In his welcoming speech to the rangers and protected area technical staff during this year’s Danilo Re ranger seminar, the new ALPARC president Peter Oggier put it frankly and philosophically: “You matter. You actually save a little bit of our planet, every day.” Indeed, the Danilo Re event places the rangers’ and field officers’ daily work at the centre of interest. This year’s exchange topic on the handling of booming nature sports emphasized their role as mediators between Nature and Humans, at the crossroads between experiencing nature and nature conservation.
Around 80 participants followed the presentations of rangers and technical staff from a variety of Alpine protected areas (six protected areas from six countries). All experts agreed that nature-sport conflicts are growing everywhere in the Alps. Thus, concepts, information campaigns, mediation processes and sometimes penalties are needed in order to cope with them. An exception is the Swiss National Park, where the strict protection is rather well-respected by inhabitants and visitors. The official list of severe fines made many participants chuckle.
Many examples of good practice exist regarding information and on-site action to raise awareness about the vulnerability of wildlife to snow sports. In the Gesäuse National park, rangers’ making the first tracks in fresh snow is a unique example of an inventive tool to change the behavior of ski tourers. Another focus of action is conflicts in climbing sites, but raising climbers’ awareness of their impact is often challenging. Examples of good practice in nature sports management in protected areas all grounded in the same success factors: due to a frequent lack of legislation, they have to be based on voluntary action by nature sports participants; information and early inclusion of the target groups in a participatory process are crucial. It is important to convey the desire to protect nature.
Here, two main attributes can help that are often prerequisites to become an Alpine ranger: being passionate about nature, and being an excellent mediator/communicator. The focus of the second part of the ranger seminar thus lay on the exchange on the future role and job of Alpine rangers. In six small groups, the participants had the opportunity to exchange on their professional education, practical experiences and ideas about the future of their job. Rangers today have a multi-faceted job that varies a lot across the Alps. However, everywhere they remain the principle ambassadors of protected areas as regards visitors and often the only visible representative of protected area managements. This makes them important for the future of the protected areas of the Alps.
The ALPARC operational unit used this occasion to present its work on awareness-raising about disturbance to wildlife in winter. Since 2016 ALPARC has collectively developed the international cooperation initiative “Be Part of the Mountain” involving many protected areas. A teaser introducing the initiative was shown for the first time.