Wilderness Audits in Ukraine

Wilderness and strict non-intervention management are inseparable elements of nature and biodiversity conservation in a number of protected areas in Ukraine.

Vlado Vancura
European Wilderness Society

Deputy Chairman of European Wilderness Society, Vlado Vancura, bases this statement on his first-hand experience gained during last years. He came to this conclusion after several Wilderness Quick- and Full-Audits and following monitoring in the previous years. 

During this field work, it was reconfirmed many times that the natural dynamic and spontaneous processes are very often fundamental elements of the conservation strategy in these strictly protected areas. The number of European Wilderness Society articles also illustrate this statement.

International team

Two international Wilderness experts are going to visit Ukraine at the first week of June. Vlado Vancura – Wilderness expert from the European Wilderness Society and Garry Oye – Wilderness expert from United States. Garry used to be Director of Wilderness of US National Park Service and his Wilderness experience reaches far beyond US boundaries. Iryna Shchoka, European Wilderness Society’s focal point in Ukraine, also dealing with Youth Programmes and Carpathian Projects, locally supports the Wilderness experts.

Meetings in Kiev

Both experts will visit Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and will meet representatives of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine. The purpose of this meeting is to formalise ongoing cooperation and sign Memorandum of Understanding. The main focus of this step is on:

  • Wilderness development and protected areas’ capacity-building in Ukraine.
  • Education of youth and adults regarding benefits of Wilderness and protected areas’ values
  • Sustainable development and particularly further implementation of the “Protocol on Sustainable Tourism to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians” in Ukraine.

Wilderness in Carpathians

This time, the Wilderness experts will continue their field work in Western Ukraine. Nature Reserve “Gorgany” and Carpathian Biosphere Reserve will be investigated regarding Wilderness potential. For “Gorgany” it will be a chance to extend the validity of its membership in European Wilderness Network.

Potential Wilderness in Polissya

This time there will also be a chance to compare Wilderness in the Carpathians with potential Wilderness in Polissya. Polissya is another forest covered area on the north of Ukraine. During this visit, Wilderness experts will meet local activists, involved in the protection of the Mizhrichynskyy Regional Landscape Park. The specific objective will be to find out, if this area, pretty close to Kyiv, contains Wilderness. 

Current available knowledge indicates that the sphagnum peat-bog with an area of 1 300 ha could meet the European Wilderness Quality Standard. The Mizhrichynskyy Regional Landscape Park lies between one of the biggest river in Ukraine – Dnipro and river Desna, close to the Chernobyl Reserve. The Park also shares borders with a Belarussian protected area. The management of both areas recently started to consider the creation of a transboundary protected area. The area provides a suitable habitat for number animals including frequent symbol of Wilderness: wolf and lynx.

Important partnership

This trip and scheduled meetings underline the importance of the long-term Wilderness and strict non-intervention management in several protected areas in Ukraine. These areas really deserve not only international recognition, but also practical support. Experience with Wilderness Stewardship in this country must be widely communicated.

Europeans have to be aware and proud what Ukrainian Wilderness stewards achieved in the previous years.

Max A. E. Rossberg, European Wilderness Society

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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