UNESCO designations undeniably bring global recognition to the Universal Outstanding Values of the particular sites. Consequently, the inscription of an area on the UNESCO list usually results in the rise of public and touristic interest in the site. While that can be great for economy, the inscribed site can very well be worse off because of the increased pressure. For tangible proof, one has to look only at the Plitvice Lakes or Dubrovnik in Croatia, Brugge in Belgium, or Mont St. Michel in France. Therefore, it is only natural to worry that the strictly protected ancient and primeval beech forests in Europe would be particularly threatened by uncontrolled visitors, especially because they are to be managed as strictly protected areas with as little human presence as possible.
The BEECH POWER project aims to address these challenges, both by working with the stakeholders about their needs and expectations for the UNESCO component parts (core zones), as well as in the buffer zones around them. Moreover, BEECH POWER will develop a Quality Standard to assess and help in effective management of these areas to ensure the preservation of high environmental quality and stakeholder involvement.
With this in mind, the representatives from the Lead Partner of the project, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Slovenia Forest Service and Kalkalpen National Park attended the workshop on Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas, which was organised as part of the European Parks Academy in Klagenfurt, Austria. The workshop was led by Carol Ritchie, the executive director of EUROPARC Federation and was also attended by Peter Debrine, senior project officer at the World Heritage Nature, Sustainable Tourism and Outreach Unit.
The workshop started with a short history of sustainability and focussed on fundamental principles and components that have to be taken into account to ensure the preservation of nature, as well as on providing local stakeholders with opportunities for development.
The workshop was useful to the BEECH POWER project and the expertise and long experience of the speakers is well appreciated. The lessons learnt will be integrated into a number of project outputs across the thematic work packages. Hopefully leading to a bright future where primeval beech forests will be well protected and able to support local economy!