By Alison Fox
November 15, 2019
Peaks reach toward the sky in Angsai, an area inside the Sanjiangyuan region in western China's Qinghai province on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Ringed by the world's tallest mountain ranges, the region long known as "the rooftop of the world" is now in the crosshairs of China's latest modernization push. But this time, the Chinese government wants to set limits on the region's growth in order to implement its own version of one of the U.S.'s proudest legacies – a national park system.
| Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP/Shutterstock

China plans to create its own national parks system by 2020 and aiming to set aside land on a Tibetan plateau that mimics Yellowstone, The Associated Press reported.

The conservation goals follow a building boom in the area with increasing numbers of skyscrapers, highways and high-speed railways, which the AP categorized as one of the last remote places in the world.

Chinese officials have visited national parks in the U.S. like Yellowstone and Yosemite, and in August policy makers and scientists from the U.S., China and other countries converged on the capital of Qinghai province, Xining, to go over plans to create a unified park system.

Tibetan youth sits at the base of a natural cave formation in Angsai, an area inside the Sanjiangyuan region in western China's Qinghai province on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019.China has previously undertaken vast resettlement programs to clear land for large infrastructure projects, but in developing the national parks, the government is giving conservation-related jobs to at least a swath of people living in Sanjiangyuan to stay and work on their land.
| Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP/Shutterstock

“It’s quite urgent as soon as possible to identify the places, the ecosystems and other natural features” to protect, Zhu Chunquan, the China representative of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a Switzerland-based scientific group, told the AP.

A Stanford ecologist agrees that the mission to create a unified park system would be the start of “a new and serious effort to safeguard China’s biodiversity and natural heritage."

One of the first parks planned will be in Qinghai, an area in western China next to Tibet. The area, however, is home to about 128,000 people who live in or near the park’s boundaries, including many Tibetans.

“China has a dense population and a long history,” Zhu said. “One of the unique features of China’s national parks is that they have local people living either inside or nearby.”

The pilot park, Sanjiangyuan, which is set to open next year, is also home to about 1,500 snow leopards, according to, which noted that protecting the animals will be a main priority.

As for the people who live there, a Tibetan herder told the AP he leads a team of trash collectors as part of a ranger program that hires one person per family for 1800 yuan a month (or about $255).

“I love this land very much,” he told the AP. “I always motivate and encourage people to protect the environment and contribute to the conservation work.”