Jalovecka Wilderness versus logging

Jalovecká is a remote valley located in Tatra National Park, Slovakia. During the centennial flood in 1958, water flushed away the access road into the narrow valley. Since then, nature has the chance to develop spontaneously and get more and more wild. However, there is eternal controversy over the protection of the Wilderness in Jalovecká Valley. Harvest timber or leave the forest untouched? How to ensure that nature conservation prevails over all other interests at least at the territory of the national parks?

The flushed road in Jalovecká Valley was never restored. The terrain is so difficult that it was unprofitable. This valley in the Western corner of the Tatra National Park thus became the last one without an access road in all of Slovakia. Until today, only a narrow public trail leads through it. The current unfragmented piece of Carpathian Wilderness almost without any visible human intervention has created itself during the last six decades. The inaccessibility for several decades has allowed Mother Nature to develop freely.

Compensation mechanism for Jalovecká

In 2014, a windstorm uprooted several thousand cubic meters of timber in this inaccessible valley and surrounding. While the nearby Suchá Valley Strict Reserve was left to self-develop, several disputes about Jalovecká have been dragging in local forest district offices and later on in court for years. The challenge is that although the area is located in a National Park, the land belongs to three local landowners associations. Two of them want to harvest broken timber and one of them even healthy trees. At the same time, the Slovakian government agreed to pay the landowners associations financial compensation for the non-processing of the timber.

The compensation was approved and ready to put in force. However, when the landowners associations processed the timber outside of the proposed non-intervention area, they suddenly changed minds and refused the already made agreement. Since that moment, the landowners associations has been trying to obtain permission to harvest all forest impacted by wind and later on by bark beetle. To harvest this timber, they request to build a forest road for tractors and heavy logging equipment in the wild, narrow, canyon-like valley. Ignoring that the timber lies in a hard-to-reach area on steep rocky slopes. Despite the ongoing fight in court, the landowners associations have tried to build the road several times illegally but were always stopped by police and Tatra National Park.

Logging itself in this specific condition is very questionable even from purely economic perspective. There are many example all over that without government support it is unprofitable activity particularly in such fragile and remote areas. The timber is already laying on the ground for several years and so will be suitable only for low quality fire fuel.

Milan Ballo
Retired park ranger in Jalovecká Valley

Misleading of landowners

Recent information revealed that top forest association managements are misinterpreting and misguiding members of their own associations. They are claiming that the government would like to have control about what will be done in the valley. In their view, this ignores the interests of the landowners associations members. They claim owners will be not allowed to pick berries, enter the area, etc. This is atargeted clear misinterpretation. Under the Nature Conservation Act, owners have the right to harvest fruit for private use even in protected areas. Another misinterpretation is that the one-time compensation will be disadvantageous. In reality, the government proposed to annually pay one percent of the logging price of a century-old forest as rent in addition to the compensation. “It was very demanding to negotiate these conditions”, said a local retired park ranger, who is simultaneously a member of the one local landowners association.

Way out has to be agreement

Some representatives of the landowners associations are saying that they do not accept any national park or core zones. They insist to manage the whole territory as their property with commercial forest. According to the director of the Tatra National Park Administration, the park has found a certain level of compromise with most landowners. Nevertheless, there are the landowners associations, for which business is more important than ecology. They won’t put down the chainsaw and start guiding tourists, because they are afraid to lose part of their personal income.

Also interesting: More information in Slovak

It was recently revealed that some chairmen of the landowners associations and professional forest managers are making their living from logging. The timber companies they work for have mechanisms in place to reward for more harvested timber. They for example include small commissions for each cubic meter of timber harvested. It seems like many of the associations’ members do not know about this…

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