How the partnership was born

A history over a century

Around the mid-nineteenth century, King Vittorio Emanuele II establishes a Royal Hunting Reserve destined to become the nucleus for the future of the Alpi Marittime and Mercantour Parks. Among the actions taken by the sovereign was the reintroduction of the ibex, with leaders coming from the Gran Paradiso. The animal, for a long period, spreads only in some areas in the immediate vicinity of the first release site. They then began the slow colonization of the watershed chain. This process sharply accelerated in 1987, when some captured ibex in the Parco dell’Argentera (today the Parco delle Alp Marittime) were transferred to the Bayesse (Ubaye) zone in the Parc national du Mercantour. In the same year in which the cross-border research project on the management of the ibex, the twinning between the two parks was signed. Since then, many common goals have led to collaboration for growth in quantity and quality. And the story continues...

Two protected areas, many shared objectives

Over a period of more than thirty years the twinned parks have worked together on several fronts:

  • Wildlife management: transfer of the ibex from the Parco natural dell’Argentera (today Alpi Marittime) to the Parc national du Mercantour (1987–1995); reintroduction of the bearded vulture with alternating annual releases in two protected areas, monitoring of some common specifies (golden eagle, wolf).
  • Information and awareness on the richness and diversity of the assets of the two areas and objectives of environmental protection and of animal and plant species.
  • Protection of flora and fauna, biodiversity conservation: Protect ATBI (All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory), Generalised Organic Inventory
  • Developed of cross-border studies and publications: guides, brochures, atlases, ...
  • Improving the visitors reception: accommodation paths, installation of bilingual signs in the border hills, implementation of communication products for hiking refuges and stopping places.
  • Enhancement of landscape and cultural heritage
  • Incentive measures for sustainable territorial development.

Key dates

1857 Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Sardinia and future king of Italy, fascinated by the abundance of game and the beauty of the mountains in the Argentera-Mercantour area, establishes a “Riserva reale di caccia” or Royal Hunting Reserve.

1860-1861 Vittorio Emanuele II cedes the Savoy and the County of Nice to Napoleon III, his ally in the war against Austria, while maintaining possession of the Upper Roya Valley and the so-called “Terre di caccia” or hunting grounds, in the Vésubie and Tinée Valleys.

1947 At the end of the Second World War, the southern Argentera-Mercantour goes to France. The Ente Provinciale del Turismo di Cuneo proposes to establish a “Parco internazionale”, or “International Park”, to ensure the protection of the wildlife.

1979 The Parc national du Mercantour and the Riserva del Bosco e dei Laghi di Palanfré are established.

1980 The Parco naturale dell’Argentera is born.

1987 The signing of the twinning between the Mercantour and Argentera parks. It starts with the creation of the first joint projects, ranging from the communication fields and research to those of land management and sustainable development.

1993 The Mercantour and Argentera Parks together receive the “European Diploma of Protected Areas” by the Council of Europe. First release of cultures in the Marittime and Mercantour areas.

1995 From the unification of the Parco dell’Argentera and The Riserva del Bosco e dei Laghi di Palanfré, the Parco naturale delle Alpi Marittime is born.

1998 Signing of the Twinning Charter, in which the objectives of cooperation are confirmed and further defined. The two protected areas get a second confirmation of the “European Diploma”.

1999 The inventory of rare and endemic flora in the two Parks is realized.

2001 The Parco delle Alpi Marittime and the Parc national du Mercantour initiate the work of drafting the submission dossier for the joint bid to become a “UNESCO World Heritage” site and a “Biosphere Reserve”.

2003 An operative cross-border cell is formed. The two protected areas get a third confirmation of the “European Diploma”.

2004 Membership to the “European Charter for Sustainable Tourism” by the Parc national du Mercantour, following the Parco delle Marittime in 2001, reinforcing the common development strategy.

2006 Attribution of the “European Charter for Sustainable Tourism” to the Parc national du Mercantour and the renewal of the Parco Alpi Marittime; approval of a Joint Action Plan for the Marittime-Mercantour in the period of 2007-2013. The Parks initiate the execution of an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), which continues with the Alcotra 2007-2013 contribution. Joint publication of the second edition of the Atlas border and development of a common graphics card, including a new unified system of road signs on hiking trails. Together designed with the Grand Tour, a large ring road that surrounds the two parks and is a precise reference for the creation of common tourist products.

2007 Creation of a working group for the initiative of Italian Ministry of Environment to establish a Marittime-Mercantour “Gruppo Europeo di Cooperazione Territoriale”. The GECT, instituted by European regulation with its own legal authority, will be the first single management body for the two parks. Part of the Piano Integrato Transfrontaliero Alpi Marittime-Mercantour, financed by the Franco-Italian programme of cross-border cooperation, ALCOTRA 2007-2013. 

2008 The two protected areas obtain their fourth reconfirmation of the “European Diploma”.

2010 The two parks celebrate 30 Springs together!

2011 During the summer, the Marittime Mercantour Grand Tour on bicycles is tested by representatives of the two parks together with the great champion Claudio Chiappucci.

2012 The two protected areas jointly renew the “European Charter for Sustainable Tourism”. Twentieth joint release of two young bearded vultures in the Parco delle Alpi Marittime, with the support of the Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Closing Mobilità axes, Tourism, Organic Inventory and Planning, the Integrated Cross-Border Plan of the Maritime and Mercantour Alps: completed a large number of concrete actions with effects on the territories of the two parks. And the work is still in progress ...


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