Environment minister scales back controversial plans in battle against bark beetle


The Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa has changed plans by the head of Šumava National Park on how to battle the bark beetle, issuing a decision on Thursday that will still allow the manual felling of trees in the park’s most environmentally-sensitive and protected areas but will ban the use of heavy machinery or chemicals. Proposed intervention to fight devastation by the bark beetle in the national park had been at the forefront of a highly public battle between the park’s director, Jan Stráský, and former colleagues, scientists and specialists who formed a shadow council to express opposing views.

Jakub Hruška
One of the members, Jakub Hruška told me earlier on Thursday why protecting the most sensitive parts of the park is so important.

“Always – since the national park was established – there has been very good reason to leave 30 percent of the area without any intervention and the rest we agree there has to be intervention against the bark beetle. Because these 70 percent are artificial forest monocultures which were done in the 19th century, in areas where originally broad-leaved trees originally stood. So this is definitely the area where we have to fight the bark beetle and then re-grow there more natural forest. On the other hand, the 30 percent where we were and are against intervention are at least half natural mountain forest where there is no reason to take the battle to the invader.

“Man-made intervention generally disrupts the nature of the forest: it is not the same if you do logging or leave it. If you leave it there will be a lot of dead wood and there will be a lot of not damaged new seedlings which were naturally there before. So this is a way of renewing the natural forest. Without intervention.”

Do some of these areas also include those famous bogs in the national park?

“Yes of course, they do. And one of the reasons why we protested so strongly against Dr Stráský’s plans is because they wanted to do logging at these sites, which is nonsense from the point of view of natural science.”

What about the argument that if this 30 percent is ‘left’ to the bark beetle to decay, the area becomes less attractive as a tourist destination?

“I disagree. I think the opposite is true: tourists are happy to be able to see something like that. I think that tourists are interested because in Central Europe there are not any natural forests since the 19th century. There are only small remaining forests. To get 10 thousand hectares of decaying natural forest : I think it’s a big and exciting challenge for tourists. And people want to see it, it’s not true that they don’t.”

Tomáš Chalupa,  photo: CTK
Overall, then, you welcome the minister’s decision as a positive step?

“Yes it is a positive step and it is a step in the right direction. On the other hand, there are areas where we think it doesn’t goes far enough. It is definitely a way forward but there are parts of forest, the national park, that are not included in Thursday’s decision. Parts in the southern part of the park that still need protection of natural processes, areas where massive tourist infrastructure could still be introduced, such as ski lifts and hills. It’s a good step but for scientists needs to go still further.”