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Written by Triglav National Park

Julian Alps Biosphere Area 2021 in the 50th anniversary year of UNESCO MAB Biosphere Areas

In the Julian Alps Biosphere Reserve, the Triglav National Park cooperates with stakeholders according to the values of cooperation, sustainability and community. This year, the UNESCO MAB Man and the Biosphere Programme celebrates its 50th anniversary, with the key objective of strengthening the relationship between people and their environment.

OUR VALUES: COOPERATION, SUSTAINABILITY, COMMUNITY IN THE JULIAN ALPS BIOSPHERE AREA

In 2003, UNESCO adopted a decision to include the Julian Alps, the Triglav National Park and part of the Karavanke Mountains in UNESCO's International Man and the Biosphere Programme. The Julian Alps became part of a global network of model regions for sustainable development. The area comprises 10 municipalities - Bled, Bohinj, Gorje, Radovljica, Žirovnica, Jesenice, Kranjska Gora, Bovec, Kobarid and Tolmin.

The network aims to promote development based on the sustainable use of natural resources and the conservation of biodiversity.

DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE JULIAN ALPS AS A SUSTAINABLE TOURIST DESTINATION

The Julian Alps Community is a community of tourist destinations in the Julian Alps. Some of them are also the most visited in Slovenia (Bohinj, Kranjska Gora, Soča Valley, Bled). Taking into account the new situation, the new version of the Development Plan (2020) considers tourism as an industry that is not "independent" but a "consequence" of an environment that is friendly to locals and, consequently, attractive to visitors, in terms of nature conservation, the environment, social, spatial planning, cultural and economic aspects. It highlights tourism as a cross-sectoral rather than a stand-alone economic sector.

Due to climate change, people's increased need for relaxation in nature and a healthy lifestyle and also because of the effects of the epidemic and the general popularity of outdoor recreation, there has been an increase in the number of visitors to the natural environment.

Visitors search for information online before arriving at a destination and during their visit to the natural environment. There is an urgent need to develop digitalisation in the field of visitor guidance in the natural environment. Digital mapping and digital application content are designed to provide contactless and effective information, education and timely warnings to visitors. Information will be displayed in a user-friendly and understandable way. Digitalisation is one of the main objectives of the Development Plan and one of the biggest challenges.  

TRIGLAV NATIONAL PARK QUALITY LABEL

The Quality Label Certificate pursues the values and mission of the Triglav National Park (TNP) throughout the Julian Alps Biosphere Area (JA Biosphere Area). The main condition for obtaining the certificate is to ensure and concretely demonstrate that products and services have a superior general and, above all, specific environmental quality. The quality label is awarded in the fields of agriculture, tourism, handicrafts, forestry, herbalism, education, etc...

This year, the following companies have joined the family of holders:

  • the Hike and Bike Tourist Agency,
  • the Stare Hotel and Villa,
  • Camp Špik,
  • Pehtra.si,
  • Lesbled,
  • Ekokmetija d.o.o. and
  • 8 primary schools that are members of the Community of Schools of the Julian Alps Biosphere Region. 

COMMUNITY OF SCHOOLS OF THE JULIAN ALPS BIOSPHERE REGION

In the area of awareness-raising and education, special attention is paid to the primary school target group. In 2018, the Community of Schools of the Julian Alps Biosphere Region was created, bringing together 38 schools (19 parent schools with branches - more than 7,000 pupils in total) in all three administrative districts. The long-term objective of the Community is to bring together future development promoters, managers and stakeholders in the unique area of the Triglav National Park and the Julian Alps Biosphere Region, thus ensuring a balance between biodiversity and sustainable development in the future.

A wide range of free science activities is available to the pupils of the Community's member schools. In addition to a wide range of free science workshops, free science days are organised each year in the framework of different projects. The Triglav Treasury web portal with learning content is available to students and teachers. To support children's education about sustainability and locally produced food, all schools have received a raised garden bed in 2019/20 and a plum fruit tree in 2020/21. Each year, students also receive an issue of the children's newspaper of the Community of Schools of the Julian Alps Biosphere Region, this year the fourth in a row.

This year, 8 members of the Community of Schools of the Julian Alps Biosphere Area were awarded the Quality Label of the Triglav National Park for their dedicated and active participation in the field of showing outstanding commitment to strengthening the identity of the community. The recipients are:

  • the Gorje Primary School,
  • the Koroška Bela Primary School,
  • the Dušan Munih Most na Soči Primary School,
  • the Prof. Dr. Josip Pleml Bled Primary School,
  • the Polde Stražišar Jesenice Primary School,
  • the Anton Janša Radovljica Primary School,
  • the Žirovnica Primary School and the
  • Simon Kos Podbrdo Primary School.

These schools will have priority for free environmental education activities. The quality label will be a condition for participation in calls for tender projects for funding various school projects.

RESTRUCTURING OF THE BOHINJ TNP CENTRE INTO A CENTRE OF THE JULIAN ALPS BIOSPHERE AREA

The Centre of the Triglav National Park Bohinj currently functions as a centre with an info desk and a shop, as well as a venue for various events and educational workshops for different target groups, and for local community activities. In the coming years, we plan to add a broader component to the TNP Bohinj Centre and restructure it into the Julian Alps Biosphere Centre. We are convinced that the Biosphere Area needs more than one such centre - because of it's size and importance, there will certainly work towards having more in the future.

The main contents planned for the Bohinj modernised centre are:

  • Awareness and education centre: centre of the Community of Schools of the Julian Alps Biosphere Area, centre for the education of tourist stakeholders, centre of the TNP quality label
  • Quality centre: tasting centre and shop for UNESCO MaB brands: TNP Quality Label and other destination collective brands
  • Interpretation centre: presentation of the Julian Alps Biosphere Region
  • A centre for local community networking and activities: in addition to the established activities carried out by local people on the premises of the centre, the Stara Fužina unit of the general library will also move to the premises of the Centre following the restructuring.

STRENGHTENING THE COMMUNITY OF THE JULIAN ALPS

The wide range of different management areas of the biosphere area is given a visual presence by marking the building blocks of the common space, which reinforces the sense of belonging to the Julian Alps community.

The UNESCO MAB Biosphere Area of the Julian Alps is, historically speaking, a mountain area of long-term depopulation and at the same time a popular tourist destination for more than a century. The added value of the Julian Alps Biosphere Area lies in the integration of the traditional industries of the area, the education of children and young people in the spirit of the area's values and, above all, in responsible intervention in nature.

The aim of the stakeholders of the Biosphere Area is to ensure sustainable development in the unique area of the Julian Alps, to continue the coexistence of man and nature as seen for thousands of years, to provide quality living conditions for local people and to offer the best to visitors - those who want to experience the best - in the knowledge that they are guests in a precious area of nature and cultural heritage for generations to come.

The Julian Alps Biosphere Reserve is also part of the Transboundary Zone of the Julian Alps Ecoregion, which it forms together with the Julian Foothills Nature Park in Italy (the manager of Italy's Julian Alps Biosphere Reserve). In this festive year, the Triglav National Park celebrates its 40th and 60th anniversaries and the Julian Foothills Nature Park its 25th anniversary, the two parks have signed an agreement committing themselves to launch the process of declaring a transboundary Biosphere Area of the Julian Alps.  

IN THE WORDS OF LOCALS:

Biosphere reserves are "learning environments for sustainable development". They are environments for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing change and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and biodiversity management. They are places that offer local solutions to global challenges.

Gašper Hrastelj, Secretary-General of the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO

 

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The exchange of practices and experiences is essential, as the municipalities of the Biosphere Region face similar issues and challenges. Being part of the Triglav National Park and part of the Julian Alps Biosphere Region means confirmation and support for our efforts to develop a municipality with a clear focus on the preservation of our outstanding natural and cultural heritage. Bohinj is first and foremost our home and it is, therefore, our responsibility to preserve it. With more than 650 000 daily visitors a year and over 150 000 overnight stays, it is no longer just residents who shape the image of our environment. To preserve natural and cultural heritage for the future, both, visitors and locals need to understand the incremental need for responsible actions every step of the way. 

Jože Sodja, Mayor of the Municipality of Bohinj

 

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In the future, we expect tourism products to be integrated with each other, and we see this as a great business opportunity. We hope to see more joint ventures and success stories derived from the interconnection of various holders of the TNP quality label certificate. And we would like to see more providers joining this initiative. Together we can create a powerful and impactful business model, serving both, local economy and visitors, by ensuring only high-quality service and products. 

Camp Danica, Bohinj

 

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Participation in the project is definitely valuable for our school - for students and teachers alike. Raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity, nature conservation and a healthy living environment is a goal that we are achieving by working together within the Community of Schools of the Julian Alps Biosphere Region. We integrate a lot of activities in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities. We have a raised garden bed on the school grounds, we planted a fruit tree, students receive the Community of Schools newspaper, we held a technical day called Triglav Treasury, we took part in a competition for the name of a lynx, we hold outdoor lessons, we visit nearby places, we organised an exhibition in the Triglav Rose Centre, etc. These are just a few of the activities and we are far from running low on options. We are proud of the quality label we have been awarded, which is an incentive for us to keep working. Thanks to all the TNP professionals who encourage us and carry out activities that help us to raise children's awareness about protecting and respecting nature.

Mojca Brejc, Headmistress of Gorje Primary School, recipient of the TNP quality label

 

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Over the last few years, the Julian Alps - Triglav National Park Biosphere Reserve has strengthened the cooperation between tourism and nature conservation. This is good and right. The results are there and visible. To mention just the new Juliana hiking trail, which has become the cornerstone of our cooperation. The solidity of this foundation will make it easier for us to respond to the pressing issues of the age in which we live. That is why I would like us to measure the success of this path in a different way than we are used to. At least by tourism professionals. For example, how many more hectares of land is used for farming, how our attitude to the importance and conservation of biodiversity has changed, how many people, individuals and families have chosen to stay in the region, how many new public transport lines we have managed to introduce, etc. A great challenge, indeed. Especially when we know that maintaining a balance between tourism and development on one hand, and the preservation of nature and culture, on the other, is like walking on a tightrope high above a precipice. Even if it is hard and intense, we still need to make sure we always seek this balance, establishing a perfect relationship between nature, culture and people. Managing the "sacred space" of the Julian Alps Biosphere Area, which is "a welcoming home for locals and an oasis of surprises for visitors", is, therefore, a demanding, puzzling, but also an honourable job. To better understand the complexity of managing this space, at a certain point I started to compare it to a living room, which we arrange in a way that suits us and those closest to us. Naturally, if we are happy, we want to share this feeling of well-being, so we invite friends, colleagues, acquaintances, the "curious seekers, those who are capable of genuine experiences, the dreamers and the adventurous". The relaxed atmosphere of wonder, respect and exchange give birth to a wealth of new ideas, which reinforce my conviction that this space, this living room, is in fact "a neatly curated boutique of unique and quintessential treasures, that are not even for sale"

Klemen Langus, Director of Tourism Bohinj and Coordinator of the Julian Alps Community

 

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With its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, the Julian Alps Biosphere Region has been attracting those who want to enter paradise in their lifetime since the time of Kugy. Our snow-white peaks, with their grandeur, have awakened the people who have lived in this part of the world for millennia and, with their steep cliffs, have been essential in awakening the national consciousness at a time when the Slovene people were slowly realising what a rich culture and beautiful language they had inherited from their ancestors. It is no surprise, then, that this extremely sensitive area accounts for almost a third of all tourist overnight stays in Slovenia, and its beauty surpasses anything else on the blue planet.

Matjaž Podlipnik, Head of the Slovenian Alpine Museum, President of the Dovje-Mojstrana Tourist Board and long-time tourist guide

 

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I am a herbalist, a young owner of a family farm and I work under the name Pehtra.si. In my work, I try to act as sustainable as possible and with care for the environment in which we live. My wish is that our descendants will know the diversity of the surrounding mountains and meadows at least as well as I do, or better. The cooperation with TNP and the inclusion in the TNP Quality Label is an additional motivation for my work, as it is one more confirmation that I am on the right track, as well as the whole community working within this framework.

Mojca Benedejčič, PEHTRA, recipient of the TNP quality label certificate

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