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Oasi Zegna turns thirty

14 July 2023

The Zegna Forest project is the new forestry reforestation model adopted by Oasi Zegna, which celebrated its thirtieth birthday on 26 May: a programme that reinforces the hydrogeological capacity of the soil, increases the resilience and biodiversity of the forest, while preserving the identity of this natural area on the heights of Biella.

 The Oasi Zegna is a vast naturalistic area open to everyone. In 1929 Ermenegildo Zegna began a reforestation of the mountain slopes in Trivero Valdilana, on the heights of Biella, with 500,000 plants including conifers, rhododendrons and hydrangeas.

Today Oasi Zegna is 30 years old: the founder’s ‘green thinking’ and the good practices implemented over time by the family in the management of this area contributed, in 2014, to the recognition of FAI patronage as a far-sighted example of landscape enhancement. The fruitful collaboration between Oasi Zegna and FAI continues to this day with the development of projects linked to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to raising public awareness of environmental sustainability.

ZEGNA FOREST

A little less than three years ago, Oasi Zegna launched the “Zegna Forest” project, a large-scale forest recovery and improvement plan with the aim of increasing the resilience of plants to climatic phenomena, increasing biodiversity and landscape characteristics, and providing a series of so-called “ecosystem services” not only to the many visitors who frequent the Oasis, but also to the territory and, therefore, to the community.

A healthy and strong forest, in fact, in addition to the benefits for flora and fauna, also offers the kind of ‘well-being’ that visitors seek in a natural area; the scientific world confirms that our inner balance is intimately linked to nature.

“Caring is not a due act,” says Anna Zegna, President of the Zegna Foundation, “it is always spontaneous, it comes from the heart, with impulse and generosity. We will continue to plant trees, it will not be a solitary gesture, but a choral gesture’.

PREVENTION OF HYDROGEOLOGICAL INSTABILITY

There is another aspect on which FAI has also been working for some time and which, in light of the often catastrophic phenomena that are now recorded in many areas of the country at very close intervals, takes on added value: we are talking about hydrogeological instability in hill and low mountain areas. Unfortunately, we have seen how inland areas of our country, when faced with extreme weather events, demonstrate all their fragility with landslides, mudslides and large loads of water and mud that plunge from the heights onto the plains.

The new forestry reorganisation model adopted by Oasi Zegna on the Biella heights proposes a programme that reinforces the regulating hydrogeological capacities, in the event of prolonged absence of rainfall or extreme concentrated rainfall, of a variegated, stable and well-managed forest for these pre-alpine or Apennine areas. It is the so-called “lung effect”: it retains water in the soil anchored by vegetation, gradually releasing it towards the plain with benefits in periods of drought and with mitigation of impacts in periods of extreme rainfall. It is that spatial redevelopment in the face of soil degradation that everyone evokes but which is too rarely applied.

FAI’S ADAPTATION AND MITIGATION PROJECTS

FAI has also implemented hydrogeological restoration projects in Liguria on the slopes behind the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso in Camogli and in the gorge of Parco Villa Gregoriana in Tivoli in Lazio: bioengineering works that, in harmony with the environment, protect the assets that lie downstream of watercourses or streams.

 It may seem strange, but protecting the biodiversity of places, as FAI is doing in many of its more than 70 national properties,
also contributes to the hydrogeological reinforcement of territories. As many examples in wilderness areas show, when biodiversity improves, the soil, vegetation and animal species benefit, but also that Man-Nature harmony that we all too often see altered in the face of over-exploitation of the earth’s resources.

ITALY AND THE HYDROGEOLOGICAL RISK

In the case of both Oasi Zegna and the FAI properties, the economic resources invested are significant and come from private individuals (members, supporters, visitors, property). Perhaps, investing also public resources or in a public-private form for prevention projects regarding hydrogeological instability, could save the community and the State much greater resources – as we have sadly seen in the images of recent weeks – but above all save human lives, territory, history and wealth.

 It would be an investment for future generations and for that sustainable and liveable world we all desire.

“We hope that from these virtuous examples we can draw a cue, an idea, a reflection that will lead to concrete projects to be replicated in other areas of our fragile country.”

Maurizio Rivolta, FAI Vice President


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