The concept of High Conservation Value Areas (HCVAs) is not very widely documented or known. General knowledge is never bad, so I went ahead and complied a list of questions that I think will give you a cursory knowledge of what these areas are and why they are important.
What are High Conservation Value Areas (HCVAs)?
HCVAs are areas which are not protected but have rich biodiversity that is worth conserving. While the area is similar to the biodiversity rich landscapes found in National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and other Protected Areas (PAs), the key difference is that HCVAs are not yet protected by a set of rules and regulations. Therefore, they face a high risk of degradation in the near future.
Where did this concept come from?
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit organization that promotes sustainable management of the world’s forests. The FSC does this by setting standards on forest products, certifying forest management practices against sustainable standards and providing labeling sustainably produced forest produce for market recognition.
FSC pioneered the idea of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs). The organization came up with set of categories to protect some biodiversity-rich forests outside the PAs. This concept evolved to encompass all ecosystems giving birth to the idea of HCVAs.
What else does this concept cover?
6 HCV categories have been proposed:
To declare any area of high conservation value at least one of these criterion will suffice. Sometimes, a single patch can meet multiple criteria on this list, making its conservation value greater.
These criteria are given in a document by FSC called Common guidance for Identification of HCV. This document gives detailed description with examples, on how to identify a high conservation value area and what qualifies as HCVA.
Is the FSC guidelines universally adopted?
The FSC guidelines document is enforced anywhere and is very flexible. Many countries have learned from the FSC guide and developed their own toolkits for identification of HCVAs. This is appropriate given the local environmental and socio-economic conditions of different countries. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and Bulgaria have their own toolkit. Other countries like Ghana are in the process of developing a country-specific toolkit.
Does India have a HCVA toolkit?
Not yet. India works around HCVAs using the High Conservation Value Forests: An Instrument for Effective Forest Fiscal Federalism in India. The current focus is only on HCVFs. This document was developed by Centre for Ecological Services Management at Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal, in collaboration with Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun and Iora Ecological Solutions (IES), New Delhi.
Work on HCVAs in India is in progress. In the landscapes of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, projects on identification and mapping of HCVAs are being undertaken. The focus is on mapping areas outside PAs to tag important landscapes that have a high ecological and/or social value in local ecosystems.