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Posted on: 5th May 2009
The Carpathian Mountains: for many the last bastion of largely unspoiled biodiversity in Europe‘s geographical heart. At the pivotal point of these mountains lie several Ukrainian protected areas where colleagues are working hard to save a rich heritage in the face of intense development pressures.
In April, a team from EUROPARC Consulting (photo 1) met with protected-area practioners in the Uzhansky and Carpathian National Nature Parks, and Gorgany Nature Reserve. as part of the WWF Danube Carpathian programme which offers support through a multi-pronged project to protect the sustainable use of natural resources.
These protected areas are an extraordinary repository of globally important flora, fauna and landscape, with a dizzying variety of scenery from mixed-growth forests and alpine meadows to beautiful karst peaks (photo 2). Traditionally, the lack of infrastructure and utilities, difficult trans-border crossings and little tourism development have protected much of this natural beauty. However, rapidly changing lifestyles and an emerging economy mean that economic development will increasingly impact on these areas.
Just one example: Bukovel, right next to one of Ukraine’s most important protected area, is a popular ski resort. It is undergoing major development (photo 3) and will soon have 278 km of runs and 35 lifts, making it one of the 20 largest ski resorts in the world. The main approach to Bukovel goes right through the national park. There will be great pressure to widen the road significantly, which would undoubtedly harm the protected area.
The current approach to conservation often consists of regulations imposed by government agencies. However, this is being reappraised as the need to move towards integrated and negotiated sustainable partnerships for regional small-scale development is rapidly recognised. Protected-area managers are facing up to these rapid cultural changes and the threats and opportunities they present through a process of in-depth analyses and forward-looking action plans.
Despite facing many challenges including lack of infrastructure and resources, the protected-area practioners we met were enthusiastic about communicating the high value of their landscapes – and eager to be a part of the international family of protected areas.
The EUROPARC Consulting Team
Wilf Fenten/Lucy Galvin/Nicky Rowbottom/Anne Webster