Outdoor News February 2, 2018 - Explore! Outdoor News February 2, 2018 - Explore!

Outdoor News February 2, 2018

Exploring the Silk Road

Exploring the Silk RoadHorizon Guides and Kalpak Travel have released a beautiful guidebook titled "Exploring the Silk Road: Highlights and Key Routes."  The 46-page eBook tells you everything you need to know before embarking on this fascinating adventure.  The Silk Road, in its broadest sense, was a network of land-based trade routes that moved goods from Europe to Asia to Africa.  It began developing as early as 200 BC, eventually delivering silk, horses, spices and other trade goods across major portions of the known world.  Adventurers like Xuanzang (602-664 see The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions) used these routes between China and the Indian sub-continent. Later, European traders and explorers like Marco Polo (1254-1324 see The Travels of Marco Polo) extended the network and enhanced trade between Europe and the Far East. Today,  a trip along the Silk Road offers a fascinating look at history, geography and cultural anthropology to adventurous explorers.  

Author Steven Hermans says:
"Despite the region’s long and illustrious history of exploration, much of the Silk Road remains a mystery to today’s traveller. Where to begin? What to see? How to get around? That’s why we created this guide: To introduce you to the must-see highlights and show how to condense a land of mind-boggling diversity into an all-too-brief holiday.  Unlike in Marco Polo’s day, a journey along the Silk Road no longer demands an epic five-year voyage. But don’t let that diminish the scale of the adventure that awaits–buckle up, you’re in for one hell of a ride!" 

You can download the book (PDF) for free from: 

Pendiari National Park

On Wednesday, the National Geographic SocietyAfrican Parks, the Wyss Foundation and the Republic of Benin announced a groundbreaking partnership to help secure and rehabilitate one of the last remaining wild landscapes in all of West Africa, Benin's Pendjari National Park. Together, the four partners are initially committing more than US$23M to safeguard the park.

Elephants in Pendjari National Park, BeninAfrican Parks, a conservation non-governmental organization (NGO) that manages protected areas across Africa, assumed management of Pendjari, a World Heritage site, in partnership with the Presidency of the Republic of Beninin May of 2017. Earlier that year, Mr. Hansjörg Wyss, a member of African Parks' board of directors, made a commitment to support parks currently under African Parks' management, and to help it bring up to five new parks into the portfolio.

The National Geographic Society's monetary commitment of US$7.5M over five years complements a portion of the Wyss Foundation's commitment to African Parks for Pendjari National Park. This partnership aims to protect, restore and revitalize Pendjari's extraordinary landscape through increased operational effectiveness, scientific research, innovative technology and visually compelling storytelling.

"Today's announcement is a testament to the power of partnerships," said Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society. "At National Geographic, we strive each and every day to achieve a planet in balance. Combining forces with African Parks, the Wyss Foundation and the government of Benin, we are capitalizing on the unique capabilities of each organization – including on-the-ground management, cutting-edge science and exploration and storytelling prowess – to create an unprecedented model for conservation."

For almost two decades, African Parks has implemented a successful private-public partnership model to conserve Africa's wildlife and remaining wild areas, providing expertise in highly effective protected area management that will be brought to bear in the day-to-day management of Pendjari. National Geographic will complement this work by leading science-based exploration of the park; developing technology to monitor and protect the site; convening stakeholders to develop a large-scale management plan; creating educational materials relevant to the community; and producing visually compelling materials that make the case for long-term financing and protection. 

"We are extremely pleased to be partnering with the National Geographic Society for the continued protection of Pendjari National Park," said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. "The scale of this commitment, and the Society's ability to help advance scientific research, develop technological solutions, and shine a spotlight on this invaluable ecological landscape, will help us to ensure its future." 

Pendjari, which is located in the northwest of Benin and measures 4,800 square kilometers, is an anchoring part of the WAP complex (W-Arly-Pendjari) spanning across three countries: Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. It is the largest remaining intact ecosystem in the whole of West Africa and the last refuge for the region's largest remaining population of elephant and the critically endangered West African lion; along with cheetah, antelope, buffalo and many other species. 

According to Patrice Talon, President of the Republic of Benin, "the Pendjari National Park is an exceptional reserve, which was under threat because of poaching. This partnership with African Parks, National Geographic and Wyss Foundation encourages us to continue our efforts to reveal the potential of the Pendjari. The international collaboration for this reserve is extraordinary, especially because it comes at a time when my government is committed to making tourism a lever for long-term development. It is all at once a matter of preservation of our environment and our natural resources, sustainable tourism and social impact."

Photo Credit: Marc Auer [CC BY 2.0]


BEA to Release New Statistics

On Wednesday,  The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced a February 14 release date for first-time, prototype, statistics measuring the economic effects of outdoor recreation – pursuits like boating,  RVing  and snowboarding.

BEA LogoThese prototype statistics covering 2012-2016 will be available in a news release and data tables posted on BEA’s website at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

These data will flow out of BEA’s Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, a new project that will aid decision making by business people, policymakers and managers of public lands and waters and add to the public’s understanding of this important part of the U.S. economy.

Specifically, BEA is measuring “gross output” by type of recreation, such as boating, RVing and snowboarding, as well as by industry (for instance, manufacturing and transportation).

BEA is also measuring industries’ contributions to U.S. gross domestic product (called “value added’’) that are associated with outdoor recreation.

Information on employment and compensation for industries associated with outdoor recreation will also be available.

After the public release of these prototype statistics on Feb. 14, BEA will continue to gather feedback to help finalize the definitions, data sources and methodology it will use to measure outdoor recreation. This feedback also will help BEA shape its presentation of these statistics.

The outdoor recreation account was established by a 2016 federal law. More information about this project is available on BEA’s website.


New Parks in Chile

On Monday, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, President and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, signed the decrees creating Pumalín National Park and Patagonia National Park in Chile. The one million acres and world-class infrastructure they contain have been billed as the largest donation of land from a private entity to a country.

Pumalin Park, ChileThis marks the culmination of the pledge that President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins signed in March 2017 to create a network of five new national parks in Chile and the expansion of three others. Together, they are adding a total of more than 10 million acres of new national parklands to Chile, with one million acres of land from Tompkins Conservation and an additional 9 million acres of federal land from Chile. For scale, that is more than three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone combined, or approximately the size of the country of Switzerland.

The signing of these decrees cements Chile as one of the global leaders in conservation today, a vision which President Bachelet touched on in her Monday speech. "With these beautiful lands, their forests, their rich ecosystems, we…expand the network of parks to more than 10 million acres. Thus, national parklands in Chile will increase by 38.5% to account for 81.1% of Chile's protected areas."

"I am proud of my husband Doug and his vision which continues to guide us, in addition to our entire team, for completing these two national parks and the broader network, a major milestone of our first 25 years of work," Kristine Tompkins said. "While we will continue to help promote and safeguard these parks, we are beginning to turn our attention to more new conservation and rewilding projects in Chile and Argentina as we work to save and restore big, wild and connected ecosystems."

Patagonia National Park Chile and Pumalín National Park will be key destinations in the network of parks of Chilean Patagonia. These parks are already open to the public, welcoming visitors from Chile and around the world to experience Patagonia's natural beauty, which will now be permanently protected for all visitors and the creatures that call these parks home.

From its inception, Tompkins Conservation's objective has been to donate privately acquired land to parks systems to be protected at the highest level of conservation for generations to come. To date, the organization and its partners have protected roughly 13 million acres of land to parks systems in Chile and Argentina, where they have worked with local and national governments, nongovernmental organizations, scientists, activists, conservationists and their  local staff to achieve permanent conservation.



On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (N.M.) led a group of 18 senators in introducing legislation to enhance protections for national monuments. The America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018 reinforces Congress’ intent in the Antiquities Act of 1906: only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation.

Tom UdallS. 2354, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018, protects and enhances national monuments in three main provisions:

  • It officially declares Congress’ support for the 51 national monuments established by presidents in both parties between January 1996 and April 2017 under their authority established by the Antiquities Act of 1906.
  • It reinforces that existing law clearly states that presidential proclamations designating national monuments are valid and cannot be reduced or diminished, except by an act of Congress.
  • It further enhances protections for the presidentially designated national monuments by 1) requiring that they be surveyed, mapped and that management plans be completed in two years—in the same manner as congressionally designated national monuments—and  2) that they receive additional resources to ensure that they will continue to meet their full potential of providing unmatched economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to their states and to the nation.

A summary of the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018 can be found here.

“President Trump’s unprecedented attack on public lands is not just an affront to the overwhelming majority of Americans who cherish these precious places — it’s also illegal. This legislation makes it crystal clear that monuments designated through the Antiquities Act of 1906 may not be altered by future presidents because only Congress has the authority to change a national monument designation,” Udall said. 

In addition to Udall, the ANTIQUITIES Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Durbin (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Tina Smith (Minn.), and Michael Bennet (Colo.).


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Video of the Week

With the dedication of the new national parks in Chile, it's a great time to feature one of those parks here.  This week's video offers some great views along with background on the development of Patagonia National Park.  Enjoy!

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