On the basis of the Nature Conservation Protocol of the Alpine Convention, the Austrian Constitutional Court recently annulled as unlawful a Vorarlberg ordinance that was intended to reduce the size of the "Gipslöcher" nature reserve in Lech by about 900 m2 due to construction plans for a lift facility. "We welcome the ruling, as protected areas within the scope of the Alpine Convention may only be reduced in size under strict conditions. The fact that this fact has now been emphatically established for the first time by a supreme court is in any case forward-looking!" emphasises Franz Maier, President of the Umweltdachverband*.
The Constitutional Court states that Art 11 para 1 of the Protocol "Nature Conservation and Landscape Management" of the Alpine Convention is directly applicable and that Austria is thus obliged to preserve, maintain and - where necessary - expand existing protected areas in the sense of their protective purpose and to avoid impairments or destruction. It is evident that especially the sensitive Alpine areas are under pressure due to tourism infrastructure projects.
* The Umweltdachverband (UWD), based in Vienna, is the umbrella organisation for 36 environmental and nature conservation organisations or Alpine associations from Austria with around 1.4 million members.