Designation as an UNESCO World Heritage Site

The UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

The UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

With all the varied interest in the Burgess Shale, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took notice and realized the importance of the site and made it a World Heritage Site in 1981.  (Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation, 2009)  In speaking of the natural sciences, UNESCO places emphasis on “the promotion of a culture of maintenance“.  (, 2009)  The designation of the Burgess Shale as a World Heritage Site perfectly fits in with this goal, as it is an incredibly valuable educational tool that needs to be preserved for future generations and future study.  Shortly after the title of World Heritage Site was bestowed upon the shale in Yoho National Park, it also became protected as part of the Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.  (Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation, 2009)  The fossils serve as such an important educational resource for a variety of reasons.  The extremely diverse and unique animals of the shale tell us about the first explosion of life, which occurred during the Cambrian.  (Parks Canada, 2009)  We can see the remains of a unique ecosystem that was relatively short-lived, and one that provides invaluable information on the life forms themselves and the process of evolution.  (Parks Canada, 2009)  To even further protect this natural resource, the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation was founded in 1989.  (Parks Canada, 2006)  Based in Field, BC, this non-profit organization works not only to protect the Burgess Shale, but also to promote interest in the site itself and to educate the public.  (Parks Canada, 2006)  All of these organizations and foundation work together to safeguard and care for the fossils of the Burgess Shale, ensuring that there is an appropriate balance between providing opportunities for the public to learn about and view the Burgess Shale and allowing for future study and interpretation of the amazing fossils.  As an important educational resource, the Burgess Shale really is the best of the best, and continual focus on preservation and protection is needed to guarantee that generations yet to come will be able to lay their eyes upon this awesome geological and evolutionary wonder. 

Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation.  (2009) The World’s Most Significant Fossil Discovery.

Parks Canada. (2009) The Burgess Shale: A Treasure of Ancient Fossils.

Parks Canada.  (2006) Human History of the Burgess Shale Fossils.  (2009) Natural Sciences.

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