Milestones in Mongolia
For more than 10 years, The Nature Conservancy has given scientific support to the national government of Mongolia, which has now put a staggering 20% of its land—some 77.5 million acres—under national protection. The latest move came in May 2019, when the nation’s parliament put new protections on 8.6 million acres.
The new protections cover a huge swath of Mongolia’s landscape, from the Altai Mountains to the steppe to the Gobi Desert. They help preserve habitats for at least 15 rare species, including snow leopard, argali sheep, wild ass, and Przewalski’s horse, as well as cultural and historical sites. Together, Mongolia’s protected areas will help the country counterbalance growing national changes in mining, overgrazing and climate change, while also allowing local herding communities to remain on the land.
“Mongolians are very proud of their heritage and their nomadic culture, and the families of many of the people in parliament are still herders,” says Galbadrakh Davaa, director of TNC’s Mongolia Program. “Because of that close connection with the landscape, they deeply understand that Mongolian culture and identity depend on nature.”
The Nature Conservancy has also worked at the ground level, helping local communities learn more about the tools available to them to manage the lands they depend on for herding and other activities. With this help, they can create their own natural resources management plans and establish agreements with respective levels of government, which allow the voices of communities to be heard.
In addition to the nationally protected areas, local-level governments in Mongolia have designated 1,220 protected areas covering 66.4 million acres—17% of the country’s landmass. The Conservancy would like to see them made permanent.
In 1992, the Mongolian government set a goal of ultimately protecting 30% of its land. The Nature Conservancy began working in Mongolia more than a decade ago and has worked to boost that effort by providing science, data and expertise to all levels of government and communities.
To help the government focus its land-protection commitment, TNC carried out a nationwide landscape-level ecological survey. That project identified the most critical areas for protecting biodiversity, which then served as the basic blueprint for designating nationally protected areas.
“Mongolia’s environmental protection law requires representation of all the country’s ecosystems in the protected-area network,” says Enkhtuya Oidov, the executive director of the Mongolia Program. “We helped the government identify the least-protected ecosystems, including the intact temperate grasslands in Mongolia.”
The Mongolian government is now working to designate nine new national-level protected areas that will cover 3.3 million acres. And TNC continues to support the government in its final push to protect 30% by 2030.