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Interview with a “cool head”: cc.alps prize winner Christine Margraf, in charge of moorland protection at the environmental organisation Bund Naturschutz in Bayern

“Intact moors are the best and cheapest flood protection there is!”

The German environmental organisation Bund Naturschutz in Bayern was the winner of one of the three main prizes in CIPRA’s cc.alps competition for its activities aimed at restoring moors to near-natural conditions. As the person in charge of moorland protection Christine Margraf actively campaigns to ensure it is anchored in all policy areas.
Interview: Aurelia Ullrich, cc.alps project team

Christine MargrafChristine Margraf, the Bund Naturschutz in Bayern organisation received €20,000 in prize money in CIPRA’s cc.alps competition. Leaving aside the extra funds, what has winning the prize meant for your organisation?

Above all, it’s a wonderful confirmation of the work we do, most of which is done by people who work on a voluntary basis. It also boosts our image among our supporters, stakeholders and donors.

The Bund Naturschutz has been involved with moorland in the Alpine region for decades. Today we know that intact moors make a valuable contribution to climate protection. Does this mean you will receive greater support as a result?

There’s no denying the fact that public awareness of moorland protection has risen. Bavaria’s state government has made eight million euros from its “climate purse” available to moorland protection over the next three to four years. These funds are available to everyone involved in moorland protection. Unfortunately it does not represent 100% financing. An important and convincing argument when dealing with mayors, local authorities and other partners is that we can now also say: “See: your own government believes that moorland protection is important.”

Intact moors provide a habitat for endangered species such as the mosaic darner (Aeshna subarctica). But how does this benefit people?

People benefit by having a unique landscape for recreational use. Time and time again on our excursions we see how enthusiastic people get when they experience these landscapes; in fact, many of them have never seen them before.
People also benefit indirectly inasmuch as intact moors are the best and cheapest form of flood protection there is. Moorland soaks up water like a sponge. That’s also of benefit to settlement areas situated below the moors.

And what about the economic aspects?

Moors are often surrounded by a cultural landscape with litter meadows. With our projects, with the extensive nurturing and management of such habitats, we try and give farmers a mainstay.

What are the biggest difficulties you and your projects have to overcome?

Restoring highland moors to near-nature conditions usually means abandoning any form of land use. And it’s very rare to come across landowners who simply say: “Here you are: I’m making the land area available to you, do what you want with it!” This means we have to buy up the land. Often that’s a willingness problem and a financial problem as we have to raise 10 to 30 per cent of the funds ourselves.
We also had a case where, after an area had been returned to near-natural conditions, one particular plot of land we did not intend to include became waterlogged. The farmer then took action against us.

How will the Bund Naturschutz now be using the prize money?

We are spreading the €20,000 among our eight district groups to be used for purchases, maintenance measures – such as damming measures or removing tree growth – and renaturation projects. We’re using part of it for our three area managers, who do the PR work for new moorland projects. And we shall also be featuring our moorland protection activities more prominently on our homepage.

The Bund Naturschutz cannot look after all the moors in Bavaria. What needs to be done to ensure that as many moors as possible do better?

Bavaria has a moor development concept, which indicates where the greatest need for action is. We now urgently need a campaign so that moorland protection is anchored with a high level of priority in all policy areas and also implemented. That would require even more funds.
Also, a big step forward for us would be to reduce the red tape, for instance the extremely complicated and extensive forms. More volunteers would then enjoy helping out with these projects.



Read here about the winning project "Wetland restoration in the Bavarian Alps".