Heavily eroded slopes near Chukung village in Nepal, a result of years of harvesting shrub juniper as fuel for local trekker lodges. The Khumbu Alpine Conservation Council is working to halt and reverse this damage.Photo courtesy of www.mountain.org.
The American Alpine Club and the Mountain Institute have received a $150,000 grant from the Argosy Foundation to launch the Alpine Conservation Partnership (ACP), a program designed to protect and restore alpine ecosystems worldwide.
The ACP will adapt the successful Everest Alpine Conservation and Restoration Project, launched in 1994 with grants from the AAC and the National Geographic Society, and will work with local communities to protect alpine areas in Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Peru. Eventually, the ACP hopes to expand its programs to the Wind Rivers of Wyoming, Aconcagua Provincial Park in Argentina, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Belukha Nature Park in the Russian Altai Mountains, among others. The program will be managed by the Mountain Institute, with a part-time staffer at the AAC to coordinate volunteer opportunities for climbers.
The pioneering Everest Alpine Conservation program was spearheaded by the Mountain Institute but has been managed by local communities in Nepal. In its three years of existence, the program has established the Khumbu Alpine Conservation Council, the world’s first alpine non-governmental organization (NGO); saved more than 80,000 kilograms of fragile shrub juniper per year that formerly was used for fuel wood; established a kerosene and stove depot to provide alternative fuel for tourists and lodges; restored a porters’ rest house in Lobuche to provide shelter, warmth, and cooking facilities; developed new curricula for local schools; and worked to restore devegetated hillsides by building high-altitude nurseries and cattle-proof fences around fragile areas.
Although they cover only 3 percent of the Earth’s surface, alpine ecosystems contain an astonishing 10,000 species of plants, the highest biodiversity per unit area of any ecosystem in the world, according to the Mountain Institute. These ecosystems are also critically important to millions of people in the lowlands as sources of fresh water for drinking, agriculture, and hydropower.
The Argosy Foundation is a family foundation with wide-ranging interests, created in 1997 by John Abele, cofounder of medical-device maker Boston Scientific.