Old Growth Forests of Slovakia is the official name of a new nature reserve approved by the Government of the Slovak Republic in November 2021. It will include currently unprotected or insufficiently protected old growth and natural forests in 76 sites with an area of nearly 6,500 hectares.
A successful petition
In September 2020 a petition with 30,000 signatures submitted by WWF Slovakia and the NGO Prales supported the declaration of the Old Growth Forest Reserve to the Slovak Minister of the Environment Ján Budaj. The petition was the last step in the long-term efforts of the organizations to protect remaining old growth forests. However, the effort of the NGOs had begun years before. First, mapping and identification of old growth forests started and continued through numerous negotiations and the preparation of the conservation proposal itself.
“When in 2017 WWF Slovakia entered into negotiations for the protection of old growth forests in Slovakia, the topic was impassable for many foresters or officials. However, as we did not retreat in our efforts, the first success came in 2019, when a new amendment to the Forest Act allowed forest owners and managers to protect old growth forests in their possession on a voluntary basis. The global loss of biodiversity we are witnessing nowadays is historically the largest and fastest ever;, therefore I believe that no one doubts that the old growth forests in Slovakia deserve proper protection,“
Mapping of old growth forests
Mapping of old growth forests lasted from 2009 to 2015. It revealed that 10,180 hectares of old growth forests remained in Slovakia. Of this amount one third was unprotected or insufficiently protected. Therefore, PralesS and WWF Slovakia prepared a proposal for establishment of a nature reserve in 2018. After several negotiations with the Forests of Slovak Republic state enterprise (LESY SR) gained a public commitment that foresters will not intervene in the localities identified as parts of the proposed nature reserve until the final decision about the proposal is made.
Eventually, the Government of the Slovak Republic approved establishment of the nature reserve on 3rd of November 2021. The Old Growth Forest of Slovakia nature reserve will become a reality on 1st of December 2021. It will include 76 state owned forest localities in various parts of Slovakia. This ums up to a total area of 6,462.42 hectares. With this decision, Slovakia contributes to the goals in the Carpathian Convention and in The EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030. According to which “all of the EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests should be strictly protected.”