Editor's note: In an effort to better understand how other countries are protecting their parklands, and to compare and contrast U.S. efforts to those from abroad, Traveler will on occasion run items from beyond U.S. borders. This story involves China's fledgling national park movement.
More than a century after the establishment of Yellowstone National Park kicked off the world-wide national parks movement, China has designated its very first "national park." The title goes to a 49,000-acre swath of granite-studded forestland in northeastern China that was heavily logged four decades ago.
In fact, the Korean, or red, pine forests around which Heilongjiang Tangwanghe national park is evolving are said to have shrunk by more than 93 percent since 1948. Still, according to China's Ministry of Environmental Protection and National Tourism Administration, "This region is home to the most intact and typical virgin Korean Pine forest in Asia, as well as more than 100 rare species of trees such as Dragon Spruce and Faber's Fir."
Additionally, the area features more than 600 identified species of plants, of which 10 are endangered, and 250 animal species, of which 40 are considered endangered.
Of course, it's not easy to reach the park. Apparently a 12-hour train ride is needed from the provincial capital of Harbin, although the Chinese have plans to build an expressway and an airport to reach the area.
Traveler trivia: Though this is China's first officially designated "national park," the country already counts more than 2,500 nature reserves, scenic and historic areas that cover 15.2 percent of the country.