Feed awareness, support the growth of knowledge and skills

July 2, 2024

Since late May, the Italian partners of LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors have been implementing a new initiative to engage local communities, to support the development of Bear-Smart Communities in the Central Apennines.

“Bear-Smart Community: are you there?” event for the local community of Lecce nei Marsi, in the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park.
Antonio Di Nunzio

Building on the outreach and engagement initiatives carried out in 2023 for the local communities where the actions of LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors are being implemented, a new format has been designed this year with the aim of continuing to raise awareness and, at the same time, support the growth of knowledge and skills of stakeholders on the broad topic of human-bear coexistence, with the deepening of specific issues together with the project partners, experts and facilitators.

The first meeting took place in the Bear-Smart Community of Valle Roveto-Ernici on May 25th in Morino. Rewilding Apennines and Salviamo l’Orso met with local stakeholders along with the Cooperative Dendrocopos and the municipal administration.

Public event for stakeholders of the Bear-Smart Community Valle Roveto-Ernici, in Morino.
Serena Frau

After an introduction to the objectives of the LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors project and a session on the coexistence measures implemented so far in Valle Roveto – an important ecological corridor for the movement of bears towards areas of new population expansion – attention was focused on what can be done concretely to promote human-bear coexistence and the commitment required for citizens to come together and establish the Bear-Smart Community Committee, a formal tool to move from words to actions in the long term. Subsequently, participants chose one of the 4 thematic tables to follow based on personal interests and attitudes, with the aim of expanding their knowledge. The in-depth topics were conducted by experts in the field:

  1. Infectious diseases and poaching: how the community can limit these risks for bears
  2. In search of bears: between monitoring and research
  3. Nature tourism in bear territories: challenges and opportunities
  4. Damage prevention measures and reduction of conditioning: what tools and how to manage them

A special lunch break was organized, involving local restaurant and food producers who participate in the enterprise network connected to the Bear Smart Communities.

At the end of the thematic workshops, a session of sharing experiences and insights took place. In addition, questionnaires were distributed to the participants, both before and after the event, in order to monitor any growth in knowledge and skills.

Participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire before and after the event to monitor the effectiveness of the action.
Angela Tavone

The second event took place in Lecce nei Marsi on Saturday, June 22nd – the first dedicated to one of the Bear-Smart Communities of the Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise National Park. At the accommodation facility “Il Castelluccio B&B”, the Team of LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors initiative met with representatives of the stakeholders of the Lecce nei Marsi community.

The participants attentively followed and actively participated in the various workshops dedicated to the monitoring of the Marsican brown bear, the prevention of infectious diseases and poaching, prevention measures, and the challenges and opportunities related to nature tourism. The meeting was also preparatory to initiating the training process of the Lecce nei Marsi Bear-Smart Community Committee, a key tool to establish shared management of the territory, especially for the conservation of the bear. Mayor Augusto Barile also participated throughout the day, actively engaging in one of the thematic workshops.

The event dedicated to the stakeholders of the Lecce nei Marsi Bear-Smart Community was held in the suggestive location of B&B Il Castelluccio.
Antonio Di Nunzio

These meetings also allow for a broader and more relaxed understanding of the right behaviors to prevent conflict situations that may arise with bears within communities. We are used to only reasoning and meeting in emergency situations and in a state of emotion, which often does not help to address complex problems. With these training meetings, on the other hand, the aim is to go in the opposite direction, that is, towards awareness, prevention, and active participation in conservation strategies.

Becoming a Bear-Smart Community means embarking on a long journey that involves engaging different components of the local civil society from the grassroots level, listening to them and understanding the most significant criticalities. It is an open and inclusive process.

The “Bear-Smart Community: C6?” meetings will continue throughout the year, gradually involving all the municipalities participating in the LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors initiative.