In South America, a ceremony in the Andes honours the Apu (diety) embodied in the sacred mountain. (Source: Oscar Minera/UNEP)
A dedicated Sacred Natural Site Initiative is emerging out of 14 years of work of the IUCN Specialist Group on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas. The Sacred Natural Sites initiative works with custodians, traditional knowledge holders, conservationists, academics and others in support of the conservation and revitalisation of sacred natural sites and territories. The Initiative is proposed to have a number of key elements. These include:
  • A network of advisors - including custodians - to guide the initiative
  • Implementation, support and networking of field projects
  • Dialogue with key SNS stakeholders in conservation and other sectors
  • A knowledge and learning centre
  • Guidance and policy development
  • Communications and dissemination
  • Funding
Share your ideas and support this initiative, post a comment or have your say in the consultation process or send an email to info@sacrednaturalsites.org
Shaping the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative

The sacred Natural Sites Initiative is the work of the hands and minds of many. It started to manifest more clearly around 2007 based on a need to bring custodians, conservationists, scientists and many other supporters of sacred natural sites together. The Sacred Natural Sites Initiative works with custodians and others in such a way that experiences can be shared and action can be taken collectively.

The development of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative started to materialise through the work of Bas Verschuuren and Robert Wild whom receive support from many others. Currently a steering group and advisory group with institutional and custodian advisors are in the process of being formed. Financial support is provided by The Christensen Fund and the World Commission of Protected Areas. Many organisations such as ETC COMPAS and IUCN provide in kind support. ETC COMPAS currently also hosts the secretariat of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative. The Sacred Land Film project and the Gaia Foundation are instrumental in bringing coordination to supporting organisations which is developing gradually.

This Ceiba pentandra tree is sacred to the Maya people. (Photo: Bas Verschuuren)
Our Logo

The colours used in the logo of The Sacred Natural Sites Initiative represent those of the elements. The elements have an important place in the spiritual and cultural life of many indigenous peoples but also in main stream faiths. Yellow is often used for earth, green for water, blue for sky, white for wind and red for fire although this may differ amongst cultures.

In different spiritual traditions the elements are also assigned qualities that guide individual and communal life and are celebrated in ceremony and at sacred natural sites.

Action Plan

The Sacred Natural Sites Initiative is guided by advisors - including custodians - from different professions and life paths. As a basis for guiding the development of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative we make use of a preliminary action plan. This action plan has been developed based on the experience of many custodians, conservation professionals and policy makers from around the world.
Leading up to the action plan was the development of the “IUCN UNESCO Sacred Natural Sites, Guidelines for Protected Area Managers” and the book “Sacred Natural Sites; Conserving Nature and Culture” to which this action plan is an annex.

Use the Action plan! Click here to download.

Aims, Vision and Mission »