According to the EU criteria for demarcation of agricultural less-favoured areas, the mountain area in Austria comprises 70% of the Austrian territory (58% of the utilised agricultural area) and is home to 36% of the Austrian population. It forms part of two of Europe's mountain massifs, the Alps and the Bohemian massif. About 50 % of all farms in Austria are situated in the mountain areas. The Austrian mountain area has long been more than just an agricultural region. Rather it is an integrated living and working space, whose geographical characteristics do not lead to separation in a structural economic sense. They express themselves much more in the limited space available for settlement and industry, the handicaps on agriculture and forestry, in an expensive infrastructure and a particularly sensitive landscape. However, the various component areas display great differences in structure and development.<br /> <br /> Cultural landscapes in mountain regions are important elements of social identity and contribute to political cohesion. They develop and change over time as a result of the interplay of socio-economic, cultural and natural factors and can thus only be understood as a process. Since changes are often irreversible, any change and interference demands careful consideration. Cultural landscapes are, however, not only public interest goods and services that directly affect the social well-being of individuals but also represent important rural development assets. Cultural landscapes are part of a region's capital stock and base for the development of mountain communities. Their quality is as important as the local road network, communication or education facilities. In Austria, mountain farming still bears the key role in safeguarding the sensitive eco-system and thereby the multifunctional landscape and the general living and working space.