Rewilding setting

This scale and spatial configuration of protected areas and buffer zones provide an optimal situation for preserving the high biodiversity, advance rewilding approaches and at the same time developing new types of local economy.

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On the Polish side lies the 30,000 hectare Bieszczady National Park, which is very famous in Poland, but so far, not yet well known anywhere else. It is surrounded by forest reserves and Natura 2000 areas. On the Slovak side lies the Poloniny National Park. Both parks are surrounded by forest reserves and Natura 2000 areas.

Very interesting is the large portion of non-forest ecosystems which were uninhabited after World War ІІ. The area’s original inhabitants, the Boyko Ruthenians, were almost all evicted in 1947 by Polish/Soviet forces and were never allowed to come back, their homes burned and bulldozed and the whole area made into forestry zones and nature reserves.

These uninhabited areas (also called ‘land of valleys’) are now a perfect habitat for birds of prey like golden eagle, lesser spotted eagle, short-toad eagle and honey buzzard. In the “land of valleys” one can find remains of former inhabitants: old orchards (with primal species of fruit trees), patches of feral vegetation in the past connected with old church and housing places. The rich mosaic of meadows, peat bogs, and scrub with tall herbs cover the meadows.

It can be postulated that valleys, thousands of hectares of former agricultural land are already under a rewilding process. Rewilding Europe stimulates this process by further rewilding the area, support natural grazing by introducing large mammals like European bison and wild horses. Improving the accessibility for visitors to explore this area will provide sustainable, new socio-economic opportunities for local communities, like wildlife tourism, lodging, local products and others.

Tourism is growing and becoming quite important on the Polish side, with some 350,000 visitors to the area, mainly national tourists during summer. But on the Slovak and Ukrainian side, tourism is still almost non-existent. There is a great potential to also attract international tourists.

A comprehensive poll held in 2012 showed that there is a massive local support for the rewilding ideas among the local communities on both sides of the Polish-Slovakian border, as well as nation-wide in Slovakia.

Taken all together, this provides for some very promising rewilding opportunities. Rewilding Europe has started to further tailor and expand partnerships with key stakeholders in this rewilding area to harness these opportunities.