To find the intersections between nature conservation, wildlife protection, nature tourism, and sustainable rural development in the Szczecin Lagoon region and to join efforts, such was the aim of a networking meetup of different environmentalists and tourism changemakers from June 30 to July 1.
In the charming setting of an old sheep farm on the edge of Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, the focus was on two main topics: the future development of the Nature Guide Network and the “rewilding” of the Oder Delta region. The latter is the objective of Rewilding Oder Delta, an NGO formed by several project partners on the Polish and German side of the border. Following the main principles of Rewilding Europe, they want to give nature space to develop at its own pace, without human intervention. This way, a kind of safe haven for wildlife will be provided and obstacles for the migration of species such as elk or European bison can be removed.
It’s important that such an endeavor does not place local people at a disadvantage, says Martin Schröter, coordinator of HOP Transnational Network Oder Delta: “Additional voluntary conservation efforts and the creation of a network of local Nature Guides, wildlife safaris, observation points, and other nature tourism services, bring long-lasting benefits for the region.” The overlaps with the EU Interreg South Baltic project Nature Guide Network are obvious: no sustainable nature tourism without intact nature. And especially here, not far from the Baltic Coast, where traditional beach tourism and industrial agriculture shape the landscape, it is important to create sustainable economic alternatives.
Thus, it is crucial that many different stakeholder, often with rather contrary interests, collaborate and why networking holds the key to unlocking the full potential of different projects. Nature Guide Network connects not only guides, but also other agents in environmentalism and tourism, and it aims to enable such collaborations. “The recently established NGO Rewilding Oder Delta is an important network partner for us. Their principles of nature conservation, nature tourism, and communication resonate with those of the Nature Guides”, says Judith Kühn, project manager of Nature Guide Network at Environmental Action Germany. “To advance and market tours and services of Nature Guides is a fundamental step into the future for both parties.”
Stefan Schwill of Rewilding Oder Delta agrees: “An adept visitor management in the hands of Nature Guides makes for the best outcome of tours for both visitors and nature. Therefore we support the development of this project, as we hope it will generate income in the region and help with upkeeping of trails and landscape conservation.”
For autumn, an international networking event is planned, bringing together Nature Guides, tourism stakeholders, and conservation experts from Poland, Lithuania and Germany (further information soon on this website). Also, a study will be undertaken among local nature guides in order to better understand the opportunities and obstacles faced by guides. Collaboration and networking are, after all, beneficial to everyone.