During the last two days the European Wilderness Society carried out the first part of the European Wilderness Quality Standard Quick-Audit of Soomaa Wilderness and met with representatives of the Estonian Environment Board in Tallinn.

The Quick-Audit confirmed the high quality of Soomaa Wilderness and the accompanying meeting clarified several issues regarding the membership in the European Wilderness Network.

The benefit of Wilderness, the audit process and ongoing Soomaa Wilderness restoration were extensively discussed with representatives of Estonian Environment Board: Tarvo Roose, Head of Nature Conservation Department and Kaili Viilma, Nature Conservation Department.

position of Soomaa Wilderness in Estonia

The Soomaa Wilderness is embedded into the Soomaa National Park and protects large areas of peat-bogs. The Soomaa National Park was created in 1993 and is situated in south-western Estonia. The park protects large raised bogs and flood plain grasslands, swamp forest, and meandering rivers.

This area is a home and breeding spot for several mammals that are very rare in other parts of Europe. The most numerous species of the large mammals are the roe deer, elk, and wild boar. Beaver, lynx, wolf and brown bear are common as well.

The alluvial meadows and forests that cover the riverbanks are of great botanical value. Approximately 200 species have been recorded here, including gladiolus, iris, and sedum. The unique swamp forests around the peat bogs are also full of rare and threatened species.

Soomaa Wilderness is the most valuable part of the remaining extensive peat-bog Wilderness in south-west Estonia. Kuresoo Bog is one of the two best surviving large bogs in Estonia with high species diversity.

The Soomaa Wilderness was audited in 2009 and 2011 under EWQA 1.0 by PAN Parks.

Soomaa National Parks and particularly Soomaa Wilderness are offering a unique experience for visitors. Visitor programmes such as birdwatching, are regularly combined with canoeing and bog walking trips with services offered by local businesses.

The park is best known for having five unique seasons with the fifth season being the high-water – flooding season. The waters here are extraordinary. A number of local rivers from surrounding uplands, meet in a relatively small area between the bogs and swamp forests. Once or twice a year, when the snow melts across the country, the rivers fill with melting water and break their banks.

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About Author

Vlado Vancura is the Deputy Chairman and Director of wilderness of the European Wilderness Society and is based in Liptovsky Hradok, Slovakia.

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