The Central Appenines include the highest and most rugged mountain systems of the whole range. Encompassing three Italian regions, this is a vast natural area with many reserves and Natura 2000 sites, like the Abruzzi and Majella National Parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park. Together with strict protection measures and positive management actions over the past decades in the protected areas, a spontaneous and vast rewilding process has been also taking place due to land abandonment and decreasing traditional activities.
The Central Apennines have several protected areas, mostly included in the Natura 2000 network. Of particular interest is the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park, one of the first national parks in Italy and Europe. It was created in 1923 with the purpose to protect species like the Marsican brown bear and the Apennine chamois, and it is very famous also outside Italy. Several hundreds of thousands visitors are claimed to reach the area each year. Other areas in the region which are protected at a national level, are the Gran Sasso-Monti della Laga National Park and the Majella National Park.
The Rewilding initiative aims to generate an up-scaling of the whole conservation effort in the Central Apennines by focusing especially on the buffer zones of the parks and the ecological corridors in between, and by involving local administrations and stakeholders to demonstrate that land abandonment is a new opportunity to revitalize both natural dynamic processes, the socio-economic potential of the region as well as people’s quality of life.
The Rewilding Apennines process involves all the already existing protected areas but will mainly focus on their buffer zones and connection areas. In these areas all new major infrastructure projects such as windmills, power lines, road building or water power/dam constructions will be actively held away. This will be secured through agreements with local administrations and land owners, which will see rewilding as a real opportunity to maintain the natural assets while at the same time boosting the socio-economic development. Forestry activities will implement measures to increase ecological functionality and allow the rewilding processes improving their suitability for animal and plant species.
Hunting, which is banned within the boundaries of Italy’s protected areas, is allowed in certain buffer zones and selected connection areas, but with large no-hunting zones agreed to facilitate safe transfer of wildlife between the protected areas and create areas where wildlife can be more easily seen. The continued involvement of hunting associations in the development of business activities, especially wildlife watching, will lead to the establishment of new partnerships matching conservation and business development.