Georgia has made nature protection a priority, expanding the area of the country designated as parks to almost ten percent of the total over the past three decades. The country’s celebration of World Ranger Day 2020, organized in the lush Sabaduri Forest just one hour from Tbilisi, was dedicated to the message that nature is a priceless resource that must be protected and safeguarded. Much has been achieved but more can be done to make environmental governance central to national development.
Organised by the Agency of Protected Areas with support from UNDP, Sweden, Germany, Japan, the Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF) and other partners, the event brought together representatives of Government, Parliament, local authorities and international organizations.
Participants acknowledged the role of rangers in protecting and managing Georgia’s national parks and paid tribute to the rangers who had lost their lives in the course of duty.
Georgian officials, accredited ambassadors and heads of international agencies offered congratulations to Georgian rangers on their professional day. Twenty-five rangers received awards and appreciation certificates for outstanding performance. The growing number of women rangers was also highlighted.
“Congratulations to all Georgian rangers,” said Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture. “Up to 400 rangers are looking after most beautiful natural sites of our country, sometimes risking their lives to do the job. That’s what being a hero is about.”
“The damage wrought by climate change and other manmade disasters is a warning bell that we are pushing the limits of nature too far,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “As we recognize the guardians of Georgia’s protected areas, we must all become rangers, protecting and preserving our planet for future generations.”
Georgia is among the countries that have made protected areas a national priority, reinforcing this commitment with policies and strategies. Since 1991, Georgia’s protected areas have almost tripled in size, expanding to almost ten percent of the country’s territory, encompassing 667,000 hectares of unique forests, landscapes, rivers and lakes.
Management of protected areas has also been reformed, introducing new models and approaches to protecting biodiversity and integrating ecosystem services into the country’s economic and social development.
Establishment of a professional service of rangers is part of these reforms, aimed at preserving national parks and ensuring the safety and enjoyment of the people who visit them. At present, Georgia employees 396 rangers, including five women rangers.
UNDP has been assisting Georgia in reforming and developing its system of protected areas for over a decade. With funds from the Government of Sweden and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP has been working with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the Agency of Protected Areas, educational institutions, local authorities and communities to help introduce development strategies for protected areas, improve their management and financial sustainability, train and equip rangers, promote eco-tourism, develop touristic infrastructure, such as hiking trails, information centres and hospitality services, and carry out public outreach campaigns.