By Carolina Halevy
When struggles and success provide inspiration to everyone
May 25th 2022, Orbetello, Italy. It was an scorching weekend. That week, for the second time ever, a small group of nature conservationists and private landowners met in a nature reserve managed by WWF Italy to create a national network of privately protected areas.
Participants in front of Casale Giannella in Orbetello, Italy
The crowd was different from the first time the meeting took place back in 2019. Many private landowners have joined the group this time around. They told stories about their land and how they try to protect nature. It was easy to tell that they are proud of what they have achieved. They are highly passionate and motivated.
Participants are exchanging experiences with the public attitude toward nature in Italy
In open discussions, participants of the meeting got the opportunity to ask questions and exchange their concerns and experiences. As we learned from our Italian friends, Italy’s administrative structure is quite complex and bureaucratic. A landowner shared his story of how he wants to create a sustainable business plan on his property. He has big plans and wants to apply the agroforestry concepts to create an ecological corridor connecting two Natura 2000 areas. His property is located directly at the edge of two Natura 2000 areas that could be connected through his land. So, he reached out to local authorities to learn about their plans for the region’s Natura 2000 areas.
He quickly realised that there was a lack of interest from local authorities in working with him. From his experience, Natura 2000 and nature conservation is seen as a burden instead of a valuable resource to mitigate climate warming, and foster biodiversity and to create income. Besides, local authorities are not responsible for the management of Natura 2000 areas. That’s up on a higher level to regional authorities. Indeed, the situation is quite complex when compared to other European countries. There is little to no awareness from locals that their land provides remarkable nature reserves.
Many that joined the meeting share similar stories or provided advice as they have been there in the past themselves. Quickly, a list of solutions was put together. Some advised Jakobo Bossi to first do some research on the natural values of the area and connect to other landowners in the region, create a concrete conservation project and then go back to local authorities as a union. This kind of procedure has worked well for some of the participants. Their stories, their struggles and their success provided inspiration to everyone.
When going back home, everyone is now part of a new community, a network of like-minded people who help each other and work together. WWF Italy does important work by bringing these people together, a first vital step towards a national network of privately protected areas.
With LIFE ENPLC, we can help bring these inspiring stories to the EU level. Thus, we support such networks and take their on-the-ground experiences to Brussels.