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Point of view: Preserving the strongholds of the Alps

Katharina Conradin is Executive Director of Mountain Wilderness Switzerland © Heinz Hess

Dozens of development projects are simmering in the drawers of investors from Slovenia to France. It is thus even more important to sustain existing protected areas, says Katharina Conradin, member of the executive board of CIPRA International and executive director of Mountain Wilderness Switzerland.

In Austria, the two ski areas of Axamer Lizum and Schlick are to be linked directly via the official quiet area of Kalkkögel. In Bavaria, excavators are already on course, with official blessing, to build a reservoir of as-yet unknown dimensions to provide artificial snow for the low-lying Sudelfeld ski area – in the middle of a protected landscape area. In Switzerland permission has just been granted for the Andermatt-Sedrun ski area connection with seven new and eight replacement lifts. The reason is always the same: to maximise profits. The loss in terms of nature is not included in the calculations.

Protection and profit can go hand-in-hand. There are destinations throughout the Alpine region that deliberately avoid intensive winter tourism and still manage perfectly well financially. Innovations in timber construction increase the value of the abundant quantities of wood available, proving that aesthetics and the careful use of resources can complement each other. Trading in regional high-quality produce from mountain areas relieves transport axes and helps preserve local cultures and landscapes.

Such good examples do not mean that protection is now obsolete as a stand-alone objective. Sustainable use must have top priority. This requires guidance, including in the form of protected areas. We can only ensure the long-term use of natural resources if we also preserve them. Protected areas are the strongholds for the wealth that exists in the Alps. It would be fatal to sacrifice them to the short-term pursuit of profit.

Katharina Conradin,
Executive Director of Mountain Wilderness Switzerland