Everything starts with naivety. In our naivety we think national park status guarantees protection status in Europe. The practice is somewhat different!
When – right after my university graduation – I started to work for WWF in Hungary, my motivation was driven by a childhood dream. At the age of 12-13 my favourite story was a cartoon about a team of dedicated conservationists saving various species under the umbrella of the panda (WWF). They were the Panda rangers….
In 1996 I thought a childhood dream came true! I was very soon faced with the reality: most of my work was policy related and far away from the field….as time went on unfortunately I became a conservationist who accepts ‘reality’.
Therefore I am always very happy when a non-conservationists, with his / her naive thinking (National Park = protected area = true nature) approaches me with a simple story! Chris Matera, a true conservationist not by education but by belief, sent me a message about how angry he was to see continued logging in Pollino National Park in Italy between 2011 and 2016. He meticulously documented the logging operation which has led to large scale felling even recognisable on google maps. He also visited Mt Sirino in PN Appennino Lucano – Val d’Agri – Lagonegrese where he also faced with commercial logging within or close to the National Park.
Chris who is an Italian citizen lived in the US, where on contrary to Europe logging in National Parks generally does not occur. He sent me several pictures and screen shots like this:
He wrote me the following:
“It feels like we wasted our time and money coming to Italy to see nature when the remaining forests are exploited even in “protected areas”. All the advertising about Italian National Parks feels like false advertising, especially when we can go see National Parks all over the world where the forests are truly protected the way they should be….If this cutting in National Parks in Italy is truly legal, something is really wrong.”
He also informed me that the park administration had not offered him an explanation despite of several email enquiries.
What’s wrong with national parks in Europe?
Why should we accept large scale logging, domestic overgrazing and other human uses in National Parks? Park officials often use the excuse that there is private land within the park, where their influence is minimal, less or zero, or that bark beetle infestations require sanitary logging or that the logging is permitted by law during the inception of the National Park. Do we really have to accept these excuses?
I believe something is really wrong with our National Parks in Europe, because the examples of Pollino and Appenino Lucano are not isolated! See the logging in Sumava, Czech Republic, the Tatras, Slovakia, the logging of the primeval Białowieża forests or the deforestation across Romanian National Parks. Allowing this, we do something really wrong in Europe.
IUCN category II
How should an IUCN category II National Park be managed? IUCN’s website offers some help! Let’s see the definition of Category II national park (which Pollino is according to the WCPA database). All National Parks should adhere to this standard:
“Category II protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities.”
- which opportunity logging applies to? spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, or visitor
- who would call large scale commercial logging as environmentally compatible?
I promised Chris to write a post on his experiences….this is likely only the first post. I don’t say that the documented activities are illegal. I say that commercial logging should not be legal in any National Park….if we, human, cannot leave the territories of National Parks untouched, don’t call them as National Parks! And before I forget, this is also true for Wilderness and Old-Growth forests. More on that later.