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Global Geoparks Network. Wesley Hill International Liaison The Geological Society of America Boulder, Colorado USA. NPS is currently assessing participation in the global Geoparks program (UNESCO)

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Global Geoparks Network

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Global geoparks network

Global Geoparks Network

Wesley Hill

International Liaison

The Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colorado USA

Global geoparks network

NPS is currently assessing participation in the global Geoparks program (UNESCO)

Coordination is through the NPS Geologic Resources Division (GRD) & Office of International Affairs

  • NPS Lead: Dave Steensen, Director GRD

    Briefings to the Associate Director level

    NPS is currently working with GSA and USGS

Global geoparks network

  • Geoparks provide an international formal structure that links designated national geoheritage sites around the world under one global umbrella.

  • Is a sister structure of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves & World Heritage Program, but the focus is on geoheritage

What is a geopark

What is a Geopark?

A destination identity similar in concept to a National Heritage Area. Geoparks are defined by the geology of the landscape and transcend the boundaries of parks and other protected areas.

A Geopark operates as a partnership of people and land managers working to promote Earth heritage through education and sustainable tourism.

Nationally (or globally) important geologic area.



  • Opportunities to highlight geoscience research and information to local residents, policy makers, media representatives, and local schools

  • Wider recognition and a higher profile of the site

  • Public education spotlight on geoscience topics: volcanoes, earthquakes, tectonics, erosion, minerals, caves, paleontology, historical mining

  • Promotion of the site’s geological heritage and its role in the history of the local area

Global geoparks network

Opportunity to Increase Geotourism:

Geotourism:the objective of the trip is to visit or view a geological formation or unique landscape

  • Outstanding landscapes & formations

  • Scientifically interesting

  • Photographic opportunity

  • Geoheritage cultural interest

  • Exposed rock formations

  • Assemblages of Minerals

  • Coastlines

Our geological heritage

Our Geological Heritage

  • scientifically important, or especially striking, scenic, or unusual geologic phenomena

  • sites where geologic features, rock types, landforms or type specimens of fossils were first recognized and described

  • textbook examples of geologic features, structures, fossils, processes, and landforms

  • historic sites where cultural events were tied to an area’s geologic features, such as those in the history of geology, mining, and geology in early exploration and settlement

Global geoparks network

Site Authority & Management:

Management control by existing structure.

UNESCO has no sovereignty and no control over any Geopark - in any shape or form. Management lies at all times with the host nation and with host authorities & management.

Type of quality branding standard similar to World Heritage.

U s interests in geoparks

U.S. Interests in Geoparks:

  • Recognize and promote important geology that may not qualify for UNESCO World Heritage List

  • Educate the public about geologic heritage

  • Link geology to natural ecosystems, and cultural and economic activities

  • Promote economic development, particularly through sustainable tourism (geotourism)

  • U.S. can benefit from cooperation with the international network of Geoparks

Questions regarding geoparks

Questions Regarding Geoparks:

  • If the U.S. already participates in World Heritage, why do we need Geoparks?

  • How much work will nominations require?

  • What is the administrative burden (time/work)?

  • Will there be public opposition concerning another UNESCO initiative/program?

Questions regarding geoparks1

Questions Regarding Geoparks:

  • How will sites benefit from Geopark designation in U.S. – additional benefits?

  • How will this be funded? From whom?

  • What is the difference between goals of Geoparks, World Heritage and MAB?

  • What type of oversight/management control does UNESCO have over the site?

Geoparks world heritage

Geoparks & World Heritage

  • Many sites with great geologic significance are larger than a single Park (WH Sites are usually single park or unit)

  • The Park may manage only a small section of the geologically significant area as a whole

  • Multiple organizations (BLM, Forest Service) often manage remaining significant geologic area

Geoparks world heritage1

Geoparks & World Heritage

  • World Heritage has strict protection standards that are a poor fit with multiple organization management (multiple use)

  • The Geopark concept is a better fit with sites that have multiple organization partnerships and Geoparks accept economic uses, like mining

  • With Geoparks, no requirement to show outstanding global value that the WH program requires (show national importance)

Global geoparks network

The National Park Service and The Geological Society of America (GSA) have drafted U.S. guidelines for Geopark applications.

The U.S. and Canada are working together on national Geoparks initiatives and hope for a future North American Geoparks Network.

UNESCO just awarded the 1st Geopark in Canada. Stonehammer Geopark, New Brunswick First Geopark in North America

Next steps

Next Steps

Comment period on draft U.S. guidelines

Feedback from the field on concept of program

Finalize U.S. Geoparks guidelines

Form U.S. National Committee for Geoparks

Approval at the State Department level

Geopark applications accepted every 2 years

Next steps1

Next Steps

Current site interested in applying Gold Belt Scenic Byway area in Colorado

  • “Road to Riches” : Paleo & Mining History

  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

  • Royal Gorge

  • Site has already drafted a ‘Letter of Intent to Apply’

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