U.S. Forest Service jumps on board with geotourism | SierraSun.com

U.S. Forest Service jumps on board with geotourism

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service

LAKE TAHOE BASIN “-Earlier this year, the largest landowner in the Lake Tahoe Basin ” the U.S. Forest Service ” became one of several agencies to recognize the importance of sustainable tourism.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which includes the forest service, was one of five federal agencies to sign an agreement with National Geographic in July.

Under the agreement, National Geographic and the agencies agree to raise awareness of geotourism, emphasize the importance of natural and cultural assets when encouraging return visits to an area, encourage geotourism-centric design of recreation facilities and encourage funding of projects that promote geotourism principles.

Geotourism is “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a placeter of a place ” its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents,” according to National Geographic.

The concept attracted attention last November when the Director and Geotourism Editor for National Geographic Traveler, Jonathan Tourtellot, spoke at a meeting of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club.

And while the ecotourism seen in places like Half Moon Bay is part of the geotourism equation, geotourism is a concept which applies to more than the natural environment.

“What is the difference between geotourism and ecotourism, or sustainable tourism?

That’s easy: Ecotourism focuses only on nature; it’s a niche market,” according to Tourtellot. “Geotourism is about everything that goes into making a place distinctive, unique.”

The agreement has been hailed as a new direction for the management of public lands like those surrounding Lake Tahoe.

“This agreement will enhance both the environment and the local economies, better preserving America’s diverse recreational and scenic assets ” a source of immense national pride,” said Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, in a statement.

“Geotourism showcases what is authentic and unique and defines us. It is the right concept to protect our public lands for future generations.”