Achievements to date
- In this first year, the goal was to obtain an overview of the opportunities for rewilding in the Bieszczady region in Poland and the area in and around the Polininy National Park in Slovakia. The feasibility study that was done shows that the Eastern Carpathians rewilding area provides huge rewilding opportunities on both the Slovakian and Polish side. This mainly focuses on transboundary wilderness management of migratory species of large herbivores and large carnivores between the three countries.
- The first year was also used to create a base for a rewilding perspective with the main actors in the area and the general public. A public opinion survey on both sides of the border showed major support for the concept of wilderness protection and rewilding, thereby creating new economic opportunities.
- In the first half of 2012 several meetings were conducted with crucial decision makers and stakeholders at local and regional level including director of the Bieszczady National Park, director of Regional State Forest Administration, director of tourism department in the regional government.
- This could quickly become an amazing wilderness and wildlife area, if just the right components are in place. In the current situation it is not clear yet whether there is serious enough commitment from key local stakeholders to work on rewilding, based upon a long-term vision for the area and a clear strategy to achieve such a vision.
- A number of meetings have been held with land owners and land managers about creating rewilding pilot areas (Upper San, Runina and Starina Valleys) but these have not yet resulted in concrete rewilding agreements. The process continues.
- Our local partner WOLF has been running a campaign calling to halt the killing of wolves, since 150 wolves were killed during the last open hunting season (limit was 130) of which 1/3 was killed in the rewilding area. More than 1000 people (from Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic) have sent letters to the EC complaining about the situation in Slovakia. The campaign is continuing.
- WOLF also significantly contributed to prevent an amendment to the Game Act, which would have reduced the areas of hunting districts by 10 times (this would have extremely threatened herbivores and large carnivores in the Wolf Mountains) and they also achieved a ban on selective trapping of carnivores.
- A study on the creation of a natural grazing initiative with wild-living horses concluded that this requires renting or buying at least several hundreds of hectares of land, ideally more than 1000 hectares, where horses (the best would be Polish Konik breed) could graze.
- The Management Plan for the area of Bieszczady National Park was elaborated by the park itself, approved and their up to date management plans for state forest units include new nature conservation issues.
- An ecotourism and wildlife travel agency has been set up by the Carpathian Wildlife Foundation in Poland, including selection and training of nature guides, development of ecotourism packages for the international and the national travel markets.
- A total of 16 walking trails have been established, including some of the best wildlife watching spots, and these will soon be available online.
- An educational Geo-cache trail was created above Osadne village in Slovakia and it was officially launched in November 2012. It has 16 caches in the field, each with educational text about forests or history of the area. The shortest way of passing all the caches is about 19 km long. More such geocache trails are under preparation.
- WOLF has met with crucial decision makers and stakeholders at local and regional levels on the Slovak side – representatives of political parties and local governments, parliamentary deputies at national and municipality level, in order to promote a vision of bringing back wilderness to the Wolf Mountains and to gain political and scientific support of the project and particular legislative changes.
- The Carpathia Wildlife Foundation (CWF) produced the magazine “Bieszczadnik” in Polish. Two editions of it were published in 2012, with major content about Rewilding Europe.
- A public opinion survey was carried out on both sides of the border, showing major popular support for the concept of wilderness and rewilding, and for creating new economic opportunities from the wild values.
- A photo mission completed, delivering high quality imagery from the Eastern Carpathians, and existing photo stock material was purchased.
- A very promising film documentary about wilderness and rewilding (‘The Wolf Mountains’) will be released in the autumn of 2013 and shown for the first time at WILD 10, the World Wilderness Congress in October in Salamanca, Spain. A significant amount of great film sequences were shot, e.g. of wolves, bison, brown bear and deer.
- The public appeal “We love bears” was prepared and launched, collecting signatures during the summer music festivals and raising public awareness about wilderness issues.