Posted on 24 November 2004
Tatra National Park, which has just started dialogue with the PAN Parks Foundation and is preparing to sign the letter of intent for verification, suffered widespread damage after a powerful windstorm. Park officials are committed to restoring the park in a sustainable manner and are still interested in moving towards PAN Parks verification.
On the afternoon of Friday, 19 November 2004, a windstorm swept across northern Slovakia causing serious damage to Orava district, Low Tatra National Park, and – most severely – to Tatra National Park. An estimated 12-14 000 ha of forest – between 1,5 and 3 million cubic meters of timber - were destroyed.
Calling the event an “ecological disaster,” Slovakian authorities have committed to a quick response. The President has sent the army to the park to aid in the immediate clean up, and the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment have announced a planned collaborative effort to remove fallen trees in hopes of preventing future bark beetle infection. Environment officials are pushing strongly to avoid a spruce monoculture replant, favouring instead a mixed forest with a guaranteed percentage of broadleaf species. Most of the damage to Tatra NP occurred in the old core zone of the park, populated mainly by spruce planted early in the 20th century. A recently proposed new core zone of older growth, species-diverse trees fortunately suffered relatively little damage.
Slovakian environmental NGOs have created the “Tatra Fund” and the “Return Life to the Tatras” initiative to provide aid and expertise to clean up and renewal projects. Officials are cautioning government and industry to approach renewal planning carefully, and Tatra NP’s managers are concerned that the damage will not be treated as the natural process it is, and that, for instance, chemicals will be used to combat the potential of bark beetle infection. From a conservation perspective, it is important for everyone involved to ensure that the human response to the storm does not cause more damage than the wind itself.
The storm has not affected Tatra’s interest in moving towards PAN Parks verification. The director stated that “the windstorm can postpone the final decision when we will be ready for PAN Parks verification but we definitely need an independent verification to assess effectiveness of our management. Support of the PAN Parks and WWF will be very crucial in this very hectic time.” Destruction caused by natural forces will not prevent Tatra from becoming a PAN Park. The more pressing concern is that appropriate, sustainable practices be adopted in response to the damage.
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