What is a nature park?

Nature parks are precious natural and cultural landscapes which are developed into protective areas by decree of the environmental departments of the provincial governments. They offer a unique and special variety of landscapes marked by an interesting variety of fauna and flora species and important biocenosis. Both their natural and their cultural landscapes are the result of men and nature having lived closely together over a long period of time, and they are maintained and preserved.

Currently there are five official nature parks in the province of Tirol. The designation Nature Park is a distinction for a protected area and therefore it is not a protection category.
The Tirolean Conservation of Landscapes and Nature Act 2005 describes a nature park in §12 as follows.
“The provincial government can declare nature preservation areas, quiet areas, nature reserves and special protective areas or parts of them, which are generally accessible recreational areas in the nature or areas especially suitable for imparting knowledge on nature and appropriately groomed and developed in that respect as being a Nature Park by decree.”

The preservation and further development of these protected landscapes is an important concern for the 48 Austrian nature parks. 
(Status: 5 March 2014; www.naturparke.at). 
According to the Austrian nature parks the parks comprise an area of approximately 500,000 hectares
(Status: 5 March 2014; www.naturparke.at).

Kindergruppe sitzt am Fußufer, Himmel mit Wolken

The Union of Austrian Nature Parks (VNÖ) describes a nature park as follows:
“A nature park is a protected landscape, which has emerged in the interrelation of humans and nature. Often these landscapes have received today’s shape over the course of centuries and should be preserved by the people living and making a living there by sustainable forms of land use and grooming. In a nature park these cultural landscapes are especially aesthetically charming and have been developed with specific institutions and made accessible as recreational areas.”

These explanations already include three important functions of a nature park – nature, protection, education and recreation. Regional development is the fourth task of a nature park. Tirolean nature parks have expanded their field of duties and their tasks are now based on five pillars.

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