Czech National Park infested with bark beetle

It's been a hot month of August in the Czech Republic's biggest national park in the Sumava Mountains - and that has little to do with the scorching heat of the summer. The park's management and environment activists are locked in a heated debate over the fate of some 1,000 trees that are infested with bark beetle

Members of the organisation Friends of the Earth protest against the planned felling, photo: CTKMembers of the organisation Friends of the Earth protest against the planned felling, photo: CTK The trees are in the park's core zone - the most highly prized area - and when lumberjacks showed up to fell the trees environmental activists effected a blockade that froze the management's plans and brought the issue to the attention of the media. Vojtech Kotecky of the non-governmental organisation Friends of the Earth explains what the environment-friendly alternative is:

"The alternative is what we can see in the German national park on the German side of the Sumava mountains and in national parks in Austria, Poland and other European countries. The general practice is to leave the forest alone because in a national park one does not protect trees as in a normal commercial forest. In a national park we protect the eco system with all its natural processes and bark beetle infections are a part of the natural eco processes in spruce forests. It should be protected and that is the mission national parks."

So they should be left alone. Is there any way of treating the trees against bark beetle?

"There is no way to protect them from bark beetle but I don't think we should do that anyway because the bark beetle is a part of the natural eco-system and if you want to protect that eco system rather than the trees as such then you should leave the bark beetle alone."

Members of the organisation Friends of the Earth protest against the planned felling, photo: CTKMembers of the organisation Friends of the Earth protest against the planned felling, photo: CTK Well, why do you think the management is so determined on felling these trees - is it because they are afraid that it would spread to forests where there are commercial interests?

"If you look at the management's statements you see they have a typical forestry approach. They simply believe that the bark beetle has to be removed because this is the regular practice -which is basically right. In normal forestry this is standard practice, but here we are not in a normal forest but in a national park where we protect the eco-system as a whole, not individual trees. A large part of these trees will die but there will be re-growth and as we see in Germany the re-growth of bark beetle affected trees is very successful and we see new healthy forests across the border."

Isn't there some kind of common policy - if not in Europe then in central Europe at least ? Some kind of agreement that would protect these trees, with neighbouring Germany for instance?

"There is no formal, official policy on management or behaviour in national parks. The only thing you go on is the general practice elsewhere and a common sense attitude which suggests that one should respect what national parks have been created for - which is protection of the natural eco-system. "

For the time being the park's management is monitoring the situation, closely watched by environment groups, and although the final decision is in its hands - the media scrutiny and the recommendations of the Environment Ministry -which is also against the planned felling - are all working in favour of conservation.