European Day of Parks: what foresters do to protect citizens and the environment
On the occasion of the European Day of Parks, Stephen Cazora training chief of the Carabinieri Forestry School, tells how new soldiers are trained with more attention to nature, the man-animal conflict and the need to fight those annoying crimes that occur in our territories. The "green" army is formed at the foot of the Terminillo massif, in the heart of Lazio. It is there, in Cittaducale in the province of Rieti, that the new defenders called to protect man and the environment at the same time grow up among woods and classrooms. They study, immerse themselves in the trees, learn about the species and above all the laws with a single goal: to protect the most precious heritage we have, nature.
Today, all over Europe is celebrated European Day of Parks, established to promote knowledge of the protected natural areas of the Old Continent. In Italy there are 24 national parks which are part of all 871 protected areas or reserves in the country. If overbuilding or unauthorized building is not rampant in these areas, if it is possible - sometimes with difficulty - to maintain the balance of man-wildlife coexistence, it is often due to them: the forest carabinieri, the sentinels who constantly watch over these territories. Between climate and biodiversity crises, between soil consumption and conflicts, in order to be able to defend them, however, they must constantly "study, update themselves, so that a great heritage can be left to future generations", tells Lieutenant Colonel Stefano Cazora, head of the School's training office police forestry.
What role do forest carabinieri play in Italian parks?
"We are present in all the national parks of Italy, with about 800 men and women who are concerned only with protecting the most precious treasures of biodiversity. This is a very delicate activity because on the one hand you have to protect the heritage for the benefit of future generations, as also sanctioned by the new passages of the constitution on the environment, and at the same time you must allow certain anthropic activities. To do this, you need a balance, preparation, not only juridical, but also scientific and above all human technique. Because here, in the parks, there is often a clash of conservation and development needs, or a difficult human-animal coexistence".
What territory do you protect?
"We protect about three million hectares of national areas. There are 150 stations and departments to guarantee this protection. Then another forestry sector is dedicated to other protected areas and finally there are 150 state nature reserves and state forests that it manages directly the Arma for study and research, but above all for education on legality and the environment. The latter is fundamental for us: crimes must be prevented by teaching the youngest".
What crimes do our parks suffer from?
"It must always be taken into account that the parks have a particular regime: in addition to national regulations, there are also the specific regulations of the park to be respected. The carabinieri take care of verifying that both are respected, above all by acting in the daily life of the populations who inhabit these areas Unfortunately, there is still a problem of illegal dumping and illegal building in beautiful areas, to be protected, but where too often there are those who want to cement.If perhaps thanks to prevention and information, phenomena such as poaching are decreasing, even if obviously there may be cases of poisoning, for example, on the other hand there is still a problem of waste.The environment that surrounds us is our common home: for many citizens this awareness is growing, just as many however consider everything that is outside from one's home as a landfill, fueling illicit waste trafficking and spills".
How are the new forest carabinieri called to protect the territory formed?
"I would say ours is a specialized green environmental army with varied fields of action. The forestry school of the Carabinieri has a centennial history, where entire generations of guardians of the environment were trained. In Cittaducale, between two former Franciscan convents - look case St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology - there is our 'gym' for exercises and studying. There we transmit the passion for a mission, to protect a heritage that belongs to everyone. How? By making students experience nature in an educational arboretum , getting to know the plant biodiversity, through excursions and lots of professional updating. Every year 2000 carabinieri pass by us. Recently, 120 agri-food carabinieri have also been trained here and just this week there is a course dedicated to those who work in national parks. The philosophy is always: studying and touching to understand what we have to protect".
Are current emergencies, from the climate crisis to that of biodiversity, also subjects of study and preparation?
"Yes, we are dealing with subjects that are constantly updated. Climate crisis, habitat loss, man-nature coexistence, ecology. To better understand we hold many conferences, inviting scholars, but also associations and civil society. We want to keep an attentive eye to the relationship between man and nature, which is one of sustainability and coexistence, always in compliance with the law.For us it is essential to know these subjects in order to have a close relationship with citizens and with the environment: knowledge of the territory means knowing how to read and interpret it. When there is knowledge, then we can also bring our contribution elsewhere, as is happening for the foresters now on the rescue in Emilia Romagna hit by the floods".
What are the hardest parks to defend? What would they need?
"The more man-made parks, those with more tourist activities, need to be more controlled. Here, in our relationship with the community, we also try to teach those who want to venture into wild areas, which fortunately still exist here as in certain areas of the Apennines, the correct indications on how to approach nature Many accidents can be avoided if you are fully aware, which does not always happen, that the mountains and animals have their own rules, that the weather and the climate change suddenly and that fortunately, bears, wolves and many animals have returned to live in our woods with which one must know how to behave, how to regulate oneself. The greatest need is therefore that of shared knowledge".
Finally, what is the most complex challenge for the carabinieri who operate in natural areas today?
"I would say that it is approaching the most varied interlocutors. Today the forestry carabiniere often finds himself in dialogue with completely different, opposite people. There is the hunter and the animal rights activist, the uncaring and the one who is very careful not to drop even a piece of paper on the ground : here, thanks to psychology and knowledge, we must know how to dialogue with each of them to make them understand respect for the law, which is our beacon. Just as it is important for us to understand that if we are called by the isolated lady who has lost cat escaped on a tree is not to be taken lightly in the same way as another intervention. We need the right attention to all types of problems. We must pay attention and listen to all citizens and the same goes exactly for the park and Nature ".