During the Wilderness Academy Days, we heard from many inspiring speakers, on topics such as forestry, outreach, Wilderness in the US, and also visitor management in Wilderness. Wilderness and protected areas are facing challenges with visitors and tourism, as more and more people are interested in seeing and experiencing the wild. Therefore, the session ‘Visitor Management’ during the Wilderness Academy Days provided an opportunity to learn about different experiences with visitors across Europe.
Please also read: Exciting Wilderness Academy Days!
Adding new trails
Olena Slobodian, Carpathian National Nature Reserve, Ukraine, presented information from the latest visitor monitoring on ecological-education trails in the park. The Recreational Department of the park uses this information to analyse visitor usage – for example the most visited trail is the track to the peak of Mt. Hoverla, the highest peak of the Carpathian Mountains. Additional trails can then be designed, which are informative, interesting, and put less pressure on the natural environment.
Visitor numbers tripled in nine years…
Ondrej Vitek, of the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, spoke about how his organisation is tackling the challenge of increasing visitors, including to highly sensitive areas. The number of visitors to Czech protected areas has tripled in the last nine years, for example one popular track had 364 000 visitors in 2018. This led to some negative effects of visitors, but also some innovative solutions.
For example, through visitor exhibitions, tourists can learn about the areas and why it is important to protect them. Teams of rangers, both full-time staff and voluntary rangers, patrol and monitor the landscapes, informing visitors, and helping to prevent damage to the environment. As a last resort, in some areas fines are given to visitors who specifically visit areas they are not permitted to be in. Rangers have the authority to fine visitors who do not follow the rules, and it has been shown that a few small fines of €25 significantly lowers the number of people who bypass rules.
Using tourism to help Wilderness
Vlado Trulik, who runs Wilderness tours in Slovakia, rounded off the Visitor Management Session at the Wilderness Academy Days, by speaking about how we can use tourism to benefit Wilderness. His focus during his tours is to share knowledge, but without harming nature. These tours support his hobby of monitoring wildlife, particularly large carnivores, through camera trapping. He has collected images, data, and stories of wildlife in the last ten years, which he shares with his colleagues, and which is used to better understand and protect the Wilderness and its inhabitants.
Tourism can have negative effects on the environment, for example through erosion, littering and disturbing wildlife. However, with clever solutions, informed and respectful visitors, tourism can be used sustainably to protect and help nature.
You can view the abstracts of these talks, and all other abstracts from the European Wilderness Academy Days, below: