Preserving our Geological Heritage; to know the past; to improve the present and to forecast the future.
Our Sites and our Collections.
Geology involves earth processes and learning the history of life.
It draws its knowledge from the rocks, be they at geological sites, be it in the laboratory through examination of specimens collected by scientists and amateurs.
All the sites, all the specimens are unique. They are witnesses to events in time and at particular places. Any copies could never take their place. They are part of our heritage. Certain geological sites are particularly interesting, be it by their content, rare and limited, or be it by their value as reference points. It is the same for specimens in collections. It is evidently impossible to preserve each geological site, each rock, mineral and fossil from natural or human destruction. None the less, the means exist today to protect the most important elements of this heritage.
Three Good Reasons to Preserve our Geological Heritage.
1. To Encourage Scientific Knowledge.
Geologists read the rocks, the history of the Earth and of Life. The geological sites and the collections provide the same objectives in geologists' studies inspiring them to new theories and permitting them to confirm others. How can they be asked to discover new resources, to preserve others if they are not given the means to understand the fundamentals?
To preserve elements of our Geological Heritage is to facilitate the work of scientists in domains where they contribute to ensuring the vital needs of mankind, whether it's a question of utilisation of water, the use of soils and rock or the exploitation of sources of energy.
In the general interest, scientific knowledge ought to be taken into account in any modifications of important and remarkable geological sites.
2. To Permit everyone to have Access to the Riches of their Natural Heritage.
The history of the Earth and that of Life are the fundamental elements of our culture. Essential questions such as "Where do we come from?" and "Where are we going?" are partly answered in those histories. To respect the Earth and its Life demands a prerequisite knowledge of geological phenomena which constitute a real heritage.
Each person, adult or child, ought to have access to this geological heritage. Geology above all is learnt on the ground by observation and analysis. Making sites available is indispensable for its teaching. For each can open "windows" onto our foundations; the most important elements of our Geological Heritage ought to be preserved and given value from cultural and educational points of view.
3. To Share in our Local Economic Development.
A quarry, an excavation, a mine tip or a cliff face can become a major element in tourist development founded on the highlights of our heritage.
Examples are not lacking, be they a question of private initiatives or projects developed by local groups. The preservation and development of geological sites, when they respect the public's safety and quality of life, the beauty of the sites and the scientific assets, are the factors of economic development.
Thus, why not integrate the geological Heritage into tourism development more often?
What are the methods of action?
To preserve and highlight our Geological Heritage and respond to the great diversity of sites and to collecting, there are varied and adaptable methods.
Legal and regulatory protection can be established by different administrative authorities to create natural geological reserves, classify and produce site descriptions, and establish a Plan for the Use (Occupation) of Areas and Bye-Laws.
The Regional Services or Parishes and the specialist Associations for the Preservation of the Natural Heritage can negotiate with the owners about the location or purchase of the sites.
Scientists, in collaboration with amateur geologists can implement rescue surveys and collections in digs in quarries or major works.
Finally, certain museum institutions can promote the voluntary work of cataloguing, and the growth and enrichment of their collections. (Lille. 1999.)