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Media release issued jointly by the Jungfrau‑Aletsch-Bietschhorn (JAB) World Heritage Association and the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN
Following the positive decision adopted by the World Heritage Committee on 28 June 2007, the area of the first World Natural Heritage site in the Alps - the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region - is to be increased by 285 km2. This represents an increase of more than 50 per cent over the current area of 539 km2. In the north-east, the extended site boundary now incorporates almost the entire Aar Massif as far as the Grimsel. The Schreckhorn, Lauteraarhorn, Finsteraarhorn and Oberaarhorn peaks, including their glaciers, are to be integrated into the World Heritage property. In the west, the extension covers the areas around Gspaltenhorn, the Blüemlisalp group including Petersgrat, Kanderfirn and the Doldenhorn group, and the slopes descending to the Lötschen valley.
As a result of the site extension, the World Heritage area will also be considerably increased in the existing boundary communes of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen (Canton Bern) and the commune of Blatten (Canton Valais). Newly included in the World Heritage property are parts of the Bernese communes of Guttannen, Innertkirchen, Meiringen, Schattenhalb, Kanderste and Reichenbach, and the Valaisian communes of Ferden, Hohtenn, Kippel, Steg and Wiler. Altogether, 26 communes have a share in the enlarged property.
The extension of the existing World Heritage site rounds out the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region, which was originally inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2001 on the basis of its outstanding universal value. The existing site is considerably enhanced by the increase in the total area (now 824 km2), the substantially greater proportion of glaciated areas, and the integration of new mountain landscapes. The property now encompasses the entire range of the Bernese High Alps, falling away impressively to the north, on the territory of Cantons Bern and Valais. The newly delineated site coincides almost exactly with the two sites listed in the Federal Inventory of Landscapes and Natural Monuments of National Importance (BLN) - the Bernese High Alps and the Aletsch-Bietschhorn region. This significant UNESCO accolade places an obligation on Switzerland to fulfil its responsibilities for the European Alps and to ensure, through effective protection measures and sustainable management, that this unique high Alpine region is preserved intact for future generations.
The decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was in accordance with the recommendations of the two IUCN (World Conservation Union) experts who visited the nominated Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn area last autumn at the Committee's request (see Box 1).
Management of the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn site commended
With its approval of the site extension, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee also approved the management plan for the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn World Heritage site. The clearly formulated management plan is commended in a report prepared by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) experts who visited the nominated region last autumn. Singled out for particular praise was the fact that the plan was elaborated in consultation with the local population in an exemplary participatory process.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee also recommended that Switzerland should seek a new name for the enlarged site, and efforts in this direction are already under way.
Celebration on Lake Oeschinen near Kandersteg
On Monday, 2 July 2007, a celebration is being held on Lake Oeschinen near Kandersteg to mark the enlargement of the site, with invited guests and representatives of the media. The event has been organized by the communes of Kandersteg and Reichenbach in cooperation with the World Heritage Management Centre on behalf of the World Heritage Association.
Journalists wishing to register for the event are requested to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org