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Has the Czech Republic become more ecological?

The Czech National Park Šumava has been threatened for a long time by a dangerous insect. Since 2011, the administration of the park took action, aiming to cut down all contaminated trees. This measure provoked a live opposition of environmental activists. Is the intervention in the National Park Šumava justified?

A justified intervention

31/01/2013 - 02:13
According to the experts from the Agrarian University of Prague, intervention was necessary in order to save the spruces of Šumava. This point of view is in line with the project of cutting down the contaminated trees. For the prevention of the deterioration of the situation, pro-interventionist attitude is vital.

Šumava, the biggest Czech national park, founded in 1991, has been threatened by a natural calamity for several years now. Indeed, the European spruce bark beetle, an insect harmful to the spruces, already destroyed large forested surfaces of the mentioned park.

Park’s survival threatened

Given that František Krejčí, in charge of park’s management, was unable to stop a new vague of contamination, he was replaced by Jan Stráský on February 14th, 2011. The intransigent action of the latter based on the necessity of cutting infected trees raised hostile reactions of environmental activists, especially during the summer of 2011. According to them, the nature is apt to restore desired balance on its own. Taking into account the increasing losses in the park, is it really appropriate to wait for the arbitrary change in the unfavourable conjuncture? Only those, who are willing to undertake the risk that the next generations will know the park only thanks to photos, can afford to wait...

The sick must be cured, as well as the contaminated space

The blocking actions conducted by the activists against the healing policy of Stráský questioned an effective intervention against contamination. Indeed, the works of loggers aiming to eliminate the trees affected by the devastator-insect in order to prevent any new diffusion have been obstructed for a long time by the opponents of this way of crisis management. The latter criticised especially the intervention in the so-called “prior” zones (Na Ztraceném, Ptačí potok), where the law limits the possibilities of intervention. However, regarding these circumstances, the Czech environmental inspection approved the intervention.

Even if both camps are fighting for the conservation and improvement of the park’s environment conformingly to the government decree from June 20th, 1991, theirs ways to achieve that seem to be irreconcilable. It is necessary to realize that after so many years of deterioration of the situation, it becomes naive to believe that nature will recover on its own.

Viruses powerless against the insect

One of the requirements of Stráský’s opponents was rather to use viruses in order to exterminate the European spruce bark beetle which devastates the trees of Šumava, than deforest the most touched zones. The idea is attractive, but the realization is not. Indeed, on August 23rd, 2011, the experiments in the zones proved that only 20% of devastator-insects had been affected by the virus. Experts (Jaroslav Holuša among them) agreed that this strategy will not be sufficient to stop the contamination.

Regarding the question of adequacy of Stránský’s action, it should be considered wrong to only talk about a risk of a catastrophe, because one is already happening. The real question left is what level it will achieve. Cutting down infected trees is a bad solution, but it is the best of the strategies still available, therefore the optimal one.

The challenge(s) for the future

The problem in question is becoming more and more incomprehensible for public, because the positions of politicians are often based on their own interest. This increasing politicization makes the process of the park’s saving slow and ineffective. Even if the park’s administration managed to improve the situation mainly thanks to the deforestation policy of the most infected zones, the problem is still far from being solved. It is necessary that in the years to come the actions will be coordinated both better and faster. Besides that, the division of zones of the park should be revised and rationalised in order to unify the territories where intervention is still obligatory. Finally, only intervention free from particulars’ interests and aiming for a common interest can give back Šumava its lost image.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

A bit of management, gentlemen!

31/01/2013 - 02:13
A few months ago, the Bohemian Forests National Park experienced a genuine drama. The quarrel between the eco-activists and the National Park’s Administration ended with the police’s intervention. In places not accessible for tourists, administration of the Park irresponsibly used heavy equipment on account of nature’s protection.

Šumava; ‘Böhmerwald’ in German, ‘Forêt de Bohême’ in French. A region with an eventful history situated in south-east Bohemia. For ages, Czechs and Germans have been living in this mountainous region together in peace.

Šumava, an important place for Czechs

Let’s take an example of a figure of an author typical for the mountains of Šumava - Karel (or Karl, if you want) Klostermann, an author with German origins writing in Czech. Once he said: “The green forests of Šumava lost their ancient glory, but one day the entire world will admire their beauty”.

The forests of Šumava also attracted the attention of numerous people few months ago.

Since 1991, the region of Šumava obtained the status of National Park. This attributed to the nature of this region; extraordinary protection, which contributed to the conservation of this region in a perfectly natural state. There are several zones in the park; the most protected one is the First zone of the National Park.

The forests of Šumava are threatened by a harmful insect

For several years, the groundcover of Šumava has been threatened by an insect from the Scolytinae family. The contamination of the park by this insidious enemy, whose natural food is bast fibre, advanced very fast. It was necessary to find a solution to fight against it. This problem divided the Czech society. On one hand were the park’s administration, the exploiter of forests and a large part of inhabitants of Šumava. On the other hand, the ministry of environment of the Czech Republic and different ecological organizations. The first group preferred an extreme solution: to cut down the parts of forests infected by Scolytinae in order to prevent further propagation. This solution would probably stop the contamination, but at the expense of the forests natural preservation. The second offers alternatives. Environmental activists prefer a “natural solution”, without human intervention. This would mean to allow the actual forest to ‘die’, to decompose and wait for the birth of a new biotope. This solution would ensure the protection of the natural character of the park as a ‘virgin forest’. This is what mainly needs to be protected.

The quarrel between the Park and the activists achieved a culmination point this summer. The circumstances were very dramatic, when the activists wanted to impede cutting of trees by their own bodies.

Excavators in the First zone of the Park? No, thanks!

If we neglect the dilemma of cutting down the trees, we can at least criticize the way of proceeding of the park’s administration.

The First zone of the National Park is a territory where the visitors must respect the rigorous rules. It is forbidden to walk beyond the designed itineraries. It is forbidden to camp beyond the zone. It is forbidden to pass by the forest or to collect mushrooms.

In such protected territory, where tourists must respect numerous rules, the administration of the park used heavy equipment. In places where ordinary visitors take a risk to be sanctioned for a walk, people involved in management of the park used excavators and machines for forest exploitation.

Even nowadays it is normal to use traditional instruments of log transportation like horses in territories with restricted access. It is evident that a horse destroys a forest much less than a modern machine weighing 5 tones. Obviously, proceeding in a more delicate way would be surely much more expensive, but this is a winning bet to invest in a forest, whose beauty will be admired by the entire world one day. Moreover, the supplementary expenses can be financed by the winnings in the exploitation.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

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