Enlargement of the Wilderness in the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve

The Carpathian Biosphere Reserve in Ukraine is already hosting several Wilderness areas included in the European Wilderness Network. To achieve this, the management team of this area invested a lot of time, commitment and resources to meet the European Wilderness Quality Standard. This process also includes the implementation of recommendations that are a part of the Wilderness Audit Reports, including Wilderness enlargement.

These recommendations listed in the International Wilderness Audit Reports also include the enlargement of already Internationally Audited Wilderness Areas. Among them: Uholka-Shyrokyy Luh Wilderness, Kuziy-Trybushany WILDForest and Maramarosh Wilderness. Moreover, additional Wilderness areas are currently discussed between the European Wilderness Society and managers of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. There is for example a currently ongoing preparation phase to carry out the International Wilderness Audit in the proposed Chornohora Wilderness.

Thousands of hectares of enlarged potential Wilderness

In the last years, the Ukrainian Carpathians are exposed to massive logging exploitation and mass tourism. In spite of this pressure, the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve and the surroundings still host several thousand hectares of old and virgin forests. To protect this heritage, there are several ongoing projects in this area.

One of these projects is named Support to Nature Protected Areas in Ukraine. The project objective is to improve the management effectiveness of selected Protected Areas with a support of local communities. Consequently, one of the activities of this project aims to preserve unique natural territories with old and virgin forests. As a part of this process, a set of maps and documentation was prepared for the enlargement of Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. The result of this process is that the territory of this protected area will be enlarged by ca 8 300 hectares overall.

Besides expanding the territory of Carpathian Biosphere Reserve this process also includes an effort to transfer ca 9 500 hectares of forest to a different authority. This forest is currently managed by state forestry agencies or local communities. Forests will be transferred to the responsibility of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve management team. Due to historical reasons this large area inside Carpathian Biosphere Reserve is currently not in a full management competence of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. Thus, the current situation doesn’t allow to fully and effectively implement management and Wilderness stewardship on this area. This step, however, will provide the managers of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve with a full responsibility to manage the area and become real stewards of the Wilderness.

Uholka Mala Wilderness © All rights reserved
Uholka Mala Wilderness © All rights reserved

Marvellous achievement

Following this proces, a formal proposal of enlargement was just recently approved by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine and also by the Transcarpathian Regional State Administration. This proposal focused on the expansion of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, including the enlargement of the current Wilderness. Currently, the Ministry of Ecology is preparing Appeal to the Cabinet of Ministers for final approval of the enlargement. If everything follows this plan and the land users and relevant state authorities support this process, the next step will be declaration of this new protected area by the Decree of the President of Ukraine.

As a result of this process, the total area of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve will reach ca 66 300 hectares (current size is ca 58 000 hectares). Simultaneously, this process creates very real potential to enlarge already designated Wilderness!

Enlargement is a demanding process

nlargement of already audited Wilderness is a common recommendation of Wilderness Quality Audit. Audited Wilderness areas in the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve are also such a case. Therefore, the European Wilderness Society very carefully follows the ongoing process.

Through Wilderness Monitoring we provide support to our partners in the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve,

said Deputy Director of 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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