“Shouldn’t we be thinking that future generations will be grateful for what we could’ve built, but didn’t, rather than being grateful for what we built? Particularly in those places where nature is still unspoiled by man.” (S.O.S. Gherdëina ’95)
The booming economic affluence in the Dolomite Ladin valleys and the unrelenting drive to continue building, increasing uphill lifts and ski lifts that began in the early 1950s have decisively transformed small mountain hamlets and the surrounding countryside. In order to limit the negative effects of being solely dependent on tourism, associations, groups and organizations concerned with the environment and its protection were formed. These groups focus on raising awareness among the population, businessmen and potential investors of the value of nature. Even though environmentalist groups have not been completely successful in averting the negative effects of mass tourism, various political parties, including the Green Party, have slowly adopted their ideas and their way of perceiving nature into their programs. Consequently, provinces and regions have created nature parks – an important step towards safeguarding and protecting the Dolomites’ natural heritage.
The “central” Dolomites is home to three nature parks that have been established by environmental protection legislation: the Puez-Odles Nature Park (also known as Puez-Geisler) founded in 1970 and expanded in 1978; Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park (also known as Fanes-Sennes-Prags) founded in 1980; and the Nature Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites founded in 1990.
The Puez-Odles Nature Park extends over an area of 10,196 hectares belonging to the municipalities of Badia, Corvara, Funes, San Martino in Badia, Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva di Val Gardena. The protected area is delimited in the north by Passo delle Erbe and the slopes of the Odles di Eores; in the south by Sassongher, Sas Ciampac and the Pizes de Cir that dominate above the Passo Gardena; the park extends eastward up to the Antersac Valley and to the foot of the Gardenaccia rock walls; and it reaches west up to the Funes Valleys and to Vallunga (next to the Gardena Valley). Its rare natural beauty derives from a variety of spectacular geological formations such as amphitheaters, caves, natural arches, pinnacles, and distinctive sculptural forms – one of the park’s most interesting attractions. Plant and animal life typical of the Dolomites is also well represented. In lesser-visited areas such as the Antersasc, it is not uncommon to come upon chamois, marmots and – with a bit of luck – golden eagles. There are many well-marked hiking routes throughout the park, making it easy to visit. One of these is the famous Dolomites High Route (Alta Via) no. 2 that crosses the park from north to south. Another fascinating trail is the Günther Messner High Route (a via ferrata – fixed rope route) named after the late mountaineer from Val di Funes; Günther was the younger brother of Reinhold Messner who perished during their Nanga Parbat Expedition in 1970.
The Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park extends over an area of 25,680 hectares and is perhaps among the most attractive mountain landscapes. The area is delimited in the north by the Valdaora Dolomite slopes; in the east by Valle di Landro; in the south by the watershed that divides the rivers of Rienza and Boite; and in the west by the Val Badia mountain ridge, between Piz da Peres and Conturines. There was much controversy over establishing the park, particularly from those who saw the move as detrimental to the development of the tourism industry. After initial skepticism, opposition groups have begun appreciating the positive impact that the park has had on the area and today favor its protection and conservation. Fanes, Fodara Vedla and Senes are the nucleus of this nature park that includes ample territory in municipalities neighboring Marebbe: Braies, Valdaora, La Valle and Badia. This unique landscape is worth seeing up close: aside from its geological importance and the wildlife and plants that make their home in the park, it has breathtaking scenery such as the Green Lake on the Fanes alps (where the limestone amphitheater surrounding it reflects in its dark, cool waters) and the regular terrace formation of the legendary “parliament of marmots”. It is a hiker’s paradise. Some of the world’s most beautiful peaks can be found here, as well as easy-to-reach rolling pastures such as Armentara with a rich variety of flowers and plants.
The park has well-marked hiking trails and well-located mountain huts to facilitate visitors and hikers in their walks through exceptionally stunning nature. The Dolomites High Route (Alta Via) no. 1 – also known as the “Classic High Route” because it was the first route marked out – goes through the park, as well.
The Nature Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites, was established by the Veneto Region with the approval of the General Meeting of the Regolieri. The “Regole”, or Family Mountain Communities, are age-old land managing bodies made up of the native families of the early settlers for the joint use and administration of pastures and forests. The park extends over an area of 11,200 hectares to the north of Cortina d’Ampezzo on the border with Alto Adige. It encompasses the ancient property jointly owned by the Regole d’Ampezzo comprised within the boundaries of the municipality of Ampezzo. The protected area is V-shaped with two side branches and it spans northward up to the Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park; the total combined territories equal roughly 37,000 hectares and share homogeneous environmental features.