Protected Areas & Sustainable Regional Development



Nature Experience as a Key Holiday Activity

Fortunately, the task of winning the minds of the local people is facilitated by the fact that nature protection and biological diversity are positively charged concepts in the northern countries of the Alps like Austria and Germany:
  • 83% of all Austrians, for example, consider the creation of national parks important or very important
  • three quarters of all inhabitants of the Alps see the parks as an economic factor
  • 95% believe that parks promote tourism
  • 78% of all Germans think that enjoying the natural environment is an important part of a holiday, all the more so as walking is one of their favourite holiday pastimes.
Further Readings & Links

CIPRA (2000)
CIPRA Info 57 deals with the aspect of alpine landscape, in the past, the present, and the future.

In relation to regional development, the following conclusions can be drawn:
  • A new understanding of the role of protected areas can be detected. In recent materials and examples, protected areas are seen as supportive tools for regional development and vice versa.
  • The good practice examples demonstrate the important and interesting linkage between objectives and activities of protected areas and regional value added. But it has to be considered that "hard" data and facts are rarely available.
  • The demand for further research is obvious. It should focus on standardising methodologies, calculating effects on a general Alpine level and developing "proper but simple" methods to quantify impacts of individual sites or projects.
In relation to the conservation of biodiversity, the following conclusions can be drawn:
  • To maintain and enhance the diversity in an entire bio-geographic region, protected areas are often to small, but they are the most important element to achieve an ecological continuum (by the constitution of an ecological network) at a large scale.
  • Programmes focussing on small and geographically separated areas fail to preserve biodiversity due to isolation. In addition the reactivity of biodiversity in a region is often slow. In general the programmes must count on continuity in time to sort an effect. Due to this, the geographic and temporal continuum is a fundamental factor for the preservation of biodiversity.
  • The first direct benefit for biodiversity is the protection of rare biotopes and species from extinction due to human’s activities and the preservation of natural habitats. This "insular" conservation allows to some rare and endangered species to find a suitable habitat and to persist till nowadays. Another effect of the protected areas is the preservation of varied landscapes.
  • The communication work of these organisms has permitted to raise the interest on the theme "biodiversity" and its benefits among the public, the local stakeholders and the politicians. This knowledge and awareness not only effects the every day behaviour but also fosters the development and acceptance of new environmental policies.
  • The knowledge of the biological diversity and of the methods to measure it have often been developed in protected areas. These areas are a laboratory for further development of techniques and territorial planning that will protect and enhance biodiversity.

From their work, the experts commissioned by CIPRA drew the following conclusions: The project must be clearly defined from the start so that no false expectations can arise. Critics must be involved in the debate from the beginning. Without the active support of leading associations and businesses, many initiatives are doomed to fail.

  • The management needs not only expert knowledge but also social competence so that conflicts with stakeholders can be solved in advance. A change in consumption (energy, for example) or personal habits (cycling instead of using the car) in the interest of sustainable environmental protection requires creativity and patience on the part of all concerned.
  • Protected areas must be able to demonstrate their relevance over and over again if they are to receive the support and funding they need. Regular audits of the economic, social and ecological processes help to generate positive motivation on the part of the decision-makers and a high level of acceptance on the part of the general public.
  • The development of ecological networks linking protected areas and their immediate surroundings leads to synergies and contributes to nature protection at a wider level.
  • The creation of large protected areas requires the pulling power of a well known public figure. That makes it easier to obtain the necessary support in the political world and business community.
Regional Value-Added chain with wood from the biosphere reserve Entlebuch, Switzerland (Source: Biosphere Entlebuch).
Park managements need not only expert knowledge but also social competence so that conflicts with stakeholders can be solved in advance (Source: CIPRA).

"Future in the Alps Workshop"
Workshop on protected areas: Naturpark Allgäu/Tannheimertal - a chance for the whole region (in German).

Logarska Dolina, Slovenia

In 1987 the municipality established the Logarska Dolina Landscape Park; however, this failed to solve the tourism-related problems as no financing of the the park's operation was specified in the municipal ordinance. Therefore the local population set development goals, founded a company and acquired the concession to manage it from the competent municipality. This project was an Award-winner in CIPRA's 2005 Future in the Alps competition.

Logarska Dolina, the People’s Park
In Slovenia, Logarska Dolina or the Logar Valley is famous as a scenic gem. The ice of the last glaciation carved out the seven kilometre long and 250 metre wide valley, which now boasts mighty larches, yews, linden and elm trees. The centuries-old farms with their expansive meadows on the valley floor give the cultural landscape a picturesque aspect. In 1987 the municipality of Solcava, which is part of the Logar Valley, established a landscape park, but without settling the question of finance. It was only five years later, when the local people took over the park, that it really came to life.

The Logarska Dolina Landscape Park in Slovenia was an Award-winner in CIPRA's 2005 Future in the Alps competition (Source: Logarska Dolina).
Development in Harmony with Nnature Protection
The non-profit company launched by the local residents is licensed to run the park by the local authority. It is comprised of many partners: land owners, both residents and frequent visitors to the valley, and also experts from the spatial planning authorities. Their common objective: promoting economic development with full respect for the calls of nature and environmental protection.
The management company employed the funds received to create the infrastructure for green tourism, including a waste water treatment plant and a biomass heating system as well nature trails and the restoration of traditional buildings. How seriously the operators take eco-tourism is shown by the fact that they not only provided parking on the edge of the park but actually had a charge imposed on cars entering the valley. In addition, they restricted the amount of accommodation that could be built to prevent uncontrolled construction activity in the countryside. In the summer season alone, the park attracts some 100,000 visitors – a precondition for direct marketing for the produce, mainly foodstuffs, from traditionally managed farms. Ultimately the measures adopted help to preserve the cultural landscape with its unique farmhouses. Whereas most locals found it hard to make a living in agriculture and forestry before the creation of the protected area, many families have now achieved a degree of prosperity on the basis of their income from green tourism.
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