At our quarterly board meeting, we were treated to the company of a group of very special guests. We welcomed a delegation from Bhutan which was touring national parks in the United States in order to learn about educational and interpretive programs. The group included their host Caroline Getty; Mingma Sherpa, one of the first rangers in Mount Everest National Park; Norbert Riedy, a senior policy analyst for the Wilderness Society; Dr. Sangay, the head of the Bhutanese National Park Service; and, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedrup (the title Lyonpo designates the highest honor in Bhutan), the Bhutanese Minister of Agriculture.
Unfamiliar with Bhutan? So was I. The small country (about the size of Switzerland) is nestled in the Himalayas between Tibet, West Bengal, and Sikkam. It has been designated as one of the world’s top ten biological hot-spots for diversity. Snow leopards, tigers, water buffalo, and elephants are all found within its borders.
Although they came to Yosemite to learn from us, I think we were the ones who were inspired by their dedication and values. Bhutan has preserved much of its land in four national parks and numerous sanctuaries, and has focused on establishing wilderness corridors to link the areas. It boasts the largest proportion of forest coverage of all the Asian nations, and its government is committed to ensuring that 60% of its land remains forested. Bhutan is also the only country that measures its health not just in terms of economic production (GNP), but also in the context of GNH—Gross National Happiness. What a wonderful concept!