Markus soder discovers nature conservation: ski lift at riedberger horn buried

Bavaria’s new prime minister drops the criticized project and sweetens the farewell with millions for the affected mountain villages.

Successful protest by nature conservationists against the construction of a "ski circuit" at the Riedberger Horn Photo: dpa

Markus Soder says it short and sweet after the meeting with the local Oberallgau political celebrities on Friday: "The ski circuit will be renounced."

With this, Bavaria’s new prime minister has, as one of his first acts, laid to rest a project that for years has been the subject of more bitter dispute in the Free State than almost any other: the planned connecting lift ("ski circuit") between two ski areas on the Riedberger Horn in the mini-municipalities of Balderschwang and Obermaiselstein, located 15 kilometers west of Oberstdorf. And Soder himself has turned around 180 degrees.

Environmentalists, the Greens and the SPD had repeatedly criticized the expansion plans, because for the first time ever, the strictest protection zone C of the Alpine Plan was to be ignored – where nothing may actually be built. "Alps in danger," warned the Bund Naturschutz, and SPD environmental politician Florian von Brunn spoke of a "mad project."

Soder himself had pushed through the amendment as Minister of Home Affairs and had been branded a "home destroyer". Nationwide, the mountains of the Hornergruppe became known as a negative example of how sensitive alpine nature should be sacrificed to the greed for profit.

The local ski tourism industry and local politicians insisted just as doggedly on the ski circuit. This was supposedly the only way to keep the areas in the sparsely populated region attractive and to counter the competition in nearby Austria.

Soder opens a real grab bag

Nevertheless, the mayors, the district administrator and the local CSU member of the state parliament are now surrounding Markus Soder in the Munich State Chancellery and are all delighted. Because the departure from the elevator brings them a lot of money. Instead, as Soder announces, the two villages are to become "model villages for nature-compatible skiing and mountain tourism. For it the Free State lets jump 20 million euro, is not tired the Prime Minister to stress.

Among other things, a new "Center for Alpine Nature Experience" is planned at the Riedberger Horn with environmentally friendly outdoor sports, environmental education, an information center and a training facility. There are to be environmentally friendly public transportation, promotion of cross-country skiing and "Digital Alpine Villages" with the best WLAN and fast Internet. It’s a real grab bag that Soder is showering on the inhabitants of the Alps.

Soder justified his about-turn by saying that there had been "no calming down" in the ski circuit dispute. That is why "a line has been drawn". The goal is to "create peace and tranquility at the Riedberger Horn again.

Obermaiselstein’s mayor Peter Stehle says the Riedberger Horn should be "positively occupied again in the future", his colleague Konrad Kienle praises Soder for having "solved the Gordian knot". And the CSU district administrator Anton Klotz expects the new model to have a "radiant power for the entire Allgau".

Markus Soder, by the way, has a difficult state election to get through in half a year. And he has recognized that the topic of the Riedberger Horn had explosive power, even in parts of the CSU electorate. He immediately made the issue a top priority and thus distinguished himself.

The Greens in the state parliament now speak of a "stage victory in the fight for more environmental and landscape protection. However, criticism continues to be levelled at the "sprawling land grab" in the Free State.

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