The European Wilderness Society audited according to the European Wilderness Quality Standard several new potential wilderness areas in the Ukraine. Three new areas – two National Nature Parks and one Nature Reserve are planning to join the European Wilderness Network.
This step is the result of several years effective and fruitful collaboration between Ukrainian protected areas and the European Wilderness Society. As a consequence the European Wilderness Society opened an office and hired three experts in Uzhhorod. A move to a larger office is imminent and the staff is expected to grow further as we are expanding our work to include training programmes for wilderness and sustainable tourism.
In 2015 National Nature Park Zacharovanyy Kray became the first Ukrainian member of the European Wilderness Network last year.
”It was demanding but very beneficial cooperation with the European Wilderness Society” said Vasyl Mochan, Deputy director of National Nature Zacharovanyy Kray. “We have learned a lot and what we appreciate is the continuity of our cooperation even after the official certification processes already finished”!
As a direct consequence, several other Ukrainian protected areas expressed their interest to cooperate with the European Wilderness Society and started to identify potential wilderness in at least part of their territory.
Three protected areas have now expressed a concrete interest to undergo a stringent audit of their wilderness and thus to become a candidate of the European Wilderness Network: National Nature Park Synevyr, Nature Reserve Gorgany, and Carpathian National Nature Park. All three launched the partnership with the European Wilderness Society already few years ago, for example, Nature Reserve Gorgany started the cooperation already seven years ago, Carpathian National Nature Park and National Nature Park Synevyr began the cooperation in 2014.
Following the standard procedure, the European Wilderness Society systematically collected and analysed all relevant wilderness and legal information. This analysis led to the first step of the assessment process: decide whether the specific protected area has a realistic chance to meet the European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System criteria.
After this demanding period experts of the European Wilderness Society started a pre-assessment of potential wilderness as the second step of the European wilderness assessment process. This step includes office work but also several days of field assessment. In this case the European Wilderness Society experts together with the local experts over a period of 8 days visited all 3 protected areas with the objective to meet park top management and carry out a short field pre-assessment.
of candidate diploma in Carpathian National Nature Park
Nature Reserve Gorgany, and Carpathian National Nature Park passed this pre-assessment successfully and provided all necessary information such as confirmation of interest, providing maps of protected area with proposed wilderness, zonation plan and a high wilderness quality. Both parks were therefore awarded the Candidate Status, presented in person by the European Wilderness Society Wilderness Director to the directors. In the case of National Nature Park Synevyr this step is expected to be accomplished in the coming months.
All three visited areas are different. In one park the anthropogenic impact is very visible, in other not so much or even not at all. But all three are very specific and unique! For example one area has a better developed tourism infrastructure and therefore access roads are in good shape, another area is more remote with more difficult access, and the last one is officially a no-go zone because of strictly protected conservation and management regime. This last case means no visitors, no roads inside the protected area. Already during these days the European Wilderness Society verifiers come with number of concrete and specific suggestions and recommendations which will be later incorporated into the official European Wilderness Quality Standard Audit Report.
The next step in this process is the important personal full on-site assessment. During this full on-site assessment, the European Wilderness Society experts will spend almost 14 full day/s in the wildest part of potential wilderness, guided by local rangers and explore the proposed wilderness in detail. This process includes also discussion with rangers, park managers and local partners.
Several Ukrainians asked the European Wilderness Society verifiers why the European Wilderness Network is so important.
“This kind of question is very obvious and frequent” responded the European Wilderness Society, Deputy Director, Vlado Vancura, “not only because only small fragment of people (local and throughout Europe) are aware that the Ukraine owns the last fragments of a really wild and possible even virgin old-growth forest, particularly in the Carpathians”.
“In the European countries like Germany, Austria or Slovakia this kind of forest is mostly gone. However, in these countries and particularly in Germany and Austria wilderness managers started to restore natural processes in potential already 20-25 years ago. It is likely that maybe in the coming 100 or maybe more years, part of this wild land will recover to match the existing Ukrainian wilderness. There are many experience and evidence about this process! Thus these countries re-wild at tremendous costs some areas because they want to have at least small example of wilderness. You have the wilderness still in your country and that makes your country so unique in this aspect! Wilderness in Ukraine are very special. There is no need to wait 100 years. All what is needed is to protect these places now! Therefore, the European Wilderness Society is here and do its best to support these areas and to give them international statute and importance”.
“The best way to save the wilderness in our country is improvement of no-intervention management. Most of negative pictures that the European Wilderness Society verifiers have seen during the last days were caused by people. This is another reason to remind again that: Let’s protect the last fragments of European wilderness, go visit them and you will suddenly feel like being in big nature. People are important part of wilderness, but at the same time very often its most dangerous enemies. If we manage this properly, we have a unique tourist attraction for which the rest of Europe envies us”
summarized Mariana Matsko, from the European Wilderness Society.