World Heritage status expensive but beneficial

A report puts the cost of applying for UNESCO World Heritage status as up to $1.2 million

Seeking World Heritage status for Wells Gray Park and area would be an expensive process but worth doing anyways.

That seemed to be the consensus among Clearwater town councilors after reading a report on the process by a consultant hired by Tourism Wells Gray.

“To me it’s a very good document,” said councilor Bert Walker. “To move to the next level, we need senior levels of government to get involved.”

Walker noted that the report, “UNESCO Designation for Wells Gray Park and Area,” by Crawford Ecological Consulting put the cost of applying for UNESCO World Heritage status as up to $1.2 million.

Applying for a Global GeoPark designation would be somewhat less expensive, but not a lot.

“This is not a Clearwater thing. It’s not a Wells Gray thing. It’s a provincial thing,” said Walker.

Ken Kjenstad suggested that the matter be put on the agenda of items to be discussed with government ministers during the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities convention.

“We also need to involve First Nations,” said Kjenstad. “There are at least two bands with interests in the area.”

“This report really zeros in on costs,” said Christy Dobi. “We need to know if there is a financial commitment and buy-in from senior levels of government. We need that funding even to continue taking baby steps.”

Tourism Wells Gray had accepted the report but wanted council’s approval before distributing it to other stakeholders, said TWG president Ted Richardson. Funding for the report came from the municipality.

“We need to go into this with an all-or-nothing mindset,” said Tourism Wells Gray president Ted Richardson. “It is a huge undertaking. We need to do a good job or not do it at all.”

According to the report, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recognized that sub-glacial volcanoes, such as those found in Wells Gray Park and area, are lacking on the World Heritage list. However, there are other examples in other locations around the world. A nomination for Wells Gray Park would have to proved that its sub-glacial volcanoes are either the best examples of this feature or unique in an important way.

There is little data to support the claim that getting a UNESCO designation increases tourism, said the report. However, a variety of other benefit have been documented, including making it more likely all stakeholders will be consulted over new developments, generating new projects that benefit the community, opening up more funding opportunities, helping market an educational product, inspiring local residents to learn more about the site, and increasing local pride in the area.