Independent Evaluation of Sanjiangyuan Pilot National Park

As part of the Paulson Institute’s work to support the development of China’s national park system, the institute was invited by the Qinghai Provincial Government to develop a team of experts to conduct an independent evaluation of the Sanjiangyuan National Park Pilot (SNPP). The group, led by Jonathan Jarvis, former director of the US National Park Service, visited Sanjiangyuan in May 2019. The evaluation will help determine if the pilot park is eligible for designation as a national park based on international criteria. This evaluation will also be the model for establishing a formal evaluation methodology for designating future national parks in China.

Located in the southwest of Qinghai province, the SNPP spans a vast area of 12,314,100 hectares (equivalent to the size of 13 Yellowstone National Park). It contains a wide range of alpine ecosystems and rich biodiversity, due to the headwaters of the three major rivers, the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Mekong River, which wind across the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. This area not only provides vital ecosystem services to 900 million people in China and Southeast Asia but is also home to over 1,000 species of plant and animal. A total of 64,000 rural villagers, mostly Tibetan, are living in the SNPP area.

As the first pilot and the largest site for China’s national park initiative, the Sanjiangyuan National Park Management Bureau has been working to create innovative governance arrangements and management measures to meet the needs of nature and people. Highlights of the effort made in the three-year pilot phase include reforming governance structure, solidifying legislation, engaging local communities, and developing science-based conservation and management capacity.

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