Environmentalists up in arms over plans for Šumava National Park

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The Šumava National Park – a protected nature reserve in southern Bohemia –is at the centre of a row between scientists, environmental activists and the park’s new management. The park’s new director, former prime minister Jan Stráský, is proposing a radical remedy for the parks bark-beetle infestation problem –a combination of logging and effective insecticides. Critics are up in arms saying the proposed strategy would do irreversible harm to the valuable ecosystems and biotopes in the nature reserve and lower the non-intervention areas in the park from the present 33 to 22 percent, which goes against the general principles of nature reserve protection. Environment activist Vojtěch Kotecký says the new management is about to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Jan Stráský
“Mr. Stráský absolutely ignores any advice from scientists and has even decided to abolish the scientific advisory board of the Šumava National Park in order to prevent scientists telling him things that he doesn’t want to hear. He is clearly following the advice of logging companies and has decided to increase the sale of timber from the national park.”

What alternative are you suggesting – how should the management approach this problem?

“The new director and the minister of environment should simply follow the common practice of all European national parks. They should leave substantial parts of the park to nature so that we can see what happens when mountain spruce forests are left to nature and what the natural development is of this kind of eco-system.”

So what are environment activists doing about it at this point? Have you challenged the management’s policy and voiced a protest?

“We are negotiating with the Environment Ministry and have called on the ministry to intervene in the situation and to force the director of the national park to follow the common European practice. At the same time we are mobilizing people to put pressure on the government and call for a proper national park in Šumava. Thousands of people have already signed a web petition calling on the prime minister and the leaders of the other coalition parties to intervene in the situation and to secure nature conservation both in the Šumava National park and in other public forests in the Czech Republic.”

And what kind of response have you had –are they listening to what you are saying?

"There has been no specific reaction yet. It is probably too soon for that. We will continue negotiating with the government and we hope that the environment minister and party leaders will intervene in this matter because it is not only about the Šumava National Park, you have a very similar situation in other public forests in the Czech Republic where logging and timber sales are being given preference over tourism and landscape management.”

Do you feel that this is a trend that will be hard to reverse?

“I actually think that it might be defeated relatively easily, because it will definitely lead to massive public opposition. People in the Czech Republic love their forests, thousands of people hike there, pick mushrooms and take long walks and we believe that massive public opposition to these plans will force the government to make a major U-turn and will persuade it to support protection of the environment and preserve our forests and national parks for tourists rather than securing it for the logging industry.”

You know Jan Stráský’s views on this matter were fairly well known even before he was appointed to this post – do you feel that he was selected with this in mind?

“I think that it was, to a large extent, a mistake on the part of the new environment minister who had no experience with Mr. Stráský and he genuinely believed that he might, as a former politician, be able to negotiate this matter well. Unfortunately it turned out that Mr. Stráský is one of the most extreme supporters of massive logging in the national park.”