Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Director-General pays tribute to leading US conservationist and one of the founding fathers of the World Heritage Convention

It was with great sadness that the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, learned of the passing of Russell E. Train, former President of the World Wildlife Fund, who died on 17 September at the age of 92.Russell E. Train was a renowned US conservationist who played a central role in creating groundbreaking laws in response to rising concerns about environmental protection in America and around the globe.

During a long and illustrious career in the public and private sectors, Mr Train’s occupied several key positions under several US administrations including President of the Conservation Foundation, Under-Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and President and Chair of the World Wildlife Fund from 1978 to 1990.

Mr Train is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of the World Heritage Convention. In 1965 Russell Train co-spearheaded a drive for an international convention to protect both cultural and natural heritage, with a White House Conference calling for a World Heritage Trust to stimulate international cooperation to protect “the world’s superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry”. From 1970 to 1973, Russell Train was the first chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Executive Office of US President Richard Nixon, at the time when the World Heritage initiative was launched in a Presidential message in 1971.

“As the international community is marking the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, I am particularly sad to note the passing of Mr Train whose vision and dedication to safeguarding the world’s cultural and natural for the benefit of future generations laid the groundwork for the world foremost international treaty for heritage preservation”, said the Director-General.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Former EPA administrator, leading American conservationist Russell Train dies

WASHINGTON — Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Russell Train, a leading American conservationist who helped craft some of the nation’s enduring environmental laws, died Monday at age 92.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said late Monday that as a leader with the federal agency at the time it was just starting under the Nixon administration, Train helped set the path for the ongoing work of the agency.

“His years with the agency saw landmark environmental achievements whose impacts are still felt,” Jackson said in a statement, citing laws such as the Toxic Substance Control Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act that help protect the nation’s water.

Train came to symbolize the bipartisan nature of the environmental movement more than 40 years ago when many conservatives were enthusiastic advocates of environmentalism.

Train was appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower to the bench of the Tax Court in 1957. The Washington Post said that around that time he and his wife took two safari expeditions to East Africa and the experiences had an impact on him that lasted throughout his life.
In 1965, he left the Tax Court to take over the presidency of the Conservation Foundation, a research and education organization.

Newly elected President Richard Nixon named him undersecretary of the Interior Department and in 1970 he became the first chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, an advisory group to the president. The EPA was started in 1970 and William Ruckelshaus was its first administrator. When Ruckelshaus left to take over the FBI during the Watergate scandal, Train was chosen to lead the EPA.

He stayed in the post through the Gerald Ford presidency and had a hand in other landmark environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act.

The chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, said Train played a pivotal role in the government’s efforts to protect the environment.

“He was a serious and widely respected voice on environmental issues at a time when Americans first became broadly aware of the dangers posed by pollution to our air, waters and soils,” Sutley said. “On his watch, the United States stood up many of our landmark safeguards for public health and the environment.”

Train also served as the first president of the World Wildlife Fund’s American chapter, leading that group from 1978 to 1985.

The Post said Train died Monday at his farm in the town of Bozman on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There was no cause of death reported.

Many World Heritage Sites are facing development pressures

SUMMIT COUNTY — Many of the planet’s 217 world heritage natural sites are facing increasing threats, including oil and gas development, and need more protection, conservation leaders said at an occasion marking the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

The 217 sites protect more than 250 million hectares of land and sea in more than 90 countries.

Nearly 8 percent of the 217 natural World Heritage Sites are on a danger list, while another 25 percent are affected by serious conservation issues. More than 60 percent of West and Central African sites are on the Danger list, and one in four of these iconic areas are threatened by planned mining, oil and gas projects. This includes Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home of the world’s last mountain gorillas.

“Too many World Heritage sites are left with few resources to ensure their proper management, risking their role as natural flagships for the protection of critical habitats and unique wildlife vital to the future of our planet,” said Tim Badman, director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “Many face a barrage of challenges, not least from mining and oil exploration.”

The IUCN wants to to see more resources focused on conservation in the next 10 years in order to uphold the high standards set by the designation.

Some conservation leaders said this year’s decision by the World Heritage governing body to not include several sites on the world heritage danger list was step backwards. Inclusion on the list shouldn’t be seen as a black mark, but as a way of drawing attention and providing support to sites at critical risk of losing the wildlife and landscapes for which they first gained global recognition.

“The success of World Heritage has been the way it has recognized exceptional places and focused international attention on their protection,” Badman said. “But there are worrying signs that the Convention could become less effective if it does not uphold its standards and it will need decisive action to remain relevant to the growing conservation needs of the 21st century.”

The IUCN was instrumental in creating the World Heritage Convention in 1972 and has a unique advisory role in supporting the Convention in achieving conservation results. Natural heritage sites are recognized as among the world’s most precious environments.