Investing in nature will repay in the future
Tell us about “Friends of Rusenski Lom Nature Park”.
“Friends of Rusenski Lom Nature Park” is a non-profit, non-governmental association, established in 1998 in Ruse, Bulgaria. The aim of the club is to ensure the protection and sustainable management of Russenski Lom Nature Park in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, including the Directorate of Russenski Lom Nature Park, local people and businesses. In 2012, the club was selected to manage the Payment for cultural ecosystem services scheme (PCES) developed by WWF. The club is a signatory to the Partnership agreement for the management and funding of cultural ecosystem services in Russenski Lom in a coordinating capacity. The signing of the agreement was the beginning of the Initiative for Responsible Tourism for Russenski Lom.
How have the Initiative and the PCES developed since the beginning?
The agreement between the club and eight local businesses and NGOs working in the field of tourism on the territory of the park was signed in December 2012. We were very surprised by the high level of representation of local businesses and NGOs. But this was only the beginning. Soon after the agreement was signed, our first business partner, Kladeneca Hotel in Ivanovo, decided to donate to the scheme. Other local people who wanted to contribute financially to the scheme also got in touch with us: for example, bee-keepers from Nissovo decided to get involved and will allocate part of their income to the scheme; in Pisanetz, one of our partners will supply the postcards developed for the scheme to tourists in the area. We see that businesses and local people are aware of the benefits they get from Russenski Lom, and are ready to support this initiative. I can say that slowly but surely things are moving along.
How do you see the Initiative in the future?
I believe in this initiative, just like our partners and signatories of the agreement do. Many people see that this initiative does not require a lot of financial resources and that by investing now in nature, it will repay us in the future, and that the effects will be tangible.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing?
For now, the collection of funds with regards to convincing people that what they pay will truly be invested in safeguarding the benefits from nature in our park.
Has the park become more popular after the start of the PCES?
Definitely. For example, on 26 June, I attended a Green Economy conference organised by WWF in Sofia. I was extremely surprised to hear that Mr Potocnik, the European Commissioner for the Environment, knows about Russenski Lom Nature Park.
Do you think that there will be a replication of your example somewhere else?
Yes, the first signs are already evident. Colleagues from Vrachanski Balkan and Bulgarka Nature Parks are also developing PES schemes together with WWF in Bulgaria. I think that such instruments are important for nature park management because they bring the administrations closer to people. In this way, local communities and businesses see that the directorates managing nature parks are not there to stop them, on the contrary, they are there to support local people by taking care of the nature and benefits it provides. Establishing this connection is really crucial for involving local communities in the protection of any nature park, and PES provides the conditions for it.