Current and Ongoing Programs
Baikal Watch’s objective is to achieve permanent protection of Lake Baikal and its Siberian and Mongolian surroundings, and to restore the integrity of the environment throughout the region by:
- Promoting the growth of the local environmental movement and of regional grassroots organizations in particular;
- Educating the local public, and providing for the participation of the people in making regional environmental policies;
- Strengthening the rule of law in this part of the world;
- Supporting the development of economic alternatives, such as ecotourism, and other sustainable activities.
In keeping with this mission, this Earth Island project has initiated a number of different programs, all of which have been organized in collaboration with local Russian and Mongolian partners. These principal partners (all of whom have received ongoing financial and organizational support through Baikal Watch) include:
- Baikal Center for Environmental Research and Education (Irkutsk)
- Buryat Regional Organization for Baikal (Ulan-Ude)
- Mongol Ecology Center
The following is a comprehensive list of our ongoing programs:
The Great Baikal Trail – Earth Island and its various Russian partners have started to build the GREAT BAIKAL TRAIL. This trail will travel around this great Siberian lake, some 1200 miles in all, and in so doing, it will connect 3 national parks and 4 nature reserves along the shores of Baikal!
NGO-Training Exchanges – These international training programs have helped build the capacity of Russians and other activists based out of Asia. So far, we have over 2,000 “graduates” to date, and dozens of local and national groups are prospering from the legal and operational support offered by Earth Island.
Saving National Parks – Over the years Baikal Watch has provided comprehensive training for park officials from throughout Russia and Mongolia. We have also arranged for a number of eco-tours and other visitor exchanges to the greater Baikal region—tours that ultimately brought benefit to the national parks and the local communities that surround them. There are now systems of trails in each of the seven national parks that girdle the lake, attracting thousands of tourists every year, channeling them to less vulnerable areas, and providing employment to uncounted numbers of local guides and tour operators. And in pristine areas beyond Baikal, we have even helped with the creation of new parks and nature reserves that were particularly susceptible to human encroachment.
Nature Interpretation and other Eco-Education projects at Lake Baikal – Until recently, most park rangers and local tour guides were unable to reach out to local residents and interpret the significance of Siberia’s natural and cultural heritage in their lives. But beginning in 2010 we at Earth Island began to work with local activists to introduce a new interpretive movement in Russia. In so doing, we enlisted the support of our good colleagues at the National Association for Interpretation.
Here in America we’ve trained some fifty Russians and Mongolians in the art of using interpretive stories that will inspire tourist and local residents to respect and honor their natural surroundings. These trainees have since gone home to offer similar interpretive courses to tour guides, museum and botanical garden staff, park rangers, educators, etc.—so that nearly 500 people in northern Asia are now thoroughly prepared to lead their own enjoyable and inspiring interpretive programs. These trainings have been conducted in far-flung regions, ranging from Sakhalin Island, Kamchatka, and Vladivostok in the far east—to Astrakhan, Khakassia, and Moscow further west—to all the major towns in the larger Baikal watershed.
Translation of seminal books on the environment.
In our efforts to help the eco-education movement in Russia and Mongolia, Earth Island has sponsored the translation of several renowned books. These include:
- Sharing Nature (by Joseph Cornell)—a wonderful book for reaching children with fun activities—and now appearing in Mongolian and Russian for use throughout the region!
- Lightly on the Land (by Bob Birkby)—a trail-builder’s bible that helps us all understand the importance of leaving less of a trace on the lands that we visit!
- Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose (by Sam Ham)—the textbook that is used in almost every interpretive training curriculum that we know of in the world!
North Asia Mining Program
This project is geared to stop environmentally dangerous gold/uranium/coal mines in eastern Russia and nearby Mongolia, both by supporting public involvement and by helping prepare official environmental impact assessments on individual mines. In collaborating closely with renowned mining experts at Southwest Research and Information Center, we also promote ecologically clean technologies for existing mines, while helping secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical supplies for those local people whose health has been adversely affected by the radioactivity released through mining.