Šumava National Park director steps down amidst concerns about its future

František Krejčí, photo: CTK

The Czech government wants to implement a radical change of direction in the management of the Šumava National Park in southern Bohemia. On Monday, the director of the country’s largest nature reserve, František Krejčí, stepped down – as he put it – in order to facilitate negotiations between the authorities and the local communities on the planned changes. But Czech environmentalists are concerned the director’s resignation will open the way for firms who want to increase logging in the park.

František Krejčí,  photo: CTK
To axe or not to axe – that has been the crucial question in the Šumava National Park ever since the early 1990s when some of its precious forests were hit by massive bark beetle infestation.

Environmentalists have consistently opposed any interference with nature’s ways in the park’s most protected zones. But some politicians, as well as many logging firms, would like to cut down the infested trees to prevent a further spread of the beetle, and to make considerable profits in the process.

This pressure is one of the main reasons why the seat of the park’s director has been so hot – since its establishment in 1991, the park has had six directors. And it will soon have another, after František Krejčí, an opponent of logging in the park’s core areas, stepped down on Monday.

“The main reason is that I do not want to be an obstacle in the negotiations between the Environment Ministry and representatives of the local communities about the future of the national park. The planned changes are not a problem, I do agree with them. But it’s more about how to reach an agreement with the locals; neither the minister nor I were sure that I was the right person to pursue this in the coming months and years.”

Mr Krejčí’s stepping down was applauded by many of the local communities as well as the governor of the South Bohemian region, Jiří Zimola. He had complained to the ministry about the outgoing director’s alleged lack of communication, and said his demise was a logical consequence.

But Vojtěch Kotecký, the head of a leading Czech environmental NGO, Hnutí Duha, says the real reason behind the director’s decision is different.

“I think the real reason is the exact opposite: the director stepped down under strong pressure from the minister. It will further destabilise the national park and the relationship between the park and the local communities. More importantly, perhaps, the pressure from the ministry was obviously aimed at finding a new director who will open the park to logging.”

The ministry has not been very specific about the planned changes that prompted Mr Krejčí’s resignation. But the new bill officials are working on should introduce very specific rules that would significantly limit manoeuvring space for the park management in many areas, including logging. Hnutí Duha’s Vojtěch Kotecký says they will closely follow developments; the new director of the Šumava National Park should be known by the end of the year.