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World Heritage Status and the Preservation of Burgess Shale Fossils

November 22, 2018


If not for the protected status of the national park, the Burgess Shale fossils would have been plundered long ago by commercial quarrying. The protection they have been afforded made it possible for the 1975 Royal Ontario Museum expedition to find, still lying in the talus, the counterpart (other half) of a rare Branchiocaris specimen collected by Percy Raymond forty-five years previously!


The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1972. The convention’s objective is to recognize sites of global significance, which should be held in trust by nations for humankind, and to ensure the support of the international community for their preservation.


In 1984, UNESCO declared Yoho, Banff, Kootenay and Jasper National Parks, together with Mt. Robson, Hamber and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Parks, as the ROcky Mountain World Heritage Parks. Within this designation lies the Burgess Shale World Heritage Site - a protected area within a protected area.


Canada, as a steward of the Rocky Mountain World Heritage Parks, has obligations to UNESCO for their protection. Consequently, access to the Burgess Shale is restricted to those accompanied by a qualified, licensed guide, such as the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation guides. The collection of fossils and rocks anywhere within Yoho National Park is prohibited.


Revised for web format from “A Geoscience Guide to the Burgess Shale” by Murray Coppold and Wayne Powell, a Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation publication. To purchase this book, please go to: the Yoho National Park Visitors Centre, Alpine Book Peddlers,, or

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