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Your Last Chance

When Afghanistan's Taliban announced plans in February to destroy all of the country's statues—including two gigantic fifth-century Buddha figures— the cries of outrage reverberated around the globe. Losing these ancient and precious pieces of history was a bitter reminder that our sense of cultural heritage transcends national boundaries. It was a reminder, too, that even the most venerable monuments are vulnerable to change.

With that in mind, T+L polled experts from the world's foremost conservation foundations and compiled a list of the most fragile places on earth. Here, we highlight spots in each region of the world— natural and cultural sites threatened by harsh weather or scarce funding (or, more likely, both). Our advice?Go soon, before they're gone forever.

MIDDLE EAST

Jordan: Petra Archaeological Site
Petra's historic richness is as legendary as its decay. The site is often subject to eroding flash floods and earthquakes; unfortunately, the Jordanian government doesn't have the money for preventive maintenance—just damage control. Because little is done to fortify these structures, many have simply collapsed.

Syria: Old City of Damascus
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus dates back to the 15th century B.C. Until a few decades ago, you could walk through the Old City without glimpsing a concrete apartment block or neon sign. But as fragile old buildings crumble, they're being replaced rather than restored.

U.S.A.

Montana: Glacier National Park
This 1.1 million-acre park with its glacially sculpted mountains is sometimes called Little Switzerland, but the wildlife here—grizzly and black bears, wolves, mountain lions, moose, and elk—epitomizes the western United States. Since 1850, however, when this area was first surveyed, more than two-thirds of its glaciers have disappeared. Environmentalists attribute the meltdown to global warming, compounded by inadequate rainfall. Scientists estimate that at the current rate, the park's glaciers won't exist at all in just 100 years—which will surely affect its animal population.

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