Protected Areas & Sustainable Regional Development


Protected Areas and Regional Development

Regional Products produced in a Protected Area can be part of the regional value-added (Source: Biosphere Entlebuch).
In its investigations for "Future in the Alps", the team of experts commissioned by CIPRA has concentrated primarily on projects that apparently succeed in co-ordinating opposing interests like regional development and the quality of life and the preservation of biodiversity. In its work the team has focussed on the following questions:
  • Under what conditions can major protected areas contribute to both regional value-added and the preservation of biodiversity?
  • Do we have successful development strategies for protected areas?
  • Do existing protected areas contribute to the preservation of the species and biotopes?
  • How can the preservation of biological diversity be made a priority concern?
Given good management, protected areas can contribute both to regional value-added and the preservation of biodiversity. Environmentally friendly holiday accommodation with a recognised seal of approval like the Gîtes Panda in the French Alps enhance the quality of life in and around protected areas. Purpose-built ski resorts with car parks the size of a football pitch and the corresponding crowds converging on the cable cars: Growing tourism and mobility accompanied by the decline of agriculture and the resulting depletion of the landscape are a threat to the biological diversity of the Alps. For environmentalists, spatial planners and policy makers, the creation of large and functional protected areas is one of the major challenges of the 21st century.

Gîtes Panda Nature Experience and Lodgings in Selected Accommodation:

A rural Panda accomodation in the French Alps (Source: WWF France).
Gîtes Panda (Panda Accommodation) is a positive marketing idea for gentle tourism throughout France that has been particularly successful in the remote areas of the French Alps. Within just a few years, the Gîtes Panda have developed a brand identity for near-natural holidays and are monitored by WWF France.
The Panda accommodation providers are affiliated to the big hotelier association Gîtes de France and have to satisfy three conditions: the businesses must be located in a regional natural or national park, they must meet the organisation's minimum standards for accommodation, and the operators are expected to play a committed role in defence of the natural environment.
At the "A la Crecia" country inn, for example, which is located at an altitude of 1100 m in the Vercors Nature Park in the Dauphiné, the proprietors have switched to solar energy for the heating and hot water. The family also manages a herd of 250 Merino sheep, which graze the mountain pastures in summer. Similarly, the owner of "Ferme Les Transhumances" in the Mercantour National Park in the department of Hautes-Alpes has laid out a nature trail for his visitors. And those who are not so keen on walking can join their hosts making jam, learn the traditional art of dry stone walling or try their skills as shepherds.
On the basis of successful co-operation between various institutions in the fields of tourism and environmental protection, a product of the highest quality has been created with an ecological goal.
Gîtes Panda (Panda Accommodation) is a positive marketing idea for gentle tourism throughout France. In the Vercors Nature Park in the Dauphiné, the proprietors have switched to solar energy for the heating and hot water and they also manages a herd of 250 Merino sheep, which graze the mountain pastures in summer.
Further Readings & Links

For several article closely related to this topic, see this PDF. It contains a summary of the future in the alps report on protected areas.

This issue of CIPRA-Info focuses specifically on economy in the Alps.

Protected Areas Generate a Good Image

Natural Kneipp-Installation in a pond in the biosphere reserve Entlebuch (Switzerland), an excellent example for regional value added in protected areas (Source: J. Heeb).
It can generally be assumed that the creation of a protected area will have a positive effect on regional development; the benefits in terms of image alone are enormous. Regional value-added, however, is not so easy to quantify. Job creation effects can only be clearly identified in the case of park management and services (biologists, park wardens and rangers); whether the new job in the café or bakery is a reaction to the hunger of incoming visitors or that of the local population is hard to determine. On the economic side, a protected area changes the input / output ratio in the "regional wallet". A protected area may lead to positive inputs, such as (JUNGMEIER et al. 2006):
  • New, additional funding opportunities
  • New income by entrance fees or merchandising
  • New services and products that are provided
  • Added value by regional brands (tourism, products, services)
  • Increased compatibility by improvement of "soft factor" (network, inter and intraregional co-operation, knowledge, ...)
On the other hand a loss of value added may result from:
  • "Import" of products and services that, in a first step cannot be provided in the region itself (typical example: expertise and consultancy)
  • Lowered investment: protected areas may – of course – prevent large scale investment.
  • Lowered production: protected areas may also lead to a lowered production (e.g. in agriculture, forestry or in other sectors); usually this loss gets compensated.
Positive and negative influences of protected areas on regional development (Source: GETZNER & JUNGMEIER in JUNGMEIER et al. 2006).
However, CIPRA has always said that the importance of protected areas for regional development cannot be assessed on the basis of value-added alone; they are of multifunctional value, and that value cannot always be precisely measured. Take the case of ecology: biological systems are incredibly complex and cannot be described on the basis of a few statistics – in spite of scientists’ interest in indicators like the presence of endangered species or the size of the protected area. The true value of biodiversity is inestimable, covering as it does aesthetic and cultural aspects, regulatory effects on the climate and water household, the quality of the soil and also the pollination of field crops by insects, on which the success of the harvests depend.
Back To top Continue

Seco (2002)
This edition of the regio+ magazine has a special focus on protected areas and landscape parks in Switzerland and how protection interests can be combined with economic advantages.

Protected Areas in Austria:Report on various protected areas in Austria.

WWF Italy (2005)
Environment: From a burden to an opportunity. Forming and maintaining local communities in nature parks (in Italian).