By Lynn Rhodes
The Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in the northwestern part of Dornogobi aimag was visited last month by a team from California State Parks. Since Mark Jorgensen, Superintendent (retired) of California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park® first visited Mongolia in 2006; the relationship between the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve and California State Parks has been on-going. Ikh Nart and Anza Borrego Desert State Park® in California became official Sister Parks last year when the California State Park Commission voted unanimously to pass a Resolution of Support for the relationship between the two parks. Joint efforts include wildlife studies, natural and cultural resource protection, enforcement, training and ecotourism.
State Parks representatives, some for the first time and some returning, traveled on their own time and at their own expense to the official Sister Park. This year’s delegation included Jorgensen, and Lynn Rhodes, Chief, Law Enforcement Division (retiring), three State Park District Superintendents: Mike Wells, Ronie Clark, and Pam Armas, in addition to Anza Borrego Desert State Park® Ranger Steve Bier.
The visit helped to reinforce responsibilities these land mangers have to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources. Both old and new strategies were shared during the visit in order to continue successful stewardship of the sister parks.
Last year, staff from the two sister parks decided one of the best ways to improve protection at Ikh Nart was to better identify the reserve’s boundaries. The State Parks’ team had boundary signs made and brought with them for installation around the Reserve’s perimeter.
Coordinates for all signs were entered into a GIS system for ease in locating and monitoring. New signs were placed around approximately 1/3rd of the reserve’s boundary during the joint work project. The team hopes to complete the boundary sign project during next year’s visit.
The new signs will help those who visit the reserve. Additionally, illegal mining and trespassing are some of the challenges in managing the reserve and good boundary signs will assist Ikh Nart’s Ranger staff in protecting the area.
The visit included a treat for the State Parks team to attend a local Naadam Festival near Ikh Nart. While there, a young boy received an eye injury and was provided first aid by State Park Ranger Steve Bier who was able to stabilize the injury.
The California State Parks team also brought several first aid packs for the Ikh Nart Rangers and shared a joint first aid training session the following day.
While working at the Reserve, the team also met and supported several local women who have started a crafts cooperative called “Ikh Nart is Our Future”. The women, led by their new Director, Boloroo, set up a table at Ikh Nart’s research camp with their newly made felt works. In addition to helping support the women, a portion of the proceeds from their work helps to provide on going support for the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve.
In March of this year, Ikh Nart’s camp manager Amgaa Sukh Amgalanbaatar, traveled to California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park® for the second time, to assist with efforts there. The Ikh Nart and State Parks’ team said the joint project work increases awareness of what can be gained when working together to protect valuable resources. The measure of success, in part, will be that places like the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve and California’s State Parks will remain protected and accessible for the public to enjoy today and for generations to come.
Ikh Nart Nature Reserve: http://www.ikhnart.com
Lynn Rhodes has most recently been the Chief of California State Parks Law Enforcement Division. After 30 years with California State Parks, she is retiring at year’s end and will spend more time with her family, writing and supporting natural and cultural resource protection and enforcement in California and other locations such as the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in Mongolia, California State Parks’ Sister Park