European bison, Wisent, Bison bonasus

Vision and objectives

In the first year, the goal is to obtain an overview of the opportunities for rewilding in the Bieszczady region in Poland and the area of and around the Poloniny National Park in Slovakia. As part of that, opportunities for starting concrete field pilot projects on natural grazing and alternative hunting management will be identified. Contacts will also be made with the authorities in Ukraine to explore the opportunity of coordinating the wilderness management with one regional park and one national park bordering Poland and Slovakia. Transboundary management of migratory species of large herbivores and large carnivores between the three countries is essential in order to boost numbers and reduce illegal hunting. One very important area for the entire region is the unspoilt San River Valley on the Polish-Ukrainian border. It serves as an important wintering ground for great numbers of large mammals and efforts will be made to prevent further negative developments there, such as buildings and fencing, by participating in the on-going spatial planning processes.

An on-going process of reforming key legislation in Slovakia – especially the Act on Nature and Landscape Protection, Forest Act and Game Act – will be addressed to ensure a radical shift away from current logging and hunting practices in national parks in Slovakia, to a management based on naturally functioning ecosystems. As part of that process, the few remaining old-growth forests on the Slovak side should be given permanent protection. In Poland the development of a management plan for the 112,000 ha Bieszczady Natura 2000 area is a great opportunity to introduce a new perspective based on wild nature.

A joint development vision will be created with partners from all the three countries, based on rewilding and wilderness. Wildlife watching operations will be developed and promoted in collaboration with local entrepreneurs.  The wilderness concept will be promoted through local and regional websites, brochures and photo missions. A documentary film – “Return of the Wilderness” – will be produced.