On September 6th of the present year, EUROPARC Conference opened its doors in the Magic Mountains region, Portugal, to over 300 international protected area professionals for an exciting programme full of networking activities.

Among the Speakers Corner events of the Conference, a dedicated space to present and discuss projects and ideas on different topics, representatives of IMPACT Interreg Europe hosted a special session to open a discussion about the limits of socio-economic development in protected areas. The session was hosted under the title “Open dialogue: where are the limits of socio-economic development in protected areas” and counted with the participation of 16 park and institution representatives from Greece, Hungary, France, Island, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Latvia, Italy, Czech Republic, The Netherlands and Belgium.

This was a unique opportunity to review and exchange the different policies and mechanisms to manage and promote socio-economic activities in different European protected areas. Furthermore, the participants contributed with their personal point of view on where the line between what activities are acceptable should be drawn.

An interesting example came from the hand of Micheal O'Briain, from European Commission – DG Environment, who stressed the importance of designing management systems that are good not only for nature (with special emphasis of N2000 network) but also for local economies.

“The limits for socio-economic activities in a protected area have to be set in the context of the risk and vulnerability of the habitats and species that the area aims to protect.” - Micheal O’Briain.

Micheal also highlighted the increasing interest in getting private money to sustain protected areas and the necessity to find a good solution that is good for nature and for private enterprises. Furthermore, it was also brought to the table the importance of having good management plan agreed with the local stakeholders that sets up the values, the constraints, the existing activities and new opportunities for the protected areas.

Other example came from a representative of a private company in charge of the management of a touristic resort in Sochi National Park, RussiaIn this case, it was highlighted the existence of strict biodiversity conservation laws in the country and the importance of incorporating the natural values of the protected area into the business management plan.

“The most sustainable way of development our business inside the protected area is incorporating the natural assets into our business plan”. - Dmitry Kolosov.

A more comprehensive summary of the session will be available at IMPACT Interreg Europe soon. Stay tune on the news!