The Mont-Blanc Massif (again) candidate to the UNESCO World Heritage

Photo: B. Marclay

After more than 25 years of of hard work in this direction by many environmental associations, especially proMONT-BLANC, on 26 January, 2017, the municipal council of Chamonix has (finally) voted unanimously to initiate a classification procedure. The stated objective of the approach is the preservation of this world famous site.
“Third most visited natural site in the world with some 6 million visitors per year, an exceptional territory with a long history and an international reputation, a field of innovations and extraordinary adventures, both a scientific laboratory and a pilot region for the  Alpine Convention on Ecological Corridors and Adaptation to Climate Change, this site and its inhabitants can no longer be satisfied with the lack of commitment for its defense by the State administration “, explain Elected officials in a press release.

For those close to the project this is a welcome but radical change in position. When Mountain Wilderness and proMONT-BLANC initiated the quest to get the UNESCO label, it was a general outcry around the massif from all directions.

A Recognition for its protection

This was the environmentalists motto right from the start.
Now the Chamonix elected representatives consider that the classification of the Mont Blanc massif has become a necessity to guarantee its protection. “Recognizing it as part of the natural and cultural heritage of humanity means to put in place compelling protection measures that are ambitious, innovative and preventive, far beyond the palliative measures implemented so far, adds the city council in their release. but this was the essence of the many proposals made so far by the associations. A long road has been traveled to reach this point though, in the past the  proposed UNESCO label was seen as a handicap and a loss of control by the local authorities.
The current project is also presented as a way to pull together public intervention on emblematic and structuring issues (transport, development, air quality, biodiversity …) and to preserve of the way of life of the local populations (housing, history , Heritage …) under one all emcompassing project.
Chamonix elected officials are calling for “support of local/territorial authorities, associations, the national and international community in order to consolidate the actions undertaken for years to preserve and guarantee the transmission of this exceptional heritage”.

Will they get it?

In fact this is far for being a done deal. Indeed, the registration procedure requires a state where the requiring site is located to commit long term support to it, and the Mont-Blanc massif crosses the borders of 3 countries, France, Italy and Switzerland… There is yet limited or weak supporting signs from the 3 states. Furthermore, the Val Montjoie (which includes the municipality of Saint Gervais, where the Mont-Blanc summit is (supposedly ?) located, is against the project.

Certainly a story to follow in which Mountain Wilderness, proMONT-BLANC and its members will continue to play an active role