Plan to make national parks more accessible to public unveiled

Photo: Filip Jandourek

The environment minister has just unveiled what he describes as a revolutionary amendment aimed at making the Czech Republic’s national parks more accessible to the public. However, some critics say the planned change could lead to damage to valuable wildlife, while others say the bill contradicts existing legislation on the country’s biggest national park, Šumava.

Richard Brabec,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Presenting a new amendment to the Act on the Protection of Nature and the Landscape on Tuesday, the minister of the environment, Richard Brabec, said it was the most far-reaching legislation of its kind in over two decades.

The most significant change is that the country’s four national parks should become more accessible to the public. Currently the parks have four zones with varying degrees of accessibility. These will be replaced by a more visitor friendly and simpler system, says Minister Brabec.

“There is a major change in that there will be a significant relaxation with regard to what is called the First Zone. Today these large zones – and this mainly concerns the Šumava National Park – are only accessible on marked paths. In future we will create new smaller ‘neutral areas’ that are closed for all or part of the year to protect endangered flora and fauna. But a considerably more substantial area than today could be opened up to sustainable tourism.”

Photo: Filip Jandourek
Many nature lovers will no doubt welcome the news that they will be able to experience some of the country’s most valuable countryside for themselves.

However, the minister’s announcement has not been universally welcomed. A representative of the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth said that reducing the areas completely closed to the public could lead to damage to rare wildlife.

Another issue is that there is already legislation on the table concerning the Šumava National Park, which is considerably larger than the Krkonoše, Podyjí and České Švýcarsko national parks.

It is set to go before the lower house after passing through the Senate last month in the face of strong opposition from environmental groups, who said it placed the interests of developers first.

Senator Jan Veleba, a former president of the Chamber of Agriculture, says the existence of the Senate bill makes something of a nonsense of Minister Brabec’s plan.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
“Hypothetically, a situation could arise under there were both a law on Šumava and a law on national parks. The minister has spoken about the First Zones, but the amendment drawn up by senators has a completely different conception of the First Zones. It’s a question of who will triumph over whom. There is a lack of communication.”

After a period of public consultation, the minister of the environment plans to put his amendment before the cabinet in September.