In 1995, just four years after the signing of the Alpine Convention, the Alpine Network of Protected Areas (ALPARC) was established on an initiative of the French State to implement the Alpine Convention on the ground.
First hosted by the Écrins National Park in the central French Alps, followed by six years integrated as the Task Force Protected Areas within the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention, ALPARC became an independent association in 2013.
For a quarter of a century, national parks, nature parks, nature reserves, and biosphere reserves have been joining forces under the umbrella of ALPARC to exchange good practices, harmonise observation methodologies, carry out awareness-raising campaigns and many more concrete activities.
Protected areas are in charge of managing some of the most valuable natural areas at the core of Europe. As mainly public entities, they are in a unique position to carry out long-term observation essential to scientific research, as well as cooperate with economic actors in their territory. However, even though there are nearly 1000 protected areas in the Alps covering over 28% of the area within the perimeter of the Alpine Convention, these areas vary in the level of protection they provide. Moreover, they are not all allocated specific staff resources. In fact, only about 10% of the Alpine area is strongly protected, (IUCN categories I or II) and the focus is on higher altitudes – where land-use conflicts are less numerous, but biodiversity levels are not the highest.
Overall, protected areas are too small to protect Alpine biodiversity on their own and they risk being isolated from each other and from other European mountain areas by the highly developed valleys and agglomerations at the feet of the Alps. This is why a main focus of ALPARC’s work since its inception has been the implementation of Article 12 of the Protocol on Nature Protection and Landscape Conservation, i.e. to establish an ecological network throughout the Alps, of which ALPARC members are the backbone.
From 16 to 18 September, ALPARC members and supporters celebrated the organisation’s 25th Jubilee at a festive Late Summer Event combining technical seminars and excursions in the cradle of the network, Le-Monêtier-les-Bains, France, in the Écrins National Park.
Congratulating the participants, Secretary General Alenka Smerkolj thanked them for the active role of ALPARC as an Observer of the Alpine Convention and noted: “The human factor, the personal interactions between people engaged towards the same goals are also a reason to rejoice. From the start, the network of protected areas was embraced with enthusiasm by park managers and staff. This is something to be proud of and to sustain in the next decades!”.