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Commitment to networks for nature

Aldo Rodigari talking about renaturalisation of the River Rom in Val Müstair. © Barbara Wülser/CIPRA International

CIPRA has produced a short film to show what can be done at the local level to preserve biodiversity. The spotlight on the actors in the municipalities is a source of great encouragement and strengthens them in their commitment. Let the film roll!
Aldo Rodigari is standing on a gravel bank in the middle of the River Rom with a microphone clipped to his shirt collar. He is speaking loud enough to be heard against the rushing of the water – about how the river has been renaturalised and why the conservation order for Switzerland’s Val Müstair or Münster Valley is so important. The river at his feet seems to be murmuring assent. The Deputy Mayor of Val Müstair has prepared his German contribution well. Only the really long words occasionally cause problems for the Romansh speaker from Canton Grisons.
The location on the border between Switzerland and Italy is one of five selected to make a film commissioned by CIPRA called “For hermits and fire salamanders”. In France Bruno Murienne, Mayor of Saint-Martin d’Uriage, explains how local authorities can protect the natural environment in the long term through wise spatial planning measures. In the South Tyrolean municipality of Taufers in Italy and the Lower Engadin community of Ramosch in Switzerland, local officials speak to the camera in the hope of recruiting allies elsewhere for the cause of habitat networking. And Bruno Stephan Walder, Executive Director of CIPRA International, talks about the importance of such activities if we are to maintain the enormous biodiversity of the Alps.
Then there are all those members of the CIPRA network who do not appear in the film but played a very important role nevertheless. Some, like the participants in the Ecological Continuum Initiative, delivered the necessary knowledge, while others contributed their ideas to the basic concept, identified suitable locations and put CIPRA in touch with the right people.
Val Müstair, which has just 1,600 inhabitants, was awarded the status of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2011. Now a source of local pride, the award was originally controversial. Some years ago, a revitalisation project for the man-made section of the Rom in Fuldera met with considerable resistance. Local farmers were concerned that a freely meandering river would nibble away their land. Today the river, freed of its straitjacket, flows harmlessly through the carefully managed meadows. The farmers find it easier to work their land, and the tourists enjoy the unique cultural landscape to be seen along the River Rom. Successful little examples help win support for bigger projects, as Aldo Rodigari has learnt for himself. “The revitalised river landscape is now one of the attractions of the Val Müstair Biosphere.” Sometimes a nudge from outside, from environmentalist groups, for example, is enough to get things moving. He hopes that the film will help open the eyes of people elsewhere. There is a note of pride in his voice when he says, “This may be a peripheral region, but that does not make us backward.”
On the Italian side of the border in Italy, the Rom is called the Rambach. Speaking to the camera, Councillor Margit Gaiser from Taufers produces a veritable cascade of words. She certainly does not mince them. She criticises the low generating capacity of the proposed hydropower plant in relation to the very considerable damage it will cause in terms of the landscape and ecology. She speaks of a go-it-alone response by the Taufers local authority, which is not coordinating the date for the referendum with the neighbouring village of Mals, of information that is being withheld from the local inhabitants, of tourists stranded at the border because the path simply peters out on the Italian side, and of the advantages that a conservation order for the river would offer the village’s residents and businesses.
She does not say everything in front of the camera, however. It is not her style to attack people in public. Instead she seeks to win them over, in particular the one thousand or so residents of Taufers. She puts her faith in the film. If it is capable of attracting attention right across the Alps, she thinks it might also trigger an awareness-building process in the village. Margit Gaiser, who is also active in a Rambach protection group, feels that CIPRA’s publications should be compulsory reading for all councillors: “You need information to join in the debate.”
“When it comes to water, there are always lots of obstacles because there are so many beneficiaries,” says Angelika Abderhalden. She is a contact for CIPRA in the Lower Engadin and also Executive Director of Pro Terra Engiadina, a foundation established for the management and conservation of landscapes of particular cultural and natural value. She finds other networking projects less controversial and says local authorities have to set priorities: “Ecological networks should be created where the benefits are greatest.”
That is grist to the mill for Victor Peer, Mayor of Ramosch, an “organic village” where students from Vienna are working to prevent shrubs encroaching onto dry grassland. Victor Peer is a farmer who grew up in the Lower Engadin and “was always close to nature”. But he did not really appreciate the value of near-natural farming methods until he was elected to the local council and came into contact with environmental groups and the cantonal authorities. Today he is chairman of Pro Terra Engiadina and sees natural land management as a sustainable investment “for tourism and the people who live here”. For Victor Peer, the choice of his small community as a shooting location for CIPRA’s film is confirmation that they are heading in the right direction.

Barbara Wülser
CIPRA International

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Local habitat networking film
The 15-minute documentary film entitled “For her­mits and fire salamanders” has been produced to encourage local authorities to contribute to ecological networking. It has received funding from the Valüna Foundation and can be downloaded in English, French, German, Italian and Slovene from the websites of CIPRA and the Alpine Ecological Network. It is also available from CIPRA as a DVD.

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Source: Annual Report 2012 CIPRA International
www.cipra.org/en/CIPRA/cipra-international