Mongolia is known for its vast, beautiful landscapes and the warm, generous nomadic herding families who call these remote areas home. Today the demand for Mongolia’s underground mineral resources is rapidly increasing, threatening both the traditional livelhoods of the nomadic culture and the diverse and rare wildlife. The mining practices and the resources have had very little management and there have been much uncontrolled and illegal exploration. This is alarming for Mongolian families whose livelihood depends on the pasturelands.
To date, mining (mostly coal mining) contributes nearly 30% to the Mongolian GDP. However, some remote areas must be preserved in order to maintain the integrity of the mountain pastures for both pastoralists and wildlife. With this goal in mind, conservationists, herders and government officials have been working to try to protect the Tost Mountain landscape from mining disturbances.
Nadia Tserennadmid Mijiddorj, our Conservation and Education Manager in Mongolia, has been leading this effort. In June 2012, Nadia and her team traveled to the South Gobi Provincial Center and Ministry offices in order to convince the local committee to sign a letter recommending that the national government approve our proposal to upgrade the Tost Local Protected Area to national reserve status. Nadia said that she was a little worried going into the meeting because the meeting itself had been delayed for several months.
She gave a presentation to the committee and highlighted the importance of the Tost Local Protected Area, sharing information about the rich biodiversity of the area and the importance of the habitat for a diversity of species of birds, and plants, as well as argali and ibex which play key roles for the endangered snow leopard of the area. This area also includes mountains that are rendered sacred by the local community and contains ancient rock paintings and water sources which are said to have healing properties. Located between two nationally protected areas; the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park and Great Gobi National Park; the Tost Local Protected Area acts as an important corridor for wildlife.
Herders have also been using this landscape for centuries and it holds their life stories as well the stories of their ancestors. Currently the area sustains the livelihood of over 200 families, many who have been working with the Snow Leopard Trust through our Snow Leopard Enterprises program since it’s inception in 1998 and with our more recently piloted livestock insurance program.
An hour after presenting to the committee, they called Nadia to let her know they had approved the proposal letter! It is an important achievement bringing us one step closer in the process. Soon after that call, one of the elders from the Tost region called to express his gratitude to Nadia and team, “… you people have saved our motherland and at the same time many herders life and livelihood.”
Nadia told us later, “His few words inspire us to continue ahead. Although the mission is not completed and trickier stages are waiting for us, we can’t give up because they are counting on us… We are so happy to bring the herding communities’ voice to the decision making level, to become a bridge for the community while simultaneously conserving the habitat of the endangered snow leopard. All we want is to keep this beautiful land as a pristine area where people and wildlife can live peacefully.”