Everest Conservation Project Receives Funding
American Alpine Club and
The Mountain Institute Join Forces to Mitigate Human Impacts
The American Alpine Club (AAC)
announced it will financially support a major new conservation initiative in
National Park, home of Mt. Everest. “Community-Based Conservation and
Restoration of the Mt. Everest Alpine Zone” will address the increasing impact
of trekkers and climbers on the high altitude alpine landscapes, the “land
above the trees”. The project will be implemented in partnership with local
Sherpa communities, Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Conservation, and The Mountain Institute (TMI).
Launched during the 50th
anniversary of the first ascent of
Mt. Everest, it will be
one of the first projects of its kind that combines community driven
management and action with the results of extensive scientific research. AAC
and TMI expect the program to set a precedent for similar projects in affected
alpine regions throughout the mountain world.
As a yearly visitor to
Nepal, Jim Frush,
Vice-President of the AAC, and leader of a successful American expedition to
Everest in 1988, said, “Since Mt. Everest was first climbed, it is obvious
visitors have played a major role in the degradation of the Khumbu alpine
zone. This excellent project is a substantial step toward reversing that
trend. It provides a long-term, grass-roots solution to fixing the problems
attributable to our use of this beautiful place."
Dr. Alton Byers, Director
of Research and Education at TMI, suggests that, “Our primary concern is the
continued over harvesting of slow growing shrubs and high altitude plants for
fuel. Local people call many of the hill slopes in the region “growing
glaciers” because of the increased erosion and instability that has resulted
from these trends. The Everest alpine zone simply cannot endure this kind of
pressure much longer.” Both the National Geographic Society and Royal
Geographic Society magazines have recently published information on this issue
based on the extensive research conducted by Dr. Byers since 1984.
The five-year project will
be based on solutions proposed and directed by local Sherpa communities.
Activities will include strengthening community planning and implementation
skills through training; the restoration of high impact areas; and increased
education of both local people and tourists. Other examples include forming
local Alpine User Groups; building porter shelters on trekking routes and
stocking them with alternative fuels; constructing enclosures that protect the
hillsides from overgrazing while promoting plant re-establishment; and
establishing restrictions on the harvesting of juniper shrubs.
“This project will
strengthen the capacities of local people to protect and restore their fragile
landscape and will serve as a model for conservation in alpine zones
throughout the world,” said AAC International Conservation Chair Peter Ackroyd.
“We are excited that this action, taken by the membership and leadership of
the AAC, will encourage others to invest in protecting these mountain
environments that so many people enjoy”.
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