Shenandoah National Park – Source: U.S. National Park Service
BEIJING, China –(ENEWSPF)–July 6, 2015. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell this weekend joined Chinese officials at a ceremony to establish a sister park relationship between Shenandoah National Park in the United States and Baihuashan National Nature Reserve in China, creating a framework for the parks to share lessons learned and foster international cooperation in preserving and promoting these protected areas.
Jewell attended the signing ceremony as part of a visit to China to promote tourism to the United States in advance of next year’s Centennial of the National Park Service and to strengthen international partnership and collaboration in combatting illegal trade in wildlife.
“China and the United States are home to some of the world’s most unique yet vulnerable natural treasures, and the arrangement signed today will strengthen our mutual commitment to protecting public lands for future generations,” said Jewell. “Through ‘sister park’ arrangements, we have great opportunities to learn from each other and to promote public lands as key economic drivers through travel and tourism.”
The United States’ public lands play an important role in attracting international visitors. Approximately 40% of the 2.2 million Chinese tourists visited at least one national park or monument during their visit to the U.S. in 2014.
In 2012, President Obama launched the first-ever National Travel and Tourism Strategy with the goal to welcome 100 million international visitors annually to the United States by 2021. These visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion. The U.S. Commerce Department released a report in June 2015 forecasting international visitors to the U.S. will reach a record 77.6 million this year – up more than 3.6 percent from total visitors in 2014, putting the U.S. on a path to meeting the national goal by 2021.
Jewell also met with Chinese tourism officials at an event hosted by Brand USA aimed at promoting travel and tourism to national parks and other public lands in the U.S.
“It is a great time to visit the United States because we are coming up on the Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, a special year when we will celebrate the more than 400 parks that tell the unique story of America – from our natural wonders to our rich history and diverse culture,” said Jewell. “Through our national parks and other public lands, we are proud to showcase everything that America has to offer.”
The arrangement, signed by Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jim Northup and Baihuashan National Nature Reserve Director Liu Dong, marks the eighth sister park arrangement between Chinese protected areas and the U.S. National Park Service. Both parks will share lessons learned in such areas as resource conservation, planning and construction, science advocacy, park interpretation and environmental education and management.
Baihuashan National Nature Reserve and Shenandoah National Park share many similarities. Both belong to forest ecosystems and are located about 70 miles west of their nation’s capitals. They have similar mountain, rock, and forest features, as well as beautiful natural landscapes and rich history, cultural relics, and legends. Due to their similar geographical locations, the two areas also share similar responsibilities for sustainable eco-tourism and science advocacy.
Baihuashan National Nature Reserve, located in the Mentougou district of Beijing Municipality, is the largest nature reserve in the Chinese capital region with a total area of 84 square miles. As a representative secondary deciduous forest ecosystem in the warm temperate mountains west of Beijing, Baihuashan is rich in biodiversity and has the largest alpine meadow in northern China. It was first set up in 1985 and upgraded in 2008 as National Nature Reserve to protect 14 animal species such as golden eagle, leopard, and brown-eared pheasant.
America’s Shenandoah National Park, established in 1935, is located about 70 miles west of Washington, D.C., and covers nearly 300 square miles. The park is characterized as forest-covered mountains and valleys and is an important habitat and home to black bears, bobcats, deer, foxes, birds and other wild animals. The park is well known for the Skyline Drive, a National Scenic Byway and a National Historic Landmark along the Blue Ridge Mountains.