Wilderness in Foreste Casentinesi NP, Italy

Wild ancient forests where the trees touch the sky

Our partners from Foreste Casentinesi NP, Italy confirmed interest to become a member of the European Wilderness Network. Today they proudly present their Wilderness area:

In central Italy, on the Apennines’ mountains between Tuscany and Romagna, Florence and the Adriatic coast, there is an amazing spot of biodiversity protected by the Foreste Casentinesi National Park (from 1993), with a huge amount of rare fauna and flora species: centuries-old white spruce and beech forests which contain also hermitages and sanctuaries, an incredible net of water sources, streams and falls, and the signs of an historical abandoned rural culture and society, counting just few human inhabitants today.

The Park has the highest national forestry coverage (more than 80%), and its ancient beech forests have just applied inside the UNESCO “tentative list” for becoming a World Heritage Site. Its bio- and zoo-cenosis could be considered almost complete, with a very well defined ecosystem balance from the most important predators (wolves, eagles) to their most common preys (ungulates and rodents), very close to Wilderness parameters, and very autonomous from human intervention in indemnifying damages. In the recent time black woodpecker, wildcat and pine-marten has been detected, whereas in the past time (first decades of XVIII century) also the brown bear was present.

In the middle hearth of the protected area it grows, in all its wild beauty, the first Italian Integral Nature Reserve of Sasso Fratino: 764 hectares of Wilderness closed to visitors since 1959, dominated by beech trees in its highest part, mingled with other broad-leaved trees as well as big holly trees and old yews below the altitude of 1200. The value of this reserve lies not only in the enormous wealth of species, but also in the wood structure itself: new-born, adolescent, old, sick and dead trees coexist in this area where everything is left as it is, and man for once has restricted himself to look and learn.

The whole National Park territory is affected by the return of the environment to a more natural state and extension, an important factor that leads to the restoring of biological independence and resistance, the increasing of available spaces for wild animals, and the creation of wild-life corridors for those species which needs to be preserved. The recent re-colonization of the wolves throughout Northern Apennines and – further, more recently – on the Alps, started exactly from these mountains and forests in the last 1970’s years.

Mattia Speranza – Foreste Casentinesi NP collaborator

with the contribution of:

Giorgio Boscagli – Foreste Casentinesi NP Director, Biologist, Wildlife Manager

Giuseppe Paris – President of “Friends of PNFC” Association

7 thoughts on “Wilderness in Foreste Casentinesi NP, Italy

  • If any Italian land owner within the Casentinesi Forest Park is willing to sell a hectare or two of land at a reasonable price, please contact me. Trevor, trevorlawrance@gmail.com

  • Hi Dario,
    Yes, the Wilderness Quality Standard is critically important. It is setting rules of the game…

    Hi Vlado

  • Hi Max,
    thank you for explanation.
    I think that setting an area as Wilderness is a very big choice for a public administration (and so for population involved). Therefore clearly defined criteria and transparency of the method are very important. Now I’m downloading “EWS Wilderness Quality Standard” file. It’s very interesting!
    Cheers Dario

  • Hi Dario,

    You are absolutely right that a lot of certificates are being used for greenwashing. That is why our wilderness quality certification results in a Wilderness Management Plan. This plan highlights the strength and weaknesses and is reviewed every 5 years. If an area fails to address the weaknesses we will not hesitate to demote the category to the next lower level. This is why we now have a bronze, silver, gold and platinum level. We are sure that this approach will improve the accountability and thus the quality of wilderness in Europe.
    Cheers Max

  • Dear Mr. V. Vancura,
    Thank you very much for your kindly reply!
    I’m agree with you about an international recognition. Such recognition can to involve more people (and hopely stakeholders!) in the process of wilderness areas design, management and improvement. In addition, an international pressure to improve local actions is undoubtedly positive. The possible risk of international recognitions (but now I cannot talk about Foreste Casentinesi National park because I don’t know directly local context and involved people) is that they are used only as a façade for attracting tourism, without a following of concrete actions. Maybe this risk is lower when the recognition is based on standardized, clearly and temporarily defined criteria. I’m very glad that a temperate forest National park wants to take the path to wilderness preservation. I believe is relatively easier preserving tundra, taiga or high mountains that such temperate ecosystems in densely populated Western Europe.
    I would be very glad to cooperate with you! Just this morning I sent a mail to you and your team about this topic.
    Yours sincerely,
    Dario Botti

  • Dear Mr. Dario,

    I am glad for your comments! We believe that at least some parts of Foreste Casentinesi National Park deserves an international wilderness recognition, other parts can benefit to improve gradually their wilderness management…

    I am also very glad to read that Italy has a high potential for wilderness and rewilding development!!!

    And last but not least we believe that the International recognition through the European Wilderness Network can help to improve protection of these last wilderness fragments in your country… Please let us know if you have an interest to cooperate…

  • I guess Foreste Casentinesi National Park is one of the most important natural hotspot in Italy. Specially in Romagna territory of the park there are some of most important and beautiful nearly natural Italian forests. Thanks to efforts of the State Forestry Corp, this forest complex has survived until now.
    Although centuries of anthropic pressure, in Italy exist still places with high natural values. Other places are abandoned and their naturalness and wildness are improving. I think potentiality for wilderness and rewilding development in Italy is virtually high. Unfortunately, many “de facto” wilderness or self-rewilding areas are not recognized and protected and so they are currently at risks (for example for industrial renewable energy projects).
    Choices of “non-intervention management” are very uncommon in Italy, even in National parks, even in public lands. Incidentally, it should be pointed that Italian national parks, unlike Austrian or German for example, do not follow the IUCN “75 percent rule” (see Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories, IUCN 2008).
    Cause of this situation could be, perhaps, apart real difficult situations with many stakeholders, in the historical agricultural tradition of Italy. The so called “shifting baseline syndrome” could be explain this: for centuries each square meter (or nearly so) of our Country was been managed and we have forgotten that Nature can be survive even without the help of Man. Many people believe sincerely that land abandonment just causes degradation. Real world is very complex and each situation is different from any other, but in many cases where there are no danger for people, and traditional cultural landscapes are gone, maybe the best choice for abandoned lands could be protection with “non-intervention management” (and so zero or nearly zero costs: consider that Italy actually suffers of a deep economic crisis, other than cultural).
    In this cultural context, I believe that environmental education must to do a very big effort to shift toward more actual paradigms of nature conservation. From totally managed landscapes, where biodiversity seems an “in situ” collection (see also “Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding” by G. Monbiot 2013) to landscapes with more self-willed areas, freely developing nature and non-stopped successional stages or disturbances. In short, to a healthier landscape. I believe It’s necessary to educate to a new paradigm of nature and beauty, where forests (or wild beaches) full of dead woods aren’t considered “dirty”.
    In areas where management or exploitation (even if slight) is permitted, high natural or biodiversity values can be present (specially here in Europe), but natural processes (a key feature of wilderness, see “A Working Definition of European Wilderness and Wild Areas” 2013, and “A Vision for a Wilder Europe” 2013) are only partially allowed and protected. In such cases I think is very difficult to speak of wilderness. I am completely agree with Foreman (USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-1. 2000): wilderness areas are (or they should be) “self-willed lands”.
    Just an example: “Foreste Casentinesi” National park contains large State and Regional forests and its total area is 36.548 ha. Zone “A – Riserva Integrale (strict nature reserve)” is large 1.320ha (some 3,6% of the park), zone “B – Riserva Generale Orientata (guided general reserve, where according to the park plan traditional uses are permitted)” 10.408ha (some 28,5%). Remaining area of the park is classified in Zones “C – Area di Protezione (forestry, agricultural and sport protection areas)”of 25.833ha and “D – Area di Promozione Economica e Sociale (social and economic promotion, most urban areas) of 126ha.
    (See website
    In current situation, with actual park plan and rules, it seems that exists a very little place for wilderness in the National park. Virtually, only zone “A”(1.320ha) could be considered “wilderness”, but 764ha are in “Sasso Fratino” Strict Nature State Reserve, that is in category IUCN Ia, so only 556ha (1.320 minus 764) are eligible for wilderness protection (IUCN category Ib) and public experience. Surely, many areas in the park are in very good seminatural status, but with current rules, these areas could be considered, perhaps, only a buffer zone for the small core wilderness area. At last, two questions arise to mind: actually do exist plans, projects or ideas for changing actual park plan and expanding non-intervention management area? Do exist plans or projects to reduce and then restore existing roads network or other anthropic facilities?

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