Exploring the Protected Areas in the UNESCO Dolomites World Heritage Site – part five
Exploring the Dolomiti Bellunesi Nationl Park
“We have started on a journey which will evolve and mature and along the way the awareness of being ‘part of a whole’ will grow. This is what is really important, despite each of us having our own specific characteristics, values, history“
Antonio Andrich, Director of the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park
Brief presentation of the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park
The Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park was established in 199o3 and covers an area of 32,000 hectares in the central-southern part of the province of Belluno. The Park’s boundaries lie between the Cismon and Piave valleys to the west and east respectively, and as far as the Prampèr Valley and lower Agordino to the north. The mountain ranges lying in the UNESCO territory are the Vette Feltrine, the Cimonega-Erera Brendol group, Monti del Sole, the Schiara and Talvena groups and Pizzocco. One of the reasons for creating a protected area is the scientific and naturalistic importance of the flora and the rich variety of fauna found there, and in fact over the past few years species such as the lynx and the bear have spontaneously returned.
Interview with the director of the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Antonio Andrich
How has the Park changed since UNESCO inscription in 2009?
“Inscription of the Dolomites on the World Heritage List has enabled us to promote and consider this area as a whole, confirming in this sense the founding values of the Park, irrespective of a local administrative vision. When we consider ourselves a whole, it no longer matters if you are a national, regional or provincial park, because thanks to UNESCO inscription, the most important thing is we are all a World Heritage Property. We have started on a journey which will evolve and mature and along the way the awareness of being ‘part of a whole’ will grow. This is what is really important, despite each of us having our own specific characteristics, values, history and mandate. I say ‘mandate’ because each protected area has its own specific territorial and institutional mandate it must respect.
This aspect of ‘being a part’ has had important concrete consequences within the working group of the Network of Landscape and Protected Areas, the institutional body which allows us to share our experiences, work and collaborate with the other protected areas in the UNESCO archipelago. As part of the Network, we contributed to the drawing up of part of the Overall Management Strategy.
Inscription has led to a more uniform set-up which, thanks to the Foundation, has led to a more concrete approach and the creation of a permanent institutional space for discussion and debate. The fact we have an overseeing body with very specific objectives ‘forces’ us to work together and keep up with the initiatives. This is very important”
Why is it important to be part of the Foundation and a Supporter and active member?
“The task of the Foundation is to pursue and ensure the objectives that were set upon inscription are met. The Park is one of the Foundation’s Supporters and its responsibility lies first and foremost in the role it plays and the work it does within the Landscape and Protected Areas Operating Network. It is also committed to sharing and supporting – where possible – the activities and projects proposed by the Foundation.
The issue of participation is key and at this level it is important to differentiate between the political and the management dimension. The Foundation has proposed a number of projects, the Google footpath mapping project is just one of these: a very interesting venture from a communication point of view using a highly innovative approach compared to traditional forms of promotion as regards the trails and accessibility of the territory. This new approach initially raised a few eyebrows but it is fascinating because it uses tools which we all use in our everyday lives and which pique people’s curiosity, greatly increasing the number of potential visitors. Being part of the Network also means bringing to the table good working practices which the Park has developed over the years, allowing the Foundation to draw on a wealth of experience, stories and projects and use them to come up with new projects and activities.
It’s a two-way process, we contribute to the drawing up of the programmes and their implementation throughout the territory and, at the same time, the Foundation can make the most of our experience and expertise to implement new actions. It’s a mutual process”
Within the scope of the UNESCO Dolomites Site, what added value does the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park have to offer?
“Our Park is a National Park and is 23 years old, in fact it was set up in 1993. The experience we have built up over the years is clear to see in our strategies and the concrete actions we have taken to meet the objectives set down by the institutive law of the National Parks. The matter of good working practices which I mentioned before, refers to a number of basic issues including planning, conservation and socio-economic promotion because we mustn’t forget that institutive law also requires us to enhance the territory from a socio-economic point of view. This is why every National Park has to draw up a Socio-Economic Development Plan which brings together conservation, research and enhancement of the Park on the one hand and development of the territory and the community on the other.
Another important issue is scientific research and environmental education and we have had numerous positive experiences which can be replicated in the other territories of the UNESCO Dolomites Site. The interesting thing is that our park is a National Park and as such has its own cultural and political history and evolution; it was set up in 1993 but the cultural journey which led to it being recognised as a protected area began in the Sixties. Our area began discussing and debating the role and importance of being a protected area all those years ago, so our Park is very far-sighted. A number of important people have also contributed to this process, including for example Piero Rossi, Virginio Rotelli and Giovanni Angelini, all people who were ahead of their time when considering the importance of protecting this territory. The great added value of this Park is that it realised the importance of protecting the territory from certain choices during its development which would have compromised its special characteristics, values and biodiversity. The Park can proudly say it has maintained the natural balances that existed before and this is what we need to focus on if we are to have a return on our image and greater exposure in the outside world. I hope this process of growth and awareness which the territory must continue to follow, helps people understand that being a Park is an added value that should not be underestimated”