Mountain Wilderness leaves Board of Supporters of UNESCO Dolomites Foundation

Below we publish the letter of Mountain Wilderness Italy to UNESCO Dolomites Foundation.

Dear Sirs,

Mountain Wilderness Italy, on behalf of Mountain Wilderness International, has followed the work of the Foundation with interest and trust since its inception, at the beginning with a long preliminary work aimed at UNESCO’s acknowledgement (1993 – 2004), then taking part in several meetings on the nomination for inscription, until our final success in Seville, in June 2009.

Our association has always been aware of the intrinsic difficulties of the project itself, in every respect: political, institutional and cultural. This, among other reasons, is why several times we have given our selfless support, as volunteers motivated by our only wish to preserve the natural heritage and wherever possible regenerate it, overcoming also mistakes of the past.

In the course of the years, we have always been true to the commitments made in Seville on 26 June 2009 with UNESCO and then to the requirements imposed after the Commissioner’s visit in 2011. In fact, the Dolomites 2040 Management Plan consistently draws on those indications and proposes to the bodies making up the Board of Directors of the Dolomites Foundation a pathway aimed at meeting the three needs of mountain inhabitants: economic development, environmental protection and strengthening the social structure.

We were assured (in 2017, then postponed to 2018, then again to 2019) that UNESCO would make a further visit to check the management of the Dolomites heritage. This never happened. We don’t know why and don’t care whose fault it is: for us it would have been an important opportunity to discuss with the Foundation and urge it to focus on the most important and sensitive issue of its mission, i.e. heritage preservation.

Auronzo Hut

In our opinion – widely shared in the areas concerned, meaning that something is not working properly in the Foundation’s communication – in recent years the Foundation’s mission focused – more or less intentionally – on tourism marketing. The training project was only partially implemented, especially with regard to mountain hut keepers (thanks to their association, the Italian Alpine Club CAI and the Angelini Foundation), neglecting other strategic players – not only environmentalists, nature parks as well, just to mention one – when it came to spreading the preservation approach and cultural identity of the Dolomites.

The Dolomites in general as well as the heritage that should be preserved are exposed to ever increasing threats that we deem intolerable. These aggressions, even where it seems that they do not concern core or buffer areas, imply an endless erosion of fragile public land and mountain identity, and are a threat to nature and landscape diversity in the Dolomites.

Jeep Camp - San Martino di Castrozza

In the meantime, initiatives envisaged by the Management Plan stay on paper and are not implemented in any of the 5 provinces concerned. In fact, institutions and relevant regions support initiatives that cause constant aggressions to the heritage. The Foundation is not even opposing events implying the use of motor vehicles on woodland and pastures, at high altitudes (Falcade, San Martino di Castrozza). Not to speak of the fact that municipalities authorising such events are allowed to use the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation logo.

Given our collaborative spirit through all these years, we simply do not understand why the Foundation remained silent after the presentation of the Dossier drawn up by National and Local Environmental Associations and after the letter we sent on 8 February 2020. We thought they would at least try and explain their difficulties, provisions and deadlines with the aim of recovering credibility, both in terms of concreteness and consistency. That silence was extremely offensive to all the signatory associations, not only to Mountain Wilderness Italy, as if the Foundation had freed itself of the burden of environmentalists with a shrug of its shoulders.

Three Peaks of Lavaredo. Picture by Sergio Ruzzenenti
Picture by Sergio Ruzzenenti

For those and more reasons, Mountain Wilderness can no longer be a member of the Board of Supporters of UNESCO Dolomites Foundation.

Yours sincerely,

Franco Tessadri