A Wilderness Arc at the Heart of Europe
At the southern end of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, an initiative is underway to create one of Europe’s largest wilderness landscapes south of the Arctic Circle. With a backbone of more than 1 million hectares of protected areas already in place, rich wildlife, large intact forests, a high concentration of biodiversity, relatively intact wild landscapes, wild rivers, and large areas of mosaic vegetation largely shaped by traditional farming and grazing practices, there is a unique opportunity to realise this vision.
Forested hills of the almost untouched Tarcu mountains reserve are mixed with the open landscapes previously used for grazing, both beneath and above the timber line. Spectacularly wild backdrop form the snow-covered mountain peaks of the Retezat.
Surrounded by large-sized protected areas, almost unused community lands, state forests and small farmlands, many of which are being abandoned. Although the region already hosts a rich variety of wildlife species (wolf, Eurasian lynx, brown bear, wild cat, red deer, roe deer, wild boar, chamois and more) their numbers are still unnaturally low, partly due to the heavy hunting pressure in the past. The ongoing, large-scale abandonment of traditional farmland has also created an urgent need for new revenue opportunities in these very traditional areas. And a need to bring back the lost wild-living species that once maintained the diversity of these landscapes and kept them rich in animal and plant species.
Soon, European bison and other wild grazers will begin again to shape the vegetation in their own way here. This will provide the basis for also bringing back other wildlife species such as the griffon vulture.
With the conservation measures and the rewilding work in the region underway, new economic opportunities will arise. This in combination with the relative proximity to some of the world’s most famous caves, to several spectacular sceneries (like the Danube Iron Gate), and the famous Baile Herculane (a health SPA resort, all the way since Roman times), the region has the potential to become a quality tourism destination for both domestic and foreign visitors. Right now, it is an almost ‘forgotten’ corner of Romania. This will change quite soon, and the bison reintroductions into the Armenis area in the Tarcu mountains are a big step towards that.