Notes from a conference: overcoming challenges in the Carpathians
“Protected areas in the Carpathians have identical problems because nature and culture are so similar. Thanks to the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA) we have a structure for networking and cooperation to solve these problems.
I am happy to say that the conference brought together around 140 people associated with various aspects of protected area work in the Carpathian region. The Carpathian protected areas have an important role to play. They conserve the outstanding natural and cultural treasures of the region – rich biodiversity, mosaic landscapes, virgin forests, and numerous cultural sites. Development takes, and has to take place, but does not necessarily go hand in hand with nature protection. How to overcome these challenges? How to find adequate opportunities for environmentally friendly development and sustainable financing in Carpathian protected areas? This was the essence of the conference. Speakers came from across Europe and from a wide range of organizations dedicated to protected area work.
The wonderful location of the meeting venue in the middle of a meadow with a view to a snowy mountain in Tatranská Javorina in the heart of the High Tatra National Park, was a true inspiration for participants.
We had a warm welcome by Rastislav Rybanic from the Slovak Ministry of Environment, Michal Adamec from the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic, Harald Egerer from the Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention, Mircea Verghelet, the Chair of the CNPA Steering Committee, and also by Andreas Beckmann, the Director of WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme. His message was very important. He identified people taking care of their natural treasures without financial resources, among them rangers, as the key people in the region when it comes to nature protection on the ground.
Our keynote speakers Mircea Verghelet and Harald Egerer presented the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas. Maja Mikonsińska from DG Environment of the European Commission talked about the role of the EU and the Natura2000 network. L’uboš Halada from Science for the Carpathians S4C discussed the use of science in the field of nature conservation. Laszlo Potozky from the Environmental Partnership Foundation spoke about the role of environmental NGOs in protected area work. Alois Lang from IUCN WCPA Transboundary Cooperation Specialist Group noted that transboundary work on common conservation goals is of great importance. The first transboundary protected area was established in the Carpathians in 1932! This was Pieniny International Landscape Park shared by Poland and Slovakia.
One of our keynote speakers, Guido Plassmann, was from the Alpine Network of Protected Areas. They have been supporting the CNPA for quite some time. We heard how ALPARC developed into an independent organization. Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend, Global Coordinator from the Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Areas and Territories, raised the issue of governance of protected areas in general. Besides the park administrations, she pointed out the value of local people’s conservation activities to take care of the landscape, its natural and cultural features as heritage from their ancestors. She emphasized the importance of involving these people in the work of the administrations.
During the plenary sessions we discussed the CNPA Work Plan for 2013-2017. The focus was on conservation, networking including communications, institutional arrangements and sustainable development. We wanted to get input from the protected areas managers on their activities and future priorities. We probably spoke mostly about “wish lists” than current activities, but this is a good basis for the development of new projects.
One of the most popular workshops was “Sustainable development opportunities in and around protected areas with a focus on stakeholder support”. Here Laszlo Potozky talked about the serious challenges for rural population of the Carpathians when it comes to realizing income while paying attention to nature protection.
Our workshop on connectivity - “Connectivity and continuity – ecological corridors in the Carpathians and the Alps” – was led by European Academy of Bolzano (EURAC). Based on their work in the Carpathians, they presented methods how to locate hot spots of connectivity, how to verify them, and how to overcome legal and socio-economic barriers. Additional speakers brought examples from the Cantabric-Pyrenees-Alps Great Mountain Corridor and the Alps.
Many examples from across the Carpathians and outside were presented in the workshop “Protected area management planning with a focus on cross-border cooperation”. Difficulties remain in terms of different legal backgrounds, or even more difficulties when one country is an EU member, but its neighbour is not. The conclusion was that things can be moved if people are convinced and have a good network beside the legal constraints.
During the workshop “Exchange of ideas for future cooperation”, led by UNEP Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention, participants expressed great interest in developing intergenerational learning and a pan-Carpathian brand.
Last but not least, interest in photographing the Carpathians has grown immensely in recent years, and we awarded seven top photographers for their work.
We even managed to fit in excursions to experience nature, cultural heritage and regional development in the area.”