Ski resort or low impact tourism?

There are more and more cases appearing in the Central and Eastern Europe regarding human activities, destroying the last natural heritage places and contributing to climate change. One of these cases is the building of a huge ski resort on the Svydovets massif in the Ukrainian Carpathians.

International visit to Svydovets

Understanding the importance of a joint fight and communication, Initiative Group Free Svydovets organised a new event on 15th-17th of March. This event included hiking to snowy and windy Svydovets, as well as international press-conference. Free Svydovents also invited the European Wilderness Society for this event.

On 16th of March, one of the villages of Rakhiv rayon that would be effected by the ski resort, Yasinya, gathered together with the international group. Ukrainian and foreign scientists and experts, as well as local authorities and inhabitants came together. They measured benefits and disadvantages of the presence of such a ski resort in the area. And they also reviewed similar cases from other countries. Furthermore, they discussed an alternative development of the region, as well as next steps.

Bulgarian experience

First of all, a professional introduction of the Svydovets case by Ukrainian researchers and scientists took place. This was followed by the Bulgarian experience, which was presented by an active fighter of the group Save Pirin, Kostantin Ivanov.

European Wilderness Society is following the case of another huge ski resort expansion in the Bulgarian mountains and is in the constant contact with its local supporters. Mr. Ivanov informed the attendants that since recently the locals in Pirin feel like this place does not belong to them anymore. Additionally, they experience a lot of negative impacts of the ski resort around them. Among them:

  • the water, coming from mountains to local households is polluted with ammonium because of the artificial snow production,
  • more frequent floods on the local river are happening (every 5-7 year) because of the trees cut off,
  • a lot of unfinished building of failed investors ruining local natural sceneries,
  • no big income to the local budgets,
  • no promised employment of the locals.

Don’t listen fairy tales, always check the information.

Konstantin Ivanov
advises locals regarding their decision on ski resort building

International support and advices

Jonas Shälle is from the Bruno Manser Fond, a Swiss organisation protecting forests. Shälle confirmed that even in Alps skiing seasons are becoming shorter. Climate change is the driving factor for this. Similar, ski resort business will not be economically feasible in the near future at areas lower than 2000 meter. The mountain tops of Svydovets are all below this altitude as well.

The Bruno Manser Fond wrote a letter of request to the Ukrainian authorities with the support of Ostap Yednak, a member of Ukrainian Parliament. In November 2018 they received an answer regarding the investments and detailed plan of the touristic-recreational complex Svydovets development. It became officially clear that, based on the request of LLC “Skorzonera” in 2017, the decision was made to develop Detailed Plan of the Touristic-recreational complex Svydovets.

It is also known that one of LLC “Skorzonera” shareholders is Ihor Kolomoyskyy. He is involved into a number of court cases, including in Switzerland and UK, because of financial manipulations. But there is an alternative development of the region with great nature, rich cultural heritage and hospitable people.

Low impact tourism

The Bruno Manser Fond is supporting this development of the low impact tourism, promoted by Free Svydovets. Additionally, Nick Bell from SOS Forest, based in France, also supports alternative regional development based on low impact tourism. And this local business is well developed in his country.

After an extensive campaign of Free Svydovets, many people from different countries became aware of this beautiful area in Carpathians. They would like to visit this area and are interested particularly in low impact tourism. This type of tourism brings benefits to locals. For example, as visitors are staying in local households, consume local food, and using services of local guides.

Green tourism in Ukraine

Several other options of local tourism development, like dark sky or local products manufacturing, were also presented on the event. Green or low impact tourism is also developing in other regions of Ukraine. Statistical data shows that the number of destinations of green tourism is continuously growing.

One of the local tourist guides also confirmed that the low impact tourism has perspective in Svydovets. Furthermore, it is beneficial for those who are ready to work and take an initiative. He experiences the increase of the number of European tourists in the region. Additionally, he is also harvesting forest herbs for tea-making, for which there is a high demand recently.

The role of tourism associations was also highlighted. Participants supported the importance of waste management further introduction in the region. Participants also discussed the need for considering the ecosystem services . These services are the benefits that nature provides to people. As we already informed, the recently published IUCN Report provides nine tools, which can help to assess ecosystem services.

Environment Impact Assessment

A representative of Ministry of Ecology and Natural resources of Ukraine, Anastasiya Drapalyuk, emphasised that the recently introduced procedure of Environment Impact Assessment should support protection of such valuable areas as Svydovets from destruction. However, it is important to understand that such instruments work only if the society is actively involved. There is a possibility for everyone to review planned activities and comment regarding the recreational family location – touristic complex “Svydovets”.

Carpathian Convention

Mrs. Drapalyuk, as well as deputy director of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Fedir Hamor, emphasised that another protective instrument of the nature of Svydovets exists. And this is the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians.

As we already informed, European Wilderness Society supported Free Svydovets Appeal to the Carpathian Convention Implementation Committee in the end of 2018. At this moment, Ukraine is preparing a report on this issue.

Other threats of the ski resort

Other speakers stressed that the man-made impact will take place already during building of the huge recreational complex. Building will also influence the water, which is used in local health center in village Kvasy for medical purposes.

An elected official from another impacted village, Chorna Tysa, informed the audience about Public Hearings on Svydovets recreational complex. Locals did not receive answers on questions regarding roads accessibility, access to water and firewood harvesting once recreational complex is there. One of the local income is mushroom collection, which may stop after the complex launch.

Courts

Free Svydovets already won the first case in court. Nevertheless, another case failed because of unprofessional behaviour of the judge. At this moment, the new case will go to the Supreme Court of Ukraine. Since the Free Svydovets is also supported by number of professional advocates, there are good chances to win the case.

Visit to snowy Svydovets

Many participants of the event also visited the massif Svydovets this time. And this visit confirmed that the area is not suitable for skiing even if it is covered by snow. Slopes are too sharp and the presence of many people can easily cause the avalanche.

This fact confirmed once again that low impact tourism, providing revenues to the locals and less changes in valuable surrounding nature is a better alternatives for huge recreational complex.

We hope with the support of many Wilderness advocates and low impact tourism followers that we can save the unique old-grow forests, glacier lakes and meadows as well as wildlife and plants of Svydovets for future generations.

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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.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

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