Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group

Leadership and Secretariat

Origins and highlights

The Urban Specialist Group came out of discussions that started in 2000 among several people long active in IUCN who were concerned about the absence of urban dimensions on the global conservation agenda. They included John Davidson, Jeff McNeely, Adrian Phillips, and Ted Trzyna.

This informal group found that others in IUCN networks had been thinking along the same lines, and the circle gradually widened.

2003. The Urban Imperative workshop, Durban. The informal group held a three-day workshop, The Urban Imperative, at the IUCN World Parks Congress held in Durban, South Africa. It secured approval of a Recommendation that IUCN take urban matters more seriously. The workshop was organized by InterEnvironment Institute with support from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a unit of the California State Government.

2004. Specialist Group established. The Urban Specialist Group was authorized by the World Commission on Protected Areas, and InterEnvironment Institute assumed responsibility for its secretariat . Here are highlights of its work since then:

2004. Malibu workshop. Held its first event, a four-day workshop in Malibu, California, to plan its overall program, as well as a theme on cities and conservation in the world’s five Mediterranean-type regions. Twenty-seven people from eight countries participated. It was hosted by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

2004. Bangkok IUCN World Conservation Congress. Organized three events in cooperation with IUCN's Commission on Ecosystem Management, on coastal cities, cities in Mediterranean- type regions, and the importance of urban places and people for the conservation movement. The Congress passed two motions resulting from its work, one on protection of Mediterranean-type ecosystems, the other described immediately below.

2004. IUCN "Cities and Conservation" Resolution. This Resolution, WCC 3.063, calls for IUCN's quadrennial program to take into account the connections between cities and larger environments.     

2004. The Urban Imperative. This IUCN publication, based on the workshop held at the 2003 World Parks Congress, was issued in print form and on the Internet. In 26 articles, 34 authors from 17 countries look at challenges and opportunities posed for nature conservation by a rapidly urbanizing world.

2006. Urban Nature 2006, Cape Town. Cosponsored this workshop on practical ways of connecting nature with urban people as a side-event to the General Assembly of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. It was organized by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

2006. ICLEI Local Action for Biodiversity initiative, Rome.  Participated in a meeting in Rome, Italy, to plan this initiative,  which focuses on the role of municipal governments. It was hosted by RomaNatura.

2006. UNEP Africa workshop, Nairobi. Along with the United Nations Environment Programme and the Kenya Wildlife Service, organized the African Regional Workshop on Cities, Ecosystems, and Biodiversity at the Africities 4 Summit.

2008. Barcelona IUCN World Conservation Congress. Organized a workshop on climate change and new conservation alliances. Discussions continued on implementation of the "Cities and Conservation" Resolution adopted at the 2004 Bangkok WCC.

2010-present. Urban Protected Areas Network. Became an active partner in the Network, based at the University of Paris West. The Network conducts social science research on management of four key urban protected areas: in Brazil, India, Kenya, and South Africa. The Network has since held a series of "BiodiverCities" conferences.

2010-present. Cooperation with Sciences Po. Helped conduct a series of "capstone" projects on urban protected areas in a master's program at the Institut d'études politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris, starting with Cape Town, Mumbai, and Nairobi.

2009-present. Dark Skies Advisory Group. Created this group, IUCN's first effort to deal with the effects of light pollution on natural ecosystems.

2010. A book and a film from Cape Town. A full-color book, Growing Together: Thinking and practice of urban nature conservators; and a film, The Manager, both issued by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, were "inspired in part by the specialist group and are seen as contributions to its work."

2010. World List of Dark-Sky Parks. The Dark Skies Advisory Group started a world list of dark-sky parks. This unofficial list is an inventory of protected areas which have specific rules about light pollution.

2010. The biosphere reserve concept and urban areas. Explored the potential of this connection at several international meetings. Two specialist group members contributed a chapter, “Urban Areas and the Biosphere Reserve Concept,” to The Routledge Handbook of Urban Ecology.   

2011. "Urban dimensions of conservation: Why IUCN must take them much more seriously." On the basis of IUCN Resolution WCC 3.063 (see 2009, above), and at the request of the IUCN President and Director General, submitted detailed recommendations on incorporating urban dimensions into IUCN's work. 

2012. IUCN World Conservation Congress, Jeju, Republic of Korea. Organized a workshop, Urban Dimensions of Nature Conservation: Roles for IUCN. Sponsored a motion on Dark Skies and Nature Conservation that passed almost unanimously.

2014. Urban Protected Areas: Profiles and best practice guidelines. Drawing on a decade of experience, produced this illustrated volume, number 22 in IUCN's Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series. 

2014. IUCN World Parks Congress, Sydney. Organized several events on urban protected areas.

2015. Natural Neighbors. Became a cosponsor of this project, aimed at creating alliances of conservation agencies, museums, zoos, aquariums, and botanic gardens within metropolitan areas to introduce urban people to their regions' natural and cultural heritage.

2016. IUCN World Conservation Congress, Hawai'i. Drafted and cosponsored a successful motion, 28, "Incorporating urban dimensions of conservation into the work of IUCN." Sponsor or co-sponsor of several events, including "How Urban Partnerships Tackle Global Crises."


Although it has members in many countries, the Urban Specialist Group has focused in particular on Australia (Melbourne, Sydney); Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo); France (Marseille, Paris); Hong Kong; India (Mumbai); cities of Israel; Kenya (Nairobi); South Africa (Cape Town); Taiwan, province of China (Taipei); the United Kingdom (London); and the United States (Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco).

*Thaddeus C. (Ted) Trzyna, Chair
     Claremont, California, USA
     President, InterEnvironment Institute; Emeritus IUCN Commission Chair, Environmental Strategy and Planning.  [bio and contact]

*David Goldstein, Chair-Designate
    Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
    Head, Cultural Affairs, Northeast Region, United States National Park Service

*Pedro da Cunha e Menezes, Deputy Chair
     Brasilia, Brazil
     Career Brazilian Diplomat. Formerly: Director of Creation and Management of Protected Areas, Chico Mendez Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, Government of Brazil; Executive Director, Joint Management Commission, Tijuca National Park, Rio de Janeiro.

*Joseph T. Edmiston, Deputy Chair
     Malibu, California, USA  
     Executive Director, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Natural Resources Agency of California.

*Louise Lezy-Bruno, Deputy Chair
     Draveil, France
     Assistant Director, Environmental Directorate, Department of Essonne    

*Brett Myrdal, Deputy Chair
     Cape Town, South Africa.
     General Manager - Environmental Planning, South African National Parks. Former Park Manager, Table Mountain National Park.

*Fook Yee Wong, Deputy Chair
      Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China
      Secretary, Friends of Hong Kong Country Parks. Honorary Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Hong Kong University. Formerly head, Hong Kong Country Parks.

Jeffrey A. McNeely, Senior Advisor
     Hua Hin, Thailand
     Former IUCN Chief Scientist; member, Steering Committee, IUCN Species Survival Commission. A.D. White Professor-at-Large, Cornell University.

Adrian Phillips, Senior Advisor
     Cheltenham, England, UK
     Conservationist. Formerly: Chair, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas; Director General, Countryside Commission for England and Wales; IUCN Programme Director.

Jim Barborak, Interim Chair, Natural Sounds Advisory Group
     Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
     Colorado State University

David Welch, Chair, Dark Skies Advisory Group
     Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
     Formerly: Earth Sciences Advisor, Parks Canada.

*Steering Committee


InterEnvironment Institute
[An IUCN member organization since 1980]
P.O. Box 99
Claremont, California 91711, USA

E-mail (preferred): Ted_Trzyna [at] InterEnvironment [dot] org
Telephone messages (1 909) 621-9018