BAKER,NV – By now, most everyone has heard about the highly destructive 6.8 earthquake that rocked Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains and the city of Marrakesh on Friday, September 8. But did you know that Toubkal National Park, located very near the epicenter, is Great Basin National Park’s Sister Park? In 2016, Great Basin and Toubkal (named for Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa at 13,671 feet) were designated as sister parks. In addition to the peaks, the parks have many similarities as high elevation environments with surprisingly rich biodiversity. Visit Great Basin NP’s website to learn more about Toubkal and the sister park agreement (nps.gov/grba/getinvolved/sister-park.htm). In July 2017, Toubkal’s Chef du Park (superintendent) Soraya Mokhtari and Forest Guardian (park ranger) Mohammed Ayoubi visited Great Basin NP and surrounding communities, including the Ely Renaissance Village and the Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark.
Thankfully, all of Toubkal National Park’s staff are accounted for and unharmed, though the park’s Ecomuseum (https://parc-national-toubkal.ma/grands-projets/ecomusee-du-pntb/) between the towns of Asni and Imlil, where the Sister Park signing ceremony took place, was badly damaged. In general, the region has been devastated, with thousands dead and tens of thousands now homeless, as it is unsafe to reenter damaged buildings. The Medina (oldtown) of Marrakesh, 45 miles from the epicenter and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also badly damaged. Both Marrakesh and the park are popular tourist destinations, and their tourism economies were only recently beginning to recover from the pandemic.
In 1786, Morocco became the first country to officially recognize the United States of America, making it our longest standing ally. For those wanting to contribute to the relief efforts, such as supplying food and blankets for the tens of thousands now sleeping outside, the High Atlas Foundation (highatlasfoundation.org) is a legitimate, longstanding, Morocco-based nonprofit organization that has worked in the area affected by the earthquake for decades.