Die UNESCO Biosphäre Entlebuch. Foto/Photo: TES.

The symbiosis between humankind and nature in the Entlebuch

The Entlebuch (about 400 m2) is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the canton of Lucerne, recognised in 2001. The Entlebuch is also called the Wild West of Lucerne.

The acquisition of the status by UNESCO was not self-evident. The prerequisites were present, however: a magnificent natural environment and flora and fauna that are special even by Swiss standards, the largest peat bog surface in the country, mountain landscapes, rivers and streams, no large-scale farming (around 850 farms) or large agglomerations, and yet still easily accessible to the public.

In Entlebuch, named after the village of Entlebuch, there was the (usual) disagreement between business and nature conservation. The basis for this discussion was the adopted referendum in 1987, the so-called Rothenturm-Initiative. This initiative was subsequently incorporated into Article 78, paragraph 5, of the Constitution.

This law aims to give the peatlands throughout the country a protected status. The business community, including agriculture, in the Entlebuch feared that this would be at the expense of economic development (fewer roads, no expansion of villages, industrial estates, farmland, etc.).

However, some citizens approached this perspective from an entirely different angle, namely the opportunities it offered to businesses by protecting and preserving nature.

And indeed, a project group set up in 1997 succeeded in presenting a plan after (lengthy) consultations with the relevant municipal, cantonal and federal authorities, citizens, businesses and nature conservationists.

The result was a well-thought-out concept to win over all those interested. Agriculture, the wood industry, energy production, tourism, services and small and medium-sized enterprises saw the advantages of the concept with the preservation of the peat landscape following the 1987 referendum.

In September 2000, the citizens of the eight municipalities involved (Entlebuch, Hasle, Doppleschwand, Schüpfheim, Flühli-Sörenberg, Marbach, Escholmatt and Romoos) voted by 94% in favour of the initiative to nominate the Entlebuch as a UNESCO recognised biosphere.

Since then, the Entlebuch ‘poorhouse’ (the term used in Switzerland for this region until 2001) has developed into a prosperous area by the new status and nature conservation.

A hiker can not imagine that the gondola lifts from Flühli to Sörenberg, the largest winter sports area in the canton, is in the middle of this nature reserve. In other places, gondolas and other tourist facilities have been built since 2001.

However, a walk from Sörenberg at an altitude of 1423 to the Kemmeriboden-Bad, almost 500 metres lower and along the River Emme in the canton of Berne, on the border of the Emmental and the Entlebuch, shows how carefully the relationship between humankind and nature has been given substance.

The prosperous farms thrive on the label “Echt Entlebuch” for five hundred agricultural, dairy and meat products. The development of tourism, small and medium-sized enterprises, excellent infrastructure and flourishing village communities with as many as 400 cultural, sports, social, economic and political associations (out of a population of 17 000) show that the region is in pretty good shape.

Around 600 000 tourists visit the area every year. A current exhibition in the Entlebucherhaus in Schüpfheim shows this development of the Entlebuch (www.entlebucherhaus.ch).

UNESCO was so enthusiastic that in 2011 it awarded the designation ‘Model region for the world’.

The reserve’s fame even reached the film festival of Cannes with the film “The Entlebuch Message”. The European Energy Gold Award was awarded in 2017 for energy-saving and environmentally friendly measures.

The hiker witnesses this innovative symbiosis between humankind, business, leisure and nature. Even art is everywhere, for example, in the Skulpturenweg (Road of Sculptures) along the Emme.

Nature is the ultimate form of art, such as the naturally formed ice sculptures on the rocks, the silhouettes of the mountain peaks, fairytale streams and waterfalls amidst the coniferous trees in the reserve show.

In addition, a welcome surprise awaits the hiker at the Hotel Landgasthof Kemmeribodenbad (dating back to 1834) and its famous “Nidle” (the Kemmeriboden Merängge), known far beyond the canton of Bern and the country’s borders.

As the name already suggests, this hotel was established as a spa in 1834 when mineral water springs were discovered (further information: www.kemmeriboden.ch).

The Swiss Alpine Club

The Swiss Alpine Club (Schweizer Alpen Club, SAC/Club Alpin Suisse, CAS) regularly organises hiking trips in this region (and elsewhere).

The SAC organises ski tours, mountaineering and other sports in the high mountains and the Alps and activities in other regions.

Proofreader: Adrian Dubock

(Source: Mein Entlebuch 2022, wwosphaere.ch).