"UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development."
What is a Geopark?
Geoparks promote education about our natural landscapes, starting from the rocks below our feet and how they formed over millions of years. The formation of our planet began over 4.5 billion years ago and continues to unfold today. Thinking on these long geological time scales can be difficult, but a Geopark helps to unravel these processes and tell our shared geological history.
A Geoparks shows how geology influences the ecology of a region. Many factors that determine the habitat for flora and fauna growth; however, one of the primary factors are the rock below the surface and the geological processes that have shaped our landscape.
We have built our human societies over thousands of years in relation to landscapes and the natural resources we have had available. Indigenous people were the first stewards of Maine and their rich knowledge and oral traditions demonstrates the importance of protecting our cultural geoheritage. A Geopark is about "reconnecting human society at all levels to the planet we call home and to celebrate how our planet and its 4,600 million year long history has shaped every aspect of our lives and our societies" (UNESCO, 2017).
Geoparks help build sustainable economic development for a region by promoting geotourism and working from a bottom-up approach.
Who Manages a Geopark?
Geoparks work with local community members, universities, town councilors, tourist board directors, indigenous groups, land trusts, and anyone living and working within the area of a Geopark. Through these community partnerships, the Geopark promotes education about the local and geological heritage.
A coordinating team oversees the process and proposals for projects and funding. They ensure that projects, education, and communication and all other components of the Geopark runs smoothly.
NO LAND OWNERSHIP
A Geopark does not seek to buy or own any land. It is not like a typical "park." Instead, a Geopark works with existing private and public land owners through partnerships to work towards the goals of the Geopark.
Geoparks and UNESCO
The concept of Geoparks was first established in 2000, and today there are over 140 Geoparks across 40 countries.
In 2015, UNESCO established the UNESCO Global Geopark status, in addition to the Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites. Together, they give a complete picture of celebrating our heritage while at the same time conserving the world’s cultural, biological and geological diversity, and promoting sustainable economic development.
Geoparks have the option of applying for the UNESCO Global Geopark status if they meet all the applicable requirements and the country in which they are located is a member state of UNESCO. Achieving the UNESCO Global Geopark status brings many advantages, including international connections and working towards the U.N sustainability goals.
Geoparks within the U.S are currently unable to apply for the UNESCO Global Geopark status after the country pulled out of being a member state of UNESCO in 2018.