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  • Making peace with nature (Weekly blog, 3 July 2016)

    Posted on July 5, 2016
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    This week, I have been focussing on our forthcoming Executive Committee/Board teleconference.  We have some interesting papers to discuss including one on the outcomes of the recent INTO Membership Survey.

    INTO team at Anglesey Abbey, 2015 International Conference of National Trusts

    INTO team at Anglesey Abbey, 2015 International Conference of National Trusts

    100% of those who responded said they would recommend INTO membership to another Trust or organisation not currently part of the network!  This is a wonderful vote of confidence and one to keep in mind, along with comments like “So much potential, keep up the great work!” and “I do believe INTO could become THE BRAND internationally regarding heritage” as we chew over some of the other results.

    It was great to hear how highly our members rate the possibility of sharing experience, information and best practice.  It was interesting however to learn that our programmes aren’t hitting the mark with everyone and that whilst membership generally met or exceeded expectations, there is definitely still more we can do.

    We hope that our plans for a new international mentoring/exchange programme will help deliver on this desire for capacity building and we will be exploring other ways to meet any gaps in expectation over the coming months.  Thank you to all those who responded!

    Another highlight of the week was meeting a delegation from Gyeonggi province in South Korea – and not just because they brought me chocolate!  I have been involved in discussions about the development of the DMZ into a peace and nature park with a number of different people over the years which culminated in us sending Roger Wheelock to represent INTO at a conference about sustainable tourism in 2013, so I was looking forward to hearing more about where they had got to with the project.

    Yeoncheon Forest Land in the DMZ, 6th property of the National Trust of Korea

    Yeoncheon Forest Land in the DMZ, 6th property of the National Trust of Korea

    As you might imagine, in the border lands between South Korea and the DPRK, nature has been left more or less to its own devices.   (It’s a similar situation in Germany where the former German-German border has become a ‘Green Belt’.)   Local government teams are now exploring the best way to turn this global asset into a sustainable tourism destination that will be a model for the Asian continent and Trust movement.  It is an ambitious and exciting plan.

    What was also interesting was hearing NTEWNI colleagues talking passionately about their work in nature conservation and forestry.   I was amazed to hear David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation, say that technological fixes aren’t everything and that getting buy-in from local people makes up 50% of NTEWNI coastal change project budgets.  It’s sometimes hard to bring people with you, he said, but it’s best not to harangue them with ecology or science but rather to engage them through stories, art and drama.    It was also interesting to hear him explain the six functions of land (the Trust thinks land should be healthy – in terms of good soil condition and water quality; rich in wildlife; beautiful; enjoyed; rich in culture, and productive).

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    Ray Hawes, Head of Forestry, asked what the percentage of woodland was in South Korea (an amazing 60% – it’s only 12% in the UK, but that is double what it was 100 years ago) and became really animated when talking about ancient trees.  He said that some of the Trusts trees are between 1,000-2,000 years old and that NTEWNI woodland produces 30,000 tonnes of timber a year.

    It was a really interesting and inspirational meeting.  I hope the South Koreans are able to achieve their objectives and that they will continue to liaise with colleagues at the NTEWNI as they explore ways of connecting ecosystems and people in the DMZ.

    Thanks for reading!

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