New 'green list' highlights the positives in nature conservation

IUCN says the measure is a bit like the flipside to the World Heritage In Danger list
Michael Slezak The Guardian 23 Mar 18;

News about conservation often seems like an endless battle to merely slow the decline of nature.

Each year, lists such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list and the Unesco list of World Heritage In Danger grow, as more and more plants and animals inch closer to extinction and protected areas are degraded.

But a new list being developed by the IUCN aims to highlight positive steps being taken around the world to protect nature.

“It’s a bit like the flipside to the World Heritage In Danger list,” says University of Queensland’s Marc Hockings – the global lead on the green list for the IUCN.

Hockings says he came up with the idea of a green list about 10 years ago, as a way of setting a standard for how protected areas should be managed. The IUCN green list of protected and conserved areas is meant to celebrate successfully protected areas, and help other protected areas lift their standards by showcasing successful examples.

Since the once-a-decade World Parks Congress in 2004, the international conservation community recognised that while the world was increasing the amount of land and water that was formally protected, there was relatively little data about whether any management practices were in place to actually protect those areas.

As a result, the Aichi targets for 2020, of having 17% of the world’s land surface and 10% of the world’s oceans inside protected areas are very nearly met, but there has been little evidence that much of this is being effectively protected.

In 2014, the World Parks Congress was told that the management of only 30% of parks had been assessed, and of those, less than a quarter had been found to be effectively managed.

Hockings says the criteria developed for adding sites to the green list will, for the first time, allow the IUCN to comprehensively measure the extent to which actual protections are being put in place in those areas designated as formally protected.

During the pilot stage, Hockings says they found the assessment process helped several sites improve their management.

The pilot stage of the green list is now complete, and the IUCN is working with park management agencies to assess areas for inclusion.

They will be assessed against four pillars: good governance, design, effective management and conservation outcomes.

In each country, a team of experts known as the Eagl (Expert Assessment Group – green list) will assess parks that want to be on the list.

The IUCN collaborated with WWF-Australia to assemble the eight-member Australian Eagl, which held its inaugural meeting in Brisbane in February and will soon invite and consider nominations for inclusion on the green list.

The group includes park managers from NSW and Queensland, who are expected to submit several protected areas for inclusion in the green list.

“Ultimately, we’d like to see many Australian parks on the green list,” Hockings said.

WWF-Australia Indigenous engagement specialist Cliff Cobbo has been appointed to the Eagl, while WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor will help manage Eagl business. Hockings said WWF’s contribution was an enormous help, since the IUCN did not have paid staff in Australia.

“Green list parks have to ensure full engagement of Traditional Owners in planning and management,” Cobbo said.

“The green list should give a strong impetus for park agencies to bring Traditional Owners into the tent. This is happening in many places in Australia, but we hope to make it the norm,” he said.