Arguments for protection: culture
Indeed, sacred areas are probably the oldest form of habitat protection on the planet, and still form a large and largely unrecognized network of sanctuaries around the world.
Biodiversity and natural landscapes are also increasingly recognized as an important part of a nation’s unique character or value, comparable with valuable cultural sites.
Protected areas have an important role to play in preserving these less tangible, but nevertheless important, values.
Conversely, sacred areas and other spiritual sites can contribute directly to global conservation efforts because they are often themselves well-conserved, through traditions that sometimes stretch back for thousands of years.
For example, patches of original lowland forest survive as islands in a sea of agriculture and other land uses on Kenya’s coast, due to their protection as sacred Kaya forests by the Mijikenda ethnic groups. These sacred forests have high biodiversity and harbour many endemic species. However, an erosion of traditional cultural values and economic pressure for forest conversion has led to these sacred forests becoming greatly reduced in size over the past 30-40 years. In 1992, a number of Kaya forests were gazetted as National Monuments, providing state protection to bolster the greatly weakened traditional systems.