Šumava National Park in Czech Republic, is currently implementing ambitious management with ambition to create together with the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany natural entity with similar long terms objectives. The Šumava National Park was created in 1991 and struggled from the first days because the park did not meet a clearly defined long-term goal. This struggle continued for nearly three decades.
What a national park is and how it should be managed is clearly defined in the IUCN categorization of protected areas. Its misinterpretation in the conditions of the Šumava National Park led to a conflict between the concept of a non-intervention regime and the concept of cultural landscape protection. In the first case it was about the protection of spontaneous processes of rewilding, in the second case it was about the protection of the cultural landscape created by man and subsequently maintained.
Only in 2017, a new law clearly defined the long-term goal: to protect spontaneous natural processes in the dominant part of the national park.
In 2020 was a clear long-term goal set, with the ambition that by 2060, 75% of the park’s territory would be included in the no-intervention zone. This visionary approach clearly reflected the IUCN quality standard defined for the national park category.
Non-intervention as a clearly defined long-term goal was subsequently reflected in a series of steps that gradually directed management activities in this direction. During the creation of the new zoning system, regulations for active management in forest stands were largely excluded and, as a rule, replaced by non-interventional measures.
Since then, the Administration of Šumava National Park has gradually fulfilling this goal. Every year, is increases the area with excluded random logging and gradually limits selective and sanitary logging as well. The result of this process is that in 2023, 42% of the park’s territory was without logging activities.
Part of this process is also the gradual hunting reduction. Currently, hunting is excluded on ca 7000 ha and that is 10% of the national park area. Hunting is excluded mainly in the areas where also active forest management was stopped and forest is left to natural processes.
Hunting free zone is also gradually expanding, but more slowly than the removing of active forest management. This is mainly due to the fact that only in the last 5 years the natural food pyramid been consolidated. This happened mainly due to an expanding population of the common wolf. In 2017, the first wolf pack appeared, and in the spring of 2023, managers estimated 6 wolf packs, with a total number of about 35 individuals. From 2023, the hunting of carnivores was finished and the man-made regulation focused on ungulates (mainly red and roe deer).
Real twin parks
The implementation of described management process in Šumava National Park is slightly behind compared to the neighbouring Bavarian Forest. In this park, the goal of 75% of its territory without management, including the exclusion of hunting, was already achieved in 2022. However, both national parks today have an almost continuous area of approx. 47,000 ha without active forest management and approx. 29,000 ha without hunting.
Consequences of current management
The implementation of the described management in Šumava National Park has an impact on the economy and human resources management.
The steps of gradual expansion of the territory without active forest management are planned in stages. As a result, the activity and need of foresters is constantly decreasing. At the same time, however, the need for their requalification is increasing, because the need for the number of employees in the guard service is increasing.
However, the key factor is that not all employees of the organization are sufficiently prepared for this change and the goals of the national park.
The Šumava National Park, together with the Bavarian Forest National Park and the surrounding area, is an important area of Central Europe. The entire area represents an important element of the European Natura 2000 network.