Conservation organizations involved in the mountains of Southwest China include the Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and a large and growing number of domestic NGOs. All are working with the Chinese government for continued land and river preservation with some success. In 1998, after massive floods resulted in landslides and the destruction of much of the existing infrastructure the government banned all commercial logging in the region and began a billion dollar conservation oriented program. It has been a program with mixed success, one of the fundamental questions being: How do you protect the environment when local peoples are involved? Much work remains to add and protect conserved lands while balancing the needs and traditions of local ethnicities. Complicating this program is a growing list of concerns that includes illegal poaching, dam building and rapid population growth.
The Epicocity Project would like to thank Last Descents River Expeditions and China Rivers Project for helping to ensure that media from this trip is responsible and effective. This means being sensitive the political situation in China. While sustainable development oriented around conservation is more and more at the forefront of many political leaders minds, given the need for economic development, social stability and a host of other concerns, any conservation work in China must be approached with caution. In particular, because the west has such a strong history of criticizing and attempting to influence the development of other countries, including China, western media and conservation groups must ensure that that they focus on providing tools that can to be used domestically for responsible growth, rather than pushing China directly. Last Descents and China Rivers Project hope that in this trip, the Epicocity Project can help them in their effort to develop domestic river tourism. This is one tool that has proven in other places to be very effective in educating the public on the importance of free flowing rivers. China Rivers Project in particular hopes to provide opportunities for Chinese leadership to experience their mother rivers first hand.