On these pages you will find a plethora of articles about our current or past projects. You will also find some examples of our work on the page Track Record and a list of our services under Fields of Expertise. If you would like any more information about any of the projects mentioned just get in touch.
Posted on: 12th August 2009
Twenty Ukrainian protected-area staff see in practice what they have experienced so far in theory
From Tuesday, 21st July, to Sunday, 26th July 2009, Richard Gunton and Wilf Fenten from EUROPARC Consulting led a study tour to the Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald (Bavarian Forest National Park), Germany, and Sumava National Park), Czech Republic. The study tour programme completed a further stage in the current training programme for three protected areas in Ukraine.
One of the broad learning objectives from study tour was to find out what makes for successful communications in a protected area (PA) and what is transferable from one PA to another.
It certainly took determination and commitment to travel at high-summer temperatures of above 30 degrees C along roads of differing quality for well over 1000 km in order to take part in that study programme. Yet the group of Ukrainian protected-area practioners from Uzhansky National Nature Park, the Carpathian National Nature Park und the Gorgany Nature Reserve seem to be totally unfazed by the strain and vicissitude of long-distance coach travel.
After an long three-hour wait at the EU border in Slovakia and a massive traffic jam wait around Budapest for another three hours the group arrived at their destination just before midnight on Tuesday, 21st July.
Despite the exhausting journey the day before, the group assembled, as it did every day of the study tour, early for breakfast so that we could depart in good time for a visit to the Bavarian Forest Visitor Centre Hans Eisenmann Haus. We were welcomed by the National Park director, Ltd. Forstdirektor Karl Friedrich Sinner, and shown an audio-visual introduction to the National Park history, its purposes and duties. The video had virtually no text and very little commentary. It was almost totally visual, appealing to the senses and an emotional reaction to the presented landscape.
Not that all the images shown were pretty. On the contrary, the camera often lingered over vast areas of dead trees, victims of the dreaded bark beetle which has changed so much the way this particular national park and its Czech neighbour looks.
The afternoon was taken up by a visit to the offices of the EUROPARC Federation. The Federation team had prepared an excellent presentation of the Federation's work and provided also a taste of local cake with some much needed coffee. The day ended, as did every day of the tour, with an hour-long feedback session.
The morning of the next day was taken up by a walk to the summit of Lusen (1373 m) which is surrounded by a totally devastated landscape which, between 1995 and 1997, suffered from a large-scale bark beetle attack which killed hundreds of hectares of conifer forest. It was then that the Bavarian Forest decided to leave everything uncleared and just try and make sure that the bark beetle would not escape the core area?- or natural zone, as it is now called. Very controversial - with many implications for forest use, tourism, interpretation and education.
Because the route through the natural zone (category 2, ostensibly no human intervention) is very popular indeed there were many interpretation panels along the route, and even large-scale artwork. Not a "wilderness" in the eyes of our UA guests. Lively discussions about the nature of wilderness and the intrusion of visitors. Some liked the panels, others did not at all and worried about their pristine wilderness in UA.
In the afternoon the group went to the DE/CZ border where there are several open crossings for walkers and cyclists. Very popular. The areas of both national parks are treated as one huge area thus opening thousands of square kilometres to people. On the CZ side one local entrepreneur made sure that a small section of the Iron Curtain was preserved. Of great historical interest.
Perhaps the highlight of the whole study tour: a visit to the Haus der Wildnis (House of Wilderness), the National Park Centre Falkenstein. It meant again an early start showing that the group seemed to have boundless energy and enthusiasm. Most days the programme lasted 10 hours, yet the group remained engaged and active.
We arrived by coach and met Forstamtsrat Reinhold Gaisbauer who took us through a generously planned and huge animal enclosure for prehistoric oxen (Aurochs) and horses (Przewalski Horses) as well as wolves and lynx. The route then led us to the Centre itself which, when we arrived, made people gasp. The Centre is green, very modern, and fitted out in a way which, for many of our group, was "a dream come true". Wolfgang B?uerl, very charismatic and largely responsible to the shape the Centre has taken, showed us round. The group seemed to hang on every word from his lips. Rarely have I seen such attention paid to a guide.
After having viewed a 3D film in the hi-tech cinema together with an audience of 50 to 60 children we understood why they say, "Catch 'em young and you create an audience for the future". Another quotation we heard was "You only see what you know" (Goethe).
As in the Hans Eisenmann Haus, the guiding principle was little text, little commentary, as much as possible visual. No buttons to press (that would be too quick) but lots of levers to shift and drawers to open. Everything of high quality to reflect to high quality of the landscape. The Centre was built by local people and most of the materials and fittings were sourced locally. The excellent food centre only served local food in season. Several people were literally moved to tears by the Centre which is truly a centre of excellence.
The final day saw another early start to visit the Wildniscamp (Wilderness Camp) where the Bavarian Forest, in exchange with national parks world-wide, has erected a series of huts, wigwams and yurts from Mongolia to the United States, from Siberia to Chile. "Nature protection and cultural conservation go together." Here young people come for a few days, stay in these authentic dwellings, learn about other cultures and are asked questions like "What do I really need for living? If everybody lived like me we would need at least 2 1/2 planets to survive." However, several members of the group felt that this accent on "foreign" culture was to the detriment of the conservation of the local culture. They would be reluctant to do this in UA.
The final event of the tour was a meeting with the mayor of the local community of Bayerisch Eisenstein. It gave the group an excellent opportunity to rehears again most of the arguments they had been discussing all week. The final feedback session then drew all topics together and went back on the various events and topic of the whole programme.
It was generally agreed that both the venues and the programme had been an unqualified success. Despite the clear differences between protected areas in Ukraine and other parts of Europe there was much to be learned from each other.
Because of the study tour's success, the leaders from the three protected areas plus EUROPARC Consulting and Dr Ivan Ivanenko from the State Agency for Protected Areas were keen to make sure that this would not be the end of the exchange of expertise. They therefore prepared and signed a Letter of Intent committing themselves to more international cooperation. This letter was the delivered to the Bavarian Forest National Park Administration, in the hope that its director will also sign.
As we departed to our home countries we hoped that the commitment and enthusiasm we experienced in the group will help us to keep a lively exchange going and build on the relationships, even friendship, which were formed on this memorable study tour.