GEOLOGIC HERITAGE: BEYOND THE DESIGNATION
Methods: I did extensive research on the state of the discipline throughout the world. I compared methods and language adopted by various public and private geoconservation agencies, existing best practices, and tales of challenge in making geologic heritage relevant to the general public. I compiled definitions of geologic heritage terms and concepts and identified a reading list of the foremost authorities on the subject.
Results: Beyond the coveted designation of a geological protected area, geologic heritage is a multi-faceted concept that also provides the general public a way to recognize and value landscapes as integral parts of both our personal and cultural identity. Education, museums, science, historians, land management agencies, business, avocational groups, and even medicine are all very broad special interest communities that comprise our geologic heritage. In the United States, there exist many agencies on the federal, state, local, and private levels who manage designated public lands, most of which were set aside for conservation because of the aesthetic beauty of their geologic features and landscapes. Creation of National Parks and similar protected areas is the legacy of the American people which has served as an inspiration and model for the international community for more than 100 years.
The most pressing obstacle to public support of geologic heritage conservation initiatives is a lack of geoscience literacy among the public. Another challenge is that geology is grossly under represented in nature conservation programs. The biotic and abiotic exist in tandem and any truly holistic nature conservation program should consider the implications of the landscape and underlying substrate in the overall conservation management plan.
Discussion: Geologic heritage initiatives provide a way for the general public to learn from the past and meet future challenges. Geologic heritage initiatives open the discussion about geology in our past, present and future because it reminds people of the values they hold for natural places.