Gorgany Nature Reserve under threat | WWF
Gorgany Nature Reserve under threat

Posted on 27 April 2010

Plans to expand Bukovel ski area in Ukraine include building a road right through the core conservation zone of Gorgany Nature Reserve. This would affect the integrity of this nature reserve, which is currently listed under the highest protection category by the IUCN.
A souvenir sheet of stamps representing Gorgany Nature Reserve in Ukraine is a collectors’ special that with some luck one can buy on the internet these days. A giant cedar tree and a wildcat are two of the species commemorated in the stamp collection giving away some of the charms of Ukraine’s iconic nature park.

Covering an area of approximately 5,344 ha, Gorgany is the least accessible part of the Ukrainian Carpathians. It is hard to reach because of its very steep slopes and rocky mountains strewn with boulders, called “gorgany” by local people.

The Carpathian Mountains are Europe’s last great wilderness area – a bastion for large carnivores, with some two-thirds of the continent’s populations of brown bears, wolves and lynx. They are also home to the greatest remaining reserves of old growth forests outside of Russia.

The forest cover of Gorgany – 85 % of the total area of the nature reserve, is still predominantly in natural or virgin state. Old-growth forests like these are often home to rare or endangered species of plants and animals, making them ecologically significant.

Gorgany was first put under protection in 1935 when it was proclaimed a cedar reserve. Five years later, the Soviet authorities issued a decree making “Gorgany” a state reserve, but the outbreak of the Second World War thwarted implementation efforts. It was not until 1996 that Gorgany Nature Reserve was finally created.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Gorgany under its highest protection category, Strict Nature Reserve. This means that the reserve possesses outstanding ecosystems, geological features and species, and it’s core conservation zone is available primarily for scientific research or environmental monitoring.

Among the reserve’s protected flora and fauna are 20 plant and 22 animal species listed in Ukraine’s Red Book of endangered species. The highest beech and fir trees in the Ukrainian Carpathians have been recorded here. Reaching as high as 53m, these trees have a diameter of over 160 cm.

Natural treasures under threat

Gorgany has until now gone without any human interference but in the face of intense pressure from economic and political forces, nature conservation is often given short shrift.

Bukovel, right on the border of Gorgany, is soon to be one of the 20 largest ski areas in the world. Development has gone ahead with a total investment reportedly planned to reach €3 billion. A total of 66 lifts, 400 km of ski runs, and 100,000 beds, an airport and 15 million annual visitors are planned overall. The development counts on significant artificial snow production, including 500 snow production sites, 300 snow lances, 40 mobile propeller snow cannon and a 100,000 m3 artificial lake to provide water for snow production. Preparatory work for Bukovel-2 is close to completion and it seems plans for Bukovel-3 already exist.

Plans to expand Bukovel ski area include building a road right through the core conservation zone of Gorgany Nature Reserve. It would connect Bukovel-1 and Bukovel-2. To this end, land along the road outside of the nature reserve is already up for sale.

The planned road would catastrophically affect the integrity of the nature reserve as it would mean moving the boundaries of the core conservation zone. This would open up the wilderness for more activities, for example building works would be allowed. In addition the road would provide an easy access into the park by road, whereas at present access to the core conservation area is allowed only as part of guided tours.

Plans for the road were presented by the Regional Land Use Office to the scientific council, which is part of the park administration. The council refused the plan on the grounds that more time was needed in order to conduct a proper study. The park director, who was opposing the road, has consequently been dismissed and is currently undergoing a hearing.
Old-growth forests like Gorgany's are often home to rare or endangered species of plants and animals, making them  ecologically significant.
Old-growth forests like Gorgany's are often home to rare or endangered species of plants and animals, making them ecologically significant.
© Bohdan Prots
The forest cover of Gorgany is still predominantly in natural or virgin state.
The forest cover of Gorgany is still predominantly in natural or virgin state.
© Bohdan Prots