Based on its engagement in nature conservation, environmental education and the still largely traditional agriculture of small farmers on Mount Etna, Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung initiated the establishment of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2009. At that time still quite unknown in Sicily, hardly any authorities, but many private inidividuals and associations were interested in the concept of the "Man and Biosphere" programme and recognised the possibilities of valorising their homeland. Thus, a "grass roots movement" has emerged and a support association, which in the meantime has been able to bring all 23 planned communities behind it and carries the idea for such a protected area to Rome.
Since 2005 the foundation engages in different projects in Sicily, among others for the protection of the Sicilian Wildcat. Its habitat is located primarily in the North and East of the island. Here the protected areas of the Etna and the mountain ranges of Nebrodi and Madonie, as well as the small structured agrarian landscapes between the Nature parks offer important migration corridors for the species. So the idea emerged to combine these habitats and corridors of the Sicilian Wildcat in a biosphere reserve. The original planning area of around 300,000 hectares, which was to cover all three nature parks, is being redefined for better feasibility and we will consider the most important region of the two river valleys of the Simeto and Alcantara, which both originate in the Nebrodi Mountains but flow in two directions in a semicircle around Etna North-West.
Our planning area already has everything that makes a Biosphere Reserve and also has a huge development potential:
The still rich natural treasure, the diversity of livestock and old crops, local gastronomic specialties, the still existing traditional knowledge of medicinal and culinary herbs, handicrafts, and the history and touristically attractive landscapes are values in an economically "disadvantaged area". This could be obtained, cultivated and expanded through a biosphere reserve. The typical structural elements of the landscape could be secured and the most important migration corridor of the Sicilian wild cat would be protected.
Development goals should be: an improved management of existing protected areas, the elimination of wild dumps, promoting renewable energy and public transport, and a coherent (natural) tourism concept.
A first expert opinion by German experts about the research area offered that a geographical reduction of the planned area would be reasonable for the present. The engagement will now focus on the area between the North side of the Etna and South of the Nebrodie mountain range. Here we currently foster the communication with decision makers, respectively government officials.
Information brochure [in Italian]
At the end of 2016, our feasibility study has been completed, which we presented to the Ministry of the Environment in February 2017.
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Cofunded by the European Union