The forests in Slovakian mountains are considered by many to be the landscape least impacted by humans in Central Europe, in the last two decades. This is not true anymore. This part of Slovakian natural heritage is gone.
Please also read: Slovakian forests under threat
Slovakia is facing the worst ecological disaster in its history. The European Commission has given this country two more months before it steps in. Slovakia has one weeks remaining before this ultimatum. If Slovakia does not stop destroying the last remnants of its natural forests in Europe by March of this year, the European Commission will refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. There is a threat of extraordinary fines.
The sad news is that the sanctions from the European Commission will not restore the old-growth forests and natural forests that have been lost from the Slovakian Mountains and protected areas. Ongoing logging, approved or ignored by political leaders, is already threatening not only the disappearing capercaillie, but above all it is threatening the people. For example they lose water-quality, natural biodiversity or the old-growth forests inherited from great-grandparents.
Forestry is an industry which was once considered an example of a sustainable activity. Forests were growing naturally and spontaneously. The role of the forest managers was to maintain forest continuity whilst simultaneously producing timber for society. Because of this process, the logging was interpreted as an important management tool for how to maintain sustainability in the forest.
Currently this model of sustainable forestry is under serious threat. Many people visiting Slovakian mountains are asking the question: how is it possible that areas protected under national and international legislation, are being logged? Slovakian National Parks, Natura 2000 sites, many areas that focus on nature conservation, do not have the protection they need.
Why it is important not to log
There are several reasons why not. Looking at this issue from the legislative perspective, logging is not compatible with the primary purpose of protected areas – to protect nature! Logging leads to a massive loss in biodiversity. From the sustainable use perspective, large scale logging effectively means depriving our children of forests in the future. And ecologically, the current scale of logging is alarming as it accelerates global warming.
Clearcuts in protected areas
Forest in Slovakian protected areas is managed by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Two contradictory laws applied – Environmental law and Forestry law and that cause chaotic situation. Forestry law is often contradictory also to Natura 2000 legislative and overriding either Environmental law or European Union legislation. Result is the salvage logging in protected areas and planting of unnatural “forest”. Slovakian foresters often claims, that they are protecting forests from bark beetle, but the way they do is suppressing natural dynamics and postponing regeneration of natural forests.
The result is that currently a large part of many protected areas is clearcut. Walking in these protected areas is often like walking through land recovering from war. Overturned land and mud runs into the channels left by forest tractors after logging. There is dirt, oil spills and massive erosion. It is something that should not happen in protected areas.
Loss of potential Wilderness
The current intensity of logging inside Slovakian Protected Areas is unprecedented. Logging today is more intensive than in the 18th century, which is a time when the majority of forest in Slovakia disappeared because of a huge need for timber and land for agriculture. Forests which spontaneously restored in the last 200 years, which could fall into the criteria for high-quality European Wilderness, is disappearing. Slovakia, recently very proud for its extensive network of protected areas, has less and less chance to contribute to the European Wilderness Network.
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