Mongolia is a land-locked country in North East Asia bordering Russia to the north and China to the east and south. The environment of Mongolia has a wide variety of features. Northern parts of Mongolia are covered by forests and mountain ranges. The southern areas of the country include desert, desert steppe, and steppe areas with low mountains. Western Mongolia is dominated by high snow-capped mountains and glaciers, including the Altai range.
This varied terrain contains a wide array of ecotypes and biodiversity. This unique and substantially undisturbed territory supports a diversity of organisms, many of which are endemic to Mongolia. The country also harbors many internationally recognized threatened and endangered species including the snow leopard, Argali sheep, saiga antelope, and mazalai bear.
Mongolia also contains a high level of surface and ground water resources. The rivers of Mongolia belong to the inland drainage basins of the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Central Asia. The longest river in Mongolia is the Orkhon at 1124 km in length. In total, there are as many 3000 rivers in Mongolia. The country also contains a large number of small and large lakes. The Uvs and Khovsgol Lakes are the largest lakes in Mongolia.
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Threats to Resource Base
Many threats exist to the natural resources of Mongolia. Increasing livestock numbers have degraded much of Mongolia’s grasslands, especially those around major settlements. A major reason for this degradation is due to the decline of state enterprise employment in the 1990s, which doubled the number of herders. Natural factors, such as the harsh and dry climate, light and thin soils, and the short growing season have contributed. Livelihoods closely connected to the land, therefore, have been adversely impacted.
Climate change, desertification, mining, and overharvesting of individual species are also threats to the natural resources and biodiversity of Mongolia.
Forests are also at risk to unsustainable management, overexploitation, and illegal logging. These threats are complicated and exacerbated by poor law enforcement and the need of local communities to harvest wood for fuel sources. Further, the existing forest industry is unable to attract the capital it needs to modernize practices for greater efficiency.
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Why Does US Forest Service Work in Mongolia?
Given the unique terrain and natural resources of Mongolia, exceptional opportunities exist for technical collaboration and mutual learning between U.S. Forest Service and Mongolian colleagues. Due to the importance of livestock and the extent of range management challenges in Mongolia, particularly in the face of global climate change, the U.S. Forest Service could gain insight and explore innovative approaches to rangeland management and dealing with the impacts of global climate change with Mongolian colleagues. Technical cooperation on this and other natural resource issues and threats will be mutually beneficial to Mongolia and the U.S.
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Recent and Upcoming Activities
The U.S. Forest Service has recently begun to engage in technical cooperation in Mongolia. Specifically, in 2011, the Forest Service will be hosting two individuals from the Mongolian Ministry of Nature, Environment, and Tourism (MNET) at its international seminars. USFS will support the participation of one MNET representative at its international seminar on climate change and natural resources in California and one representative at its international seminar on protected area management in Montana. These seminars consist of a 3-week training course with extensive visits to field sites and national forests in the U.S. The seminar participants will have extensive opportunity to engage U.S. Forest Service experts and other stakeholders in the U.S.
The U.S. Forest Service is also working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to assist in reviewing and assessing range management issues in the implementation of a rangeland program focused on the peri-urban landscape in Mongolia.
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