National parks re-drawing their conservation zones under close scrutiny from locals


National parks in the Czech Republic are re-drawing their conservation zones for the next 15 years. And once again the process of finding a balance between conservation and the economic development of local communities has sparked heated debate.

Any changes to the conservation zones of the country’s four national parks are always closely followed by the people living inside these nature reserves. They say their living space and opportunities for development have become increasingly restricted with the adoption of a new law in 2017 which, following heated debates in both houses of Parliament, swung in favour of conservationists.

The managements of the country’s national parks have outlined the borders of four zones on the territory of the given nature reserve – no-go zones which are left to develop as primeval forests, a zone where human intervention is limited to emergency access, a zone with special protection where farming and commercial forestry activities are allowed and a zone enabling normal economic development of local communities.

Villages and scattered houses which are by-and-large in the latter zone were given until mid-March to table any reservations they may have to the plan, after which the maps will be finalized and passed on the Environment Ministry for definitive approval.

The mayors of these villages have been assessing the plans carefully, ready to fight for every inch of ground and foresee future problems arising from the new divisions. And nowhere is the debate more heated that in the Šumava National Park in the south-western part of the country, where 22 villages are fighting for their place in the sun. The mayor of Srní Václav Veselý says that far from considering future expansion he is worried about maintaining the rights of the present house owners.

Srní,  photo: Ondrej.konicek,  CC BY-SA 3.0
“Our village has communities scattered further afield – quite a few houses - and my responsibility is to make sure that the owners of these houses will not have a problem even getting to them.”

The mayor of Kvilda, Václav Vostradovský, says he needs guarantees the new maps will take into consideration things like water sources for the locals which come from further afield.

“It is not just the well that you need to be concerned about, there are water pipes leading across kilometers of land and we want to make sure that we will have access to them for maintenance and in the event of emergencies.”

While the locals are defending their ground, conservationists are also sending in their own suggestions, pushing for the expansion of the no-go zone which should be left to develop without human intervention to more than half of the territory of the national park.

The revised maps of the national parks should be on-line within a fortnight, but they are not expected to come into force until the end of June. The zones will not interfere with tourists’ access to the given areas. That is governed by a different set of rules.