The IUCN Green List of Protected Areas was launched to the world at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 in Sydney, Australia.
Protected areas in Australia, South Korea, China, Italy, France, Spain, Kenya and Colombia were unveiled as the first to be listed at an official announcement on Friday as part of the innovative Green List of Protected Areas (GLPA) project being developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The GLPA is the only global standard of good practice for protected areas and it aims to recognise and promote success in managing some of the most valuable natural areas on the planet. The first 23 successful sites have been selected among 50 candidates put forward by the eight countries as part of the first phase of the Green List.
"The IUCN Green List will define success for protected areas," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General at the launch. "It is about recognizing those sites that successfully respond to the challenges of the 21st century and contribute to the wellbeing of people and nature.
"The sites have been evaluated against a set of demanding criteria, including the quality of protection of natural values. They should demonstrate fair and transparent sharing of the costs and benefits of conservation, effective management and long-lasting conservation outcomes. These criteria are tailored and measured according to the challenges and opportunities faced in each country.
"The Protected Planet report launched yesterday in Sydney revealed that much more needs to be done to improve the quality of governance and management of global protected areas," said James Hardcastle, Manager of the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas.
"The Green List will help the global protected area community ensure that protected areas have real conservation impacts that benefit people, economy and the environment."
He added: "One of the successful candidates, the Cape Byron State Conservation Area/Arakwal National Park in Australia, has been 'green listed' for its engagement with the local community. The Aboriginal Arakwal traditional owners were instrumental in establishing the National Park in 2001 and are fully involved in its daily management."
More than 65 local volunteers make sure that visitors are informed of the important natural and cultural values of the area. In Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, pastoral ranching is allowed within the protected area. Its management runs a community cattle ranching programme providing monitoring, protection and livestock health services.
This ensures protection for both wildlife and cattle and provides a safe haven and rich pastures for local herders. In France, the Cerbère-Banyuls Natural Marine Reserve has seen a successful recovery of marine species and habitats since it was established to protect fragile marine habitats in 1974.
It also engages the community in the management of the area and actively supports the fishing and tourism sectors. A guided underwater educational safari is one of the most popular visitor drawcards on this stretch of the Côte Vermeille, at the foothills of the Pyrenees.
In China, six flagship protected areas have achieved the IUCN Green List standard, including the Mount Huangshan World Heritage Area, the Tangjiahe National Nature Reserve – home to a thriving population of giant panda – and the Eastern Dongting Lake National Nature Reserve.
The reserve was awarded for the critical conservation work of the lake, which is a major inland water source of Central China, fed by the Yangtze river. In Spain, the management of Sierra Nevada National Park successfully balances the conservation of a fragile montane ecosystem and rich cultural heritage with a dynamic tourism industry.
Doñana National Park is presenting a case for excellence in the management of wetland and cultural values, and the Green Listing process will be completed in early 2015. Another green-listed site, the Gorgona National Park in Colombia, protects an outstanding example of the country's rich marine and coastal biodiversity, with a collaborative management system in place that engages local fishers in nature conservation.
"The IUCN Green List of Protected Areas will set the benchmark for success in Colombia and hopefully for the whole region," said Julia Miranda, Director of National Parks of Colombia. "We will use the standard to motivate our staff and managers but also to encourage our government, business and community partners to work with us to help achieve success to the benefit of all."
She added: "The IUCN Green List standard will bring greater international recognition to the listed sites and increased political support. It will also help improve the quality of tourism within the sites. The Standard will evolve to keep pace with global best practice and new challenges facing protected areas.
"Listed sites commit to continuously improve to maintain compliance with the Standard. Countries next in line for Green List assessment include Mexico, Croatia and several countries in North Africa and Micronesia."