure the cranes.

    In 1998, people of the valley began to celebrate the cranes with a festival that has been a platform for increasing public awareness and involvement in their conservation.

    Barking deer, bears, leopards, foxes, and boars also inhabit Phobjikha.

    This grantmaking is part of the MacArthur Foundationís strategy to conserve the biological diversity of selected areas in developing countries.