Czech scientists denounce Environment Ministry’s plans for Šumava

Photo: Filip Jandourek

A group of Czech scientists is threatening to launch legal action against the Czech Republic over what they see as its failure to provide appropriate protection to the Šumava National Park. The Czech Environment Ministry plans to designate 23 percent of the park’s area as non-intervention zones, off limits for loggers and developers. But the scientists argue over 50 percent of the park should be granted such protection, and say the ministry has given in to pressure from local politicians and logging firms. I spoke to Professor Pavel Kindlmann of Prague’s Charles University about the ministry’s plans.

Pavel Kindlmann | Photo: Ben Skála,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0
“It’s a big disappointment for us and it’s very unfortunate that the ministry did not listen to the scientific arguments. There are no reasons why not to declare the non-intervention zone at the size which we suggested.

“We strongly suspect the ministry’s decision is a result of strong and ruthless pressure of local politicians and developers. We are prepared to complain to the European Commission and ask for a halt in the flow of European environmental money.

“If the plan goes ahead, the Czech Republic will not satisfactorily protect nature and the regions which fall under the Natura 2000.”

But deputy environment minister Vladimír Dolejský says that despite the fact that the plan for the next three years does not envisage the extension of the park’s non-intervention zone to 50 percent of its area as you proposed, it should eventually happen by the year 2030. Will this not be satisfactory for you?

“It would be sufficient if it happened. But our concern is that during these 15 years or so, the areas in question which cover around 25 percent of the park could be damaged by logging. In theory, according to the ministry, logging in these areas will only be allowed after Natura 2000 assessment.

“However, the ministry still backs the park’s director who is responsible for massive logging in the park’s most valuable zones in 2011, and who caused damage to 32 hectares of the most precious areas. So if this director continues in his position, we are very skeptical about the park’s future.”

Photo: Filip Jandourek
So what do you think should happen to make sure the Šumava National Park does not lose its international ranking?

“There must be strong counter-pressure from scientists. We are quite united now and are really prepared to undertake action against the Czech Republic if EU legislation is ignored. Also, members of the international public can help us by addressing letters and petitions to the ministry, assuring that Šumava is of international importance.”