Wilderness and biosphere reserves

I am walking in the Lessach valley within the Biosphere Reserve Lungau (Austria). It is a silent, cold and frosty morning with temperatures of -16 degrees Celsius. During the day, the temperatures did not rise much in this narrow valley. Only cars from local landowners, hunters and forest managers are driving up and down the road. I came across several alms, cabins and tourist facilities, all closed. The autumn season is clearly over and the winter seasons will only start in a couple of weeks.

There are at least 10 valleys across the Biosphere Reserve Lungau, quite similar to the Lessach valley. However, the Lessach valley is unique. In the upper part of the valley is the core zone of the Biosphere Reserve Lungau.

Zoning system in biosphere reserve

According to international rules, every single biosphere reserve should be divided into three zones. Each zone has a specific mission and the core zone is subject of our specific interests. This zone should securely protect sites for conserving biological diversity and includes minimally disturbed ecosystems. Additionally, in this core zone people should undertake non-destructive research and other low impact uses (such as education). The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve documents describe this and that was very promising to identify a new potential Wilderness in the Biosphere Reserve Lungau. That is a reason why I am walking here in the Lessach valley, also in the cold and frosty weather.

My purpose to hike up the Lessach valley is to find out if the core zone is fitting to the European Wilderness Quality Standard. From two previous trips in last autumn, I collected the information that the core zone is subject of sporadic traditional uses, such as hunting and grazing. The random and short informal meetings of today with the local foresters and hunters, confirmed this information. Tradition is tradition. Hunting and grazing are activities, which have been linked to this part of Alps for centuries. Hunters and shepherds shaped this landscape in the past, either to create an alpine pastures or eradicated all native carnivorous…

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