In July, the Veneto region, with the technical support of Etifor, concluded its first round of stakeholder engagement activities in the Alto Bellunese (Activities T2.4). These included face-to-face meetings with AlpES’s local observer in Veneto, the Local Action Group Alto Bellunese, and participatory community workshops in the Zoldo Valley (Province of Belluno, Italy).

Local Action Groups (LAGs) operate as part of the the Rural Development Programme, LEADER, identifying and implementing a local development strategy, making decisions about the allocation of its financial resources and managing them. As stated in the Alpes project website, the LAG Alto Bellunese covers an area of 233,172 ha, and comprises the northernmost area of the Veneto region, including five Mountain Unions (Comelico Sappada, Centro Cadore, Valle del Boite, Agordo, Cadore Longarone Zoldo) and 41 municipalities. The territory of the LAG has a low population density and presents discrete standards of life quality.  The LAG includes the Ampezzo Dolomites Regional Park and partially the National Park of the Belluno Dolomites, as well as 17 Sites of Community Importance and 7 sites of Special Protection Areas, which overlap in some cases. The natural value and beautiful landscape of the Belluno Dolomites, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site, makes the areas a famous tourist destination. The Alto Bellunese is characterized by a great wealth of environmental assets, natural resources, landscape and historical factors that, if properly valued and promoted, can be the driving force to promote tourism and economic development.

Face to face meetings served to finalize the ranking of the eight selected ES, and decide on the area for carrying out informational activities. These were envisioned both as informational opportunities as well as for community discussion on potential future development opportunities centred upon the ecosystem services identified in the ranking. The ranking identified two ES that are relevant to the area of the LAG Alto Bellunese:

          - Biomass production from grasslands (ES 2)

          - Outdoor recreation activities (ES 7)

Three workshops were planned for each ecosystem service. In June and July, three workshops addressed the forest in the widest possible terms, including issues such as forest expansion, cultural significance and benefits, challenges, and land fragmentation in the Zoldo Valley. A second set of workshops addressing tourism are planned in October.

To inspire the community, two actors, Paola Brolati and Charly Gamba, performed a selection of literary excerpts in the show “Follow me, there’s a path in the woods”.

The performance was followed by two technical workshops. In the first workshop, Alex Pra (University of Padova), provided an overview of the changing dimensions of mountain forests in Italy, highlighting trends of land abandonment which has led to the doubling of forest lands and halving of forest harvest in Italy. At the same time, changes in society have also led to new demands for forest products and services, such as cultural, educational and sport activities, as well as those more connected to social inclusion and therapy. Ecosystem services were introduced as an emergent theme that could help support forest management. Specifically, examples of Payments for Ecosystem Services were used to show how ecosystem services could be managed through a variety of different tools, including public-private contracts. The main message was therefore to see new demands and uses of the forest as an opportunity, changing the conceptualizations of forest management away from restrictions and towards incentives for “doing”.  The second workshop was introduced by Enrico Vidale (Etifor), who provided an in-depth presentation on opportunities for developing short value chains from non-timber forest products, including mushrooms, truffles and other wild products. The example of the Borgotaro mushroom (IGP labelled) served to highlight how a local economy could center land management approaches on the production of wild mushrooms.

The community discussions highlighted some important issues. On the one hand, the area of the LAG Alto Bellunese is rich in forests. However, rather than an opportunity, some consider temporal trends in forest expansion and the consequent decline in grasslands as a loss of opportunities. The causes are complex and interrelated and at scales larger than the local one. These include sharp declines in agricultural and grazing activities, land fragmentation, subsidies for meat cattle production rather than milk production leading to the underutilization of grasslands, diverse tax regimes for timber harvesting across the EU, social relations as well as cultural factors. While the analysis of these complex relationships is beyond the scope of the report, the results have implications for the ecosystem services flowing from biomass production: these services may often be unmanaged, underutilized or benefits may flow outside of the territory. Thus, within AlpES, the indicators that have been developed so far in relation to supply (yield), flow (use by cattle) and demand (from cattle) need to be contextualized also in terms of how the land is utilized and where benefits flow, for discussions on future uses of the ES to identify concrete opportunities for the local population. 

written by Isabella Pasutto, Catie Burlando, Diego Gallo, and Iolanda Da Deppo

          

The pictures were taken during the show "Follow me, there's a path in the woods" on June 23, 2017, in Fusine di Valle di Zoldo, Alto Bellunese, from Alex Pra (University of Padova), and during the second workshop by Enrico Vidale (Etifor Srl).