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The Region

The Mountain Timber project is concentrated on the region of the Great Walser Valley. The Great Walser Valley is an alpine side valley where the farming that the mountain farmers do on the steep slopes contributes to the preservation of the beautiful mountain landscape.

In the 14th century, the Walsers came out of Switzerland and settled in the valley.  The Walser dialect is still spoken today and is very difficult for German speaking guests to understand.

The 19,200 hectare region with its 3,500 inhabitants is divided into 6 communities, meaning that each community has a population of about 600.  There are 180 farms and 16 handicraft enterprises.  For European standards it is a small mountain farming region.

The Great Walser Valley region has one special feature:

The valley has also been known by the name „Biosphere Park“ since November, 2000, after meeting the criteria set by UNESCO. What exactly is portrayed by the Biosphere Park is described in a separate presentation.

The LEADER + Project, Mountain Timber, is an important project for the Biosphere Park, Great Walser Valley because it is about co-operations, adding value and sustained economics in the valley region.  Maintaining the cultural landscape should be able to be carried out through marketing mechanisms.  

The small number of handicraft enterprises with between 2 and 10 employees had serious problems.  They started noticing that the younger generation was moving away and working for larger companies.  They realised that they weren‘t attractive enough to keep the younger generation at home.

The topographic location was a problem for the businesses because clients were going to the bigger cities instead of looking in the remote valley.  And why shouldn‘t they?  

The businesses had to start asking themselves what special features they could offer. On top of that, competition in the small businesses in this tiny valley, was not any less than the competition between businesses in the bigger cities.  On the contrary - it was a lot harder and more personal.  

There came a time when they had to get together and ask themselves:  Who is our true competition?  Is it really the 2 man business in the neighbouring town, or is the pressure coming from somewhere else?

At the beginning of the LEADER + period, the question of existence came up for the handicraft enterprises in the valley.  It was high time to take action. A handful of contractors met and began to look into the situation in detail.  With funds from the LEADER + project, they were able to afford a consultant for the very first time.  Someone that moderated the meetings and kept the discussions on track. 

When they thought about it, the real problems started to become clearer.  The group realised, that besides the competition situation, the migration of manpower, and the lack of image, there was also the fact that the protection forest which is very important to the valley, was in danger because of lack of utilization.  To put it in a nutshell:  The protection forest that is important to the communities had started to get old.  Tree cutting operations on the steep slopes was costly and not competitive.  Competition was therefore threatening the whole cultural landscape of the valley.

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