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Alpine Conservation Partnership

Alpine Conservation Partnership

What is the Alpine Conservation Partnership?

Founded by the American Alpine Club (AAC) and The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 2006, the long-term goal of the partnership is to Protect and Restore the World's Alpine Ecosystems. Through good science; long-term, impact-oriented field programs; and the active participation of local people, NGOs, and governments, we seek to build a legacy that will be unmatched in the history of conservation projects initiated by climbers.

The project represents one of the most enduring legacies that both organizations can leave behind for future generations of climbers, explorers, trekkers, scientists, and millions of people living in the lowlands.

"The Alpine Conservation Partnership is the biggest thing the AAC has ever done in the conservation arena." -AAC member and Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard.

The Project

The goal of the project is to protect and restore the world's alpine ecosystems by disseminating model conservation and tourism-related livelihood improvement projects developed in the Mt. Everest region since 2003. The fundamental and proven 'best practices' involved within this process include the use of:

  • Detailed, scientific understandings of the problems, origins, and prospective practical solutions,
  • The involvement and participation of local people and conservation groups in all phases of the project,
  • Giving economic value to conservation by linking the benefits of good resource management with the development of resource-dependent income-generating activities (e.g., better milk production through improved pastures; nature and cultural tourism),
  • The long-term capacity building of local people in alpine conservation, project management, financial management, service delivery, organizational development, and fundraising skills that sustain the project in perpetuity.

These models will be adapted and applied to 10 of the world's major mountains within the Himalayas, East African Highlands, Andes, Russian Altai, and North America over a 10 year period (2007-2017).

Why Alpine?

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Alpine ecosystems worldwide are being rapidly transformed into high altitude deserts as a result of contemporary, unsustainable uses that include unregulated adventure tourism, overgrazing, increasing numbers of packstock, and the accelerated harvesting of slow-growing shrubs for fuelwood and medicinal and aromatic products. Similar scenarios of degradation have been documented for Mt. Everest, Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya, Aconcagua, Huascaran, and practically any other other major mountain in the world subject to large numbers of climbers and trekkers.

Alpine ecosystems, gateways to the world's highest summits, are among the world's most beautiful and fragile landscapes. Although covering only three percent of the earth's surface, they contain an astonishing 10,000 species of plants, the highest biodiversity per unit area of any ecosystem in the world.

They are also critically important to millions of people in the lowlands as sources of fresh water for drinking, agriculture, and hydropower.

Alpine vegetation and landscapes are particularly sensitive to changes in climate, analogous to "canaries in the coal mine" in terms of their ability to rapidly demonstrate global warming impacts such as glacier recession, upward plant migration, depletion of water supplies, and biodiversity destruction. The medicinal and aromatic plants harvested from alpine meadows generate millions of dollars annually in the global market. Alpine landscapes are also of global importance for their recreational and spiritual renewal attributes; and for the sustainability of local agro-pastoral economies through seasonal agriculture, animal husbandry, and the adventure travel trade (trekking and mountaineering).

Building on Success

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The project will build upon the successes of the Everest Alpine Conservation and Restoration Project, Nepal, officially launched in 2004 with start-up funding from the AAC.

Although less that three years old, the Everest program has already established the Khumbu Alpine Conservation Council (KACC), the world's first alpine NGO.

In February, 2006, a $50,000.00 capacity building grant from the United Nations Development Programme/Nepal was awarded to the KACC that will strengthen their ability to manage and sustain the Everest project in perpetuity. This capacity building strategy is key to the long-term success of the Alpine Conservation Partnership Project and will be replicated in all of the project's work sites.

How to Get Involved

  • Join the AAC. AAC members will have the opportunity to work with the various alpine conservation and restoration projects, thereby gaining valuable conservation and international development experience

About Alton Byers

Alton C. Byers, Director of Research and Education for The Mountain Institute, is a mountain geographer specializing in mountain protected areas, integrated conservation and development programs, and historical/contemporary landscape change. He received his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1987, focusing on landscape change and human-accelerated soil loss in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Khumbu, Nepal. Following two years working on conservation of mountain gorillas in Ruhengeri Prefecture, Rwanda, he joined The Mountain Institute in 1990 as Environmental Advisor. Between 1993-94, he and his family were based in Khandbari, Nepal where he served as TMI's co-project manager in Nepal's newest national park, the Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area. During 1994-1996, he was Acting Director of Andes Programs, helping to develop new projects in the Huascaran National Park, Peru; directed TMI's Appalachian Program and Spruce Knob Mountain Center (SKMC) in West Virginia between 1998-2000; and currently provides technical, implementation, and fundraising support to various TMI programs.