Nature conservation fights against development plans in Tyrol's Kaunertal valley

Plans to expand the Kaunertal glacier ski area and to extend the Kaunertal power plant are a clear indication of this: One of the last great Alpine ecosystems is under severe pressure. A unique alliance of Alpine associations from Austria, Germany and South Tyrol together with nature conservation organizations and citizens' movements is urgently calling for the expansion plans to be stopped and for more respect for the Alpine region. At a press conference in the middle of the Kaunertal mountains, the organizations appealed for the abolition of exemptions such as those found in the Tyrolean cable car and ski area programme and the Tyrolean glacier protection programme.

For some time now, the organizations have been fighting to preserve this untouched glacier area, the second largest after the Pasterze, which is once again under threat from new development plans after the 2022 closure due to plans to merge the Pitztal ski area with the Kaunertal.


"Rarely before have the Alps been under so much pressure as is currently the case," explains Wolfgang Schnabl, President of the Austrian Alpine Association at a press conference at an altitude of 2,400 meters below the northern flank of the Weißseespitze, a "hotspot" when there is talk of nature-destroying expansion plans.

"Development and construction are endangering the last untouched ecosystems in our mountain world - political decision-makers urgently need to rethink this. We demand more respect for the Alps!" This demand is backed by the Alpine associations from Austria, Germany and South Tyrol and other environmental organizations such as Global 2000, WWF Austria, the Environmental Umbrella Organization, Naturefriends Austria and local citizens' movements.

Ötztal Alps threatened by new developments


"Climate and species protection must go hand in hand"

Under the guise of the energy transition, TIWAG is currently planning to flood and thus destroy the Platzertal valley as part of the expansion of the Kaunertal power plant. This is home to the largest untouched moor and wetland complex in the Austrian Alps*. Moors store more carbon dioxide than any other ecosystem in the world and are habitats for specialized species. "Climate and species protection must go hand in hand. However, the project is blind in one eye and must therefore be stopped immediately," says Schnabl.

Absurd exemptions

A few kilometers from Platzertal, the completely natural Gepatschferner around the Weißseespitze is to be developed. According to the glacier measuring service, the glacier at Gepatschferner retreated by 67 meters in the previous year alone. "The conversion of undeveloped natural areas into permanent construction sites in the high Alps is unacceptable," says the President of the ÖAV.

Such plans are made possible by absurd exemptions in the so-called glacier protection program, which was enacted to exclude certain areas from this protection.

"Large-scale ski resort expansions, such as those planned in Kaunertal and Pitztal, are a clear red line for us. We are campaigning for the abolition of exemptions and the restoration of absolute glacier protection as enshrined in the Tyrolean Nature Conservation Act," explains Schnabl.

Manifesto for more respect for the Alpine region

As early as 2022, the Alpine associations from Austria, Germany and South Tyrol as well as the Club Alpino Italiano, together with the umbrella organization for nature and environmental protection in South Tyrol and the South Tyrolean Heritage Association, signed the so-called "Manifesto for more respect for the Alpine region". This manifesto reaffirms the need for serious protection of the Alpine region. "The development of the Alpine region is complete," the manifesto states. "With the 'Manifesto for more respect for the Alpine region', we see it as our duty, together with the Alpine associations and various environmental organizations, to put a stop to the recurring demands of certain economic circles for further development of our Alps. There is enough development, and our children also have the right to find nature that is still somewhat intact," emphasizes Georg Simeoni, President of the Alpenverein Südtirol .

In this context, Simeoni also discusses the merger between the Kaunertal and the Langtauferertal in South Tyrol: As there is no ski area in the Langtauferertal, the plans to merge with the Kaunertal are tantamount to new development. The South Tyrolean Alpine Association is counting on the South Tyrolean provincial government to stick to its negative stance and put a definitive stop to the project. "The development of new areas in the high mountains is a taboo for us. At the same time, however, we are saying yes to new environmentally friendly prospects for the Langtaufer Valley," says Simeoni.

*Source: WWF study: Schwienbacher 2023 Hochalpine Moore (


Cover photo Harry Putz