Europe’s Wild Heart - still beating? Experiences from a new transboundary wilderness area in the middle of the Old Continent
The face of Europe has been shaped by human civilization for centuries and wilderness did not only vanish from the continents surface but also from humans’ minds and experiences. However, there are still a few places left, which have remained more or less unmodified and have at least the potential for rewilding. One of them are the Šumava National Park and the neighbouring Bavarian Forest NP, which together create a unique forest zone in the middle of Europe susceptible to host and demonstrate natural forest dynamics and ecosystem processes. This is also a large and very important Natura 2000 area. Transboundary cooperation both National parks have improved since 1990, when the former Iron Curtain Corridor was opened, and culminated by the project Europe’s Wild Heart. The main goal of the project Europe’s Wild Heart, which started in 2008, was to develop a transboundary wilderness area in the core zones of the two national parks – BFNP & ŠNP. The project area was 13,060 ha and a “life story” of this project is described in this paper. A common vision 2020 was signed where both parks committed among other things “to achieve a joint core area of about 15,000 ha with harmonized management principles, information services and monitoring networks to officially become the first and largest transboundary wilderness area in Central Europe”. Unfortunately, the bark beetle outbreak which followed the Kyrill hurricane in 2008 and 2009 escalated the discussion about appropriate forest management in the ŠNP. Opponents of the national park principles, non-intervention and wilderness concept became more and more vocal. A situation escalating after the election in 2010 when the Green Party was replaced by conservatives (ODS – Civic Democratic Party) at the Czech Ministry of Environment. Clear cuttings were started in some former non-intervention parts of the ŠNP and hunting was again allowed in the core zone. Since then, both the management strategies and practical management measures in the ŠNP and BFNP have increasingly diverged. Opponents of the wilderness concept from both countries took advantage of the situation and, currently, the project Europe’s Wild Heart is put on ice in both countries. Benefits and challenges of the project Europe’s Wild Heart are discussed at the end of this paper.
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