Green group launches ambitious proposal to increase tenfold amount of Czech territory given over to wilderness

An environmental organisation this week launched an ambitious new proposal to increase greatly the amount of land in the Czech Republic given over to untamed nature. In fact, the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth wants to see a full 3 percent of the country covered in wilderness – ten times as much as now. I asked the group’s Vojtěch Kotecký why they were pushing for what would be a considerable change.

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“It will be an enormous opportunity for Czech and foreign tourists. It will be an interesting experience for thousands of people, and also an enormous economic opportunity for neighbouring communities, because thousands and thousands of tourists will visit them.

“At the same time, the project is extremely important for nature conservation, because it will create crucial habitats for many animal and plant species that depend on the European wilderness as their habitat.”

Would some of the land be used for commercial purposes, such as logging?

“We believe that the areas that will be left to wilderness should be off-limits for logging and other commercial activities. The only human impact in those areas should be restricted to tourism, the building of tourist paths, shelters for tourists, information trails, and similar projects.”

What areas would you like to see become wilderness? What land do you have in mind, and what is it currently being used for?

“First of all, we already have four similar projects in this country. We already have four national parks and each of them will leave a substantial part to wilderness.

“In addition to them, we propose that we should be looking for areas that are mainly forested, with many natural forests, so that we are not far away from wild nature as it used to be in the Czech Republic.

“And obviously we need to look for areas that do not have any communities in them. We need to avoid areas with any settlements.”

I was reading that you were inspired by Germany and what Germany is doing in this regard. Is that the case?

“Yes, Germany already decided to leave two percent of the country to wilderness by the end of this decade. But there are other projects in other European countries: England, Scotland, France, or even the Netherlands.

“If the Netherlands, this heavily populated country, is able to find some areas that will be left to wilderness, then it should be no problem for a country like the Czech Republic.”

Friends of the Earth is a small NGO. You’re calling for a ten-fold increase in wilderness. It’s a nice idea, but surely it will never happen.

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“We believe that it may happen. It will take years to prepare this project, and it must take years because it is a huge change. But at the same time we believe that this ambition is realistic.

“We already achieved major environmental successes in this country. Friends of the Earth were behind the successful Czech renewable energy act. We succeeded in pushing for other pieces of environmental legislation and for other important decisions in nature conservation, and we believe that we can succeed in this case as well.”