Experience Wilderness in Russia

The European Wilderness Society aims to identify, designate and steward, but also promote European Wilderness, WILDForests, WILDRivers, WILDCoasts and WILDIslands. Promotion of European Wilderness includes to experience Wilderness. To experience Wilderness, you need to have some special skills, put in lots of efforts and have a strong will. You need specialised knowledge and skills to survive in remote and undeveloped land. To fulfil all these requirements, the trained professional Wilderness stewards, guides and Wilderness experts are very important. Their expertise is crucial when they want to share their passion with other people and guide them to the Wilderness. That request careful planning and well prepared logistics to minimise unexpected surprises.

Because of these committed people, there is a growing number of opportunities to experience Wilderness in Europe. In Central Europe (e.g. Slovakia) Carpatica – Explore the Wild Side is offering this opportunity. When you want to experience Wilderness in Russia, the Association for Nature Conservation – Machaon International offers this chance with a group of enthusiastic and well experienced people. These people can provide you, together with Russian professional Wilderness expert, guides and local Wilderenss rangers an unique Wilderness experience.

Please also read Wilderness and tourism in Altai Mountains, Kazakhstan

Russian Wilderness and the ‘zapovedniks’ system.

Russia has the world’s most extensive network of strictly protected areas – called zapovedniks. These are mostly well-preserved Wilderness listed by IUCN as category la, but sometimes also as IUCN cat Ib. In 2017, Russia celebrated the 100th anniversary since the creation of the first strict nature reserve – Barguzinsky Zapovednik on the shore of Baikal Lake.

The term ‘zapovednik’ was invented in the times of the former Soviet Union. This term refers to the reserve, staff and infrastructure, and is still in use in the Russian Federation and in some former Soviet republics. The theoretical justification for zapovedniks was developed in the 1890s and early 20th century, principally by the soil biologist V. V. Dokuchaev. The fundamental idea of zapovednost (strict conservation) is the exclusion of people and the prohibition of economic activity. The only exception is non-intrusive access by scientists and rangers, in Russia called “state inspectors”.

Zapovedniks preserve the untouched natural ecosystems that can be studied as standards with which to compare managed ecosystems. They preserve not only large tracts of endless taiga forests and rolling steppes, but also pristine river systems, peat bogs, crystal blue lakes and spectacular mountains teeming with biodiversity,

said Svetlana Belova, Director of Machaon International.

The Russian system of protected areas includes, besides zapovedniks, several other categories of protected areas such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries (zakazniks) and natural monuments. This system is the pride of Russia. Nowadays, this network covers 11.4% of Russia, or 206.7 million hectares. This is larger than the size of Mexico.

Special tours to Russian Wilderness

There are already several organisations offering opportunities to visit and experience this unique network. Machaon International just launched a special programme offering three customised trips to Russia in 2018. These trips are for European conservation specialists and nature lovers with a focus on exploring Wilderness in Russia.

Machaon International has supported protected areas in Russia for the last ten years. It organized over 30 study-tours for managers of Russian protected areas to various European national parks. The idea to do similar special tours for European conservation and Wilderness experts to Russia appeared in 2017. It was a result after a successful international Wilderness expedition to the famous Kronotsky zapovednik in Kamchatka for colleagues from the Gesause National Park (Austria) in that summer.

Heading towards happiness

It is not a coincidence that Machaon International organised the trips under the title “Heading Towards Happiness”. This phrase is also on their website, since they started this new programme. It expresses the attitude of Machaon International representatives, who love nature and enjoying it together with people who protect and steward Wilderness. Therefore, together with its partners and friends in Russian protected areas, they are now inviting managers and rangers from other European protected areas and true nature lovers to discover some of the Russia’s natural treasures.

This year destination is the largest pristine mire system of Polistovo-Lovatsk zapovednik, Russian lake district – Kenozero National Park and Caucasus Biosphere Reserve in the mighty Caucasus Mountains. By joining one of their tours, clients will not only explore and learn, but also support further conservation of those Wilderness sites and make a right step to achieve the personal happiness.

concluded Svetlana Belova, Director of Machaon International.

More information and details of the programmes for 2018 can be found here.

Russia_Happiness leaflet

Russia_Проект программы, группа из Словакии с фото

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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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