What can you do to help

Schools can play an important part by organising class projects to protect, interpret and tidy important landforms and geological sites in their area.

Landowners are privileged if they have custody of an important part of this country's earth science heritage. Sympathetic management of the feature will enhance its value, perhaps by clearing vegetation that is overgrowing a rock face, erecting a stock-proof fence around an easily damaged feature, or grazing fragile landforms with sheep rather than heavier stock. Allowing access for educational visits would also be appreciated. Do not plant shelter belts or forest lots where they detract from or hide outstanding natural landforms.

Scientists, rock hounds and students should treat all important sites with respect. Only take samples if absolutely necessary, preferably from loose rocks on the ground. Remember that the people who come after you will want to be able to understand and appreciate the feature. Never take small rock cores in any visually obtrusive location.

Conservationists could broaden their focus and keep an eye out for activities that threaten important earth science features in their area. The Geopreservation Inventory is now a useful guide to these important sites. It can also be used to promote more general protective measures throughout your region.

Land managers have a duty to ensure the ongoing protection of important features on public land they manage. Management may need to vary depending on a site's fragility and values. For example, viewing should be encouraged but collecting prohibited or strictly controlled at some fragile fossil and mineral sites. Other more robust sites may be weathering and eroding rapidly, and specimens seen today will soon be gone. These sites need to be kept as clean exposures continually refreshed by removal of weathered material, and managed as a site where collecting as well as viewing is allowed.

Many small landforms and rock exposures are being obscured by vegetation growth, which may require periodic felling or pruning of trees or retention of the site in pasture grazed by sheep. Fragile tourist sites may require careful management of visitors, with board walks and barriers to control trampling damage.

Planners and politicians should now recognise earth science conservation as an important aspect of heritage protection. When assessing development plans they need to bear in mind the irreparable damage some activities can inflict on our irreplaceable natural landforms and geological heritage.