Bavaria and Austria urge Czechs to fight bark-beetle infestation

Photo: Rafal Konieczny, Creative Commons 3.0

Bavaria and Austria, which both border on the Czech Republic, have urged the Czech Environment Ministry to fight against the spread of bark-beetle in the country’s borderland areas. They say that the situation is growing untenable and remind the Czech authorities of bilateral agreements that bind the Czech Republic to prevent bark-beetle infestation along the common border.

Photo: Rafal Konieczny,  Creative Commons 3.0
The spread of bark beetle in the Šumava National Park has been the topic of heated debates for quite some time. Earlier this year, the mayors of a number of Czech towns in the Šumava region urged Environment Minister Martin Bursík to eliminate the bark beetle in the protected national park, arguing that leaving the forest untouched could lead to an epidemic. The Czech Environment Ministry, however, prefers to interfere as little as possible, though it says certain measures are being taken. Jakub Kašpar is the ministry’s spokesman.

“There was an agreement before the park was hit by storm Kyrill at the beginning of 2007 that there would be a special area along the border where the bark beetle would be strictly eliminated. But the storm has changed the situation. You can eliminate individual trees or groups of trees attacked by bark-beetle even in a national park. But if you have a huge amount of trees affected by a storm it would require us to cut down all trees in the area. We have to take into account that we are not managing a production forest but a national park forest.”

According to Jakub Kašpar, the national park management on the Bavarian side of the border, the Bayerischen Wald, has taken similar measures as the Czech Republic, so he sees no reason for Bavaria’s protests. The situation on the Austrian side of the border is slightly more complicated since there is a production forest on the Austrian side and the spread of bark beetle in that area could amount to great financial losses.

But, at the end of the day, how do the Austrians and Germans actually know that the bark-beetle infestation is spreading from the Czech Republic? Jakub Kašpar again:

“We would like to see the studies that led the two ministers to complain about the situation, claiming that the bark beetle destroying Austrian and Bavarian forests comes from the Czech Republic. The bark beetle is flying so you cannot really recognize where the particular beetle is coming from.”

Mr Kašpar argues that the criticism from Bavaria and Austria is unjustified, saying that the Czech Environment Ministry is willing to cooperate. So far, however, it is not clear what such cooperation would entail. One thing is certain: the bark beetle has been and will remain a headache on both sides of the border for years to come.