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Website of the Week - World Database on Protected Areas

Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. Our web guide is VOA's Art Chimes.

This week, a compendium of information about some 150,000 places on Earth that have some sort of protection against logging, mining, hunting, or development.

"Most people think of them as national parks. So, the Grand Canyon. The Serengeti. Many World Heritage sites.

"And they also have many different objectives. The objectives are strict nature protection, where actually people aren't allowed to go, all the way to the other extreme, where sustainable use of natural resources is allowed by local and indigenous peoples," says Charles Besançon, an official of the United Nations Environment Program, which compiles the World Database on Protected Areas.

The U.N. first began collecting this information 26 years ago, but the website was launched just a few weeks ago, which means it's too early to tell who will be using it, and for what. But Besançon has some ideas.

"We're expecting that lots of armchair environmentalists will happen across it. We also know many, many people, of course, working in the conservation field, who use the data on a regular basis, and they're dying to get in and see the new online version. And if you're a scientist, you might want to do some analyses from it and make some determinations about biodiversity protection, for example, around the world."

The underlying database is words and numbers, which is key for scientists and other specialists who need the data. "But what makes it real and interesting," says Besançon, "is when you mix it with other data, like satellite imagery or aerial photography. And then you're looking at Mount Rainier [in Washington State] and flying around it. It makes it much more interesting."

TEXT: National parks, nature preserves and more at the World Database on Protected Areas,, or get the link to this and more than 200 other Websites of the Week.