The UN's Sustainable Development Goals have provided an ambitious agenda to be achieved by the year 2030, including SDG 15, concerning the preservation of forests, ecosystems and biodiversity. Our motion to be presented at the IUCN's 6th World Conservation Congress takes this as an opportunity to renew the call on the Czech Republic to achieve full adherence to IUCN protected area category II criteria in the management of NP Šumava by 2030.
In the motion, we ask the IUCN Director General and WCPA President to provide unambiguous guidance as to uniform application of IUCN protected area categories in the largest contiguous wild forested area in Central Europe. This area is nominally conserved in a complex of IUCN category II protected areas, NP Šumava (Czech Republic) and Bayerischer Wald (Bavaria, Germany), recognised by the EUROPARC Federation as Transboundary parks. While adherence to category II guidelines is a stated goal of both parks, NP Šumava has failed to devote the predominant part of its area to the primary purpose of the category, as required by the IUCN guidelines document, endorsed by World Conservation Congress resolution 5.040. The main goal of our motion is for the IUCN to insist on faithful and uniform application of its protected area categories in the region. This means implementing past IUCN WCPA recommendations, detailed below.
Only faithful adherence to the guidelines will make the Czech Republic a reliable partner in much-needed transboundary cooperation concerning the management of the region's protected areas. International cooperation is especially important to the issues of conserving transboundary, wide-ranging and migratory species and their migration routes, a stated aim of category II protected areas. The two Transboundary parks as well as the adjacent protected area Böhmerwald-Mühltäler (Austria) share a number of transboundary populations of wild animals, such as the western capercaillie, the wide-ranging European lynx, as well as migratory birds like the black stork. Moreover, preserved wilderness areas have an important contribution to make toward achieving SDG 13, as stepping stones facilitating the adaptation to climate change of other migrating species.
This is why our motion also calls on the states involved, as well as other range states of the populations and species concerned, to build on the category II Transboundary parks with an agreement, in the sense of Article IV of the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species, to promote their conservation. Enmeshing the parties in binding commitments, domestic legal ones and mutual international ones, is the second goal of the motion, which contributes to the overall objective of achieving setting up an effective and reliable transboundary cooperation regime for conserving the Wild Heart of Europe.
Specifically, a mission from IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas in 2002 recommended an accelerated plan to conserve at least 30% of the park in a non-intervention zone by 2008 and agreed that the stated goal of 50% by 2030 in the park's management plan is clear, noting that an insufficient extent of a non-intervention core zone would be incompatible with category II classification. This timetable was separately recommended by a Ramsar advisory mission, for the protection of the Šumava Peatlands Ramsar site within the park.
The importance of implementing the IUCN recommendations for biodiversity and wilderness protection in Central Europe and beyond was highlighted by resolution 22 passed by the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, proposed by the WCPA President Ernesto Hoeflich. A petition from 72 chief executives of protected areas, conservation NGOs, and academic institutions from across Europe pointed to both the inherent importance of and the precedent set by observing (or not) protected area norms in one of the largest and most well known category II protected areas in the region.
Together, the two Transboundary parks play an important role in the Natura 2000 network of European protected areas, contributing particularly to the goal of wilderness protection as set out in the European Commission's Guidelines on Wilderness in Natura 2000. Conversely, a scientific study (Bláha et al. 2013) concluded on the basis of mapping Natura 2000 habitats that 49,8% of NP Šumava should immediately be placed in a wilderness zone, managed without interventions.
Despite general expert agreement and further WCPA requests (as in the 2012 letter from the European regional office) and despite various commitments by successive Czech governments, the extent of the wilderness zone has stagnated and even retreated at times. To this day, it remains below 30% of the park's area. The main trouble seems to be that while long-term commitments are in place, their implementation is always in doubt as no clear and binding time-table has ever been established to act on the IUCN recommendations. This stands in sharp contrast to the situation in NP Bayerischer Wald, where such a time-table is part of state law and the park is on track to achieve its commitment by 2027.
It would be a great help to see IUCN emphatically state that protected areas of wilderness developing spontaneously under the influence of natural processes do not suffer negative effects on their water regime, water quality, or other significant landscape functions, on the contrary: areas of wild nature have great significance for biodiversity conservation, flood mitigation, climate change adaptation and have important social and economic functions, emphasising that wilderness protection need not be antithetical to sustainable development.
As the experience of NP Bayerischer Wald and those parts of NP Šumava subject to non-intervention already shows, replacing commercial forestry practices with non-intervention management does not damage the hydrology and ecology of the park. Instead, as natural processes are allowed to unfold, the park continues to develop along natural trajectories. Fears of increased unemployment following an expansion of the non-intervention zone are rightly moderated by economic studies (e.g. EFTEC 2013) of the benefits of wilderness preservation in the area to the tourism industry. The strict length limit on motions means, however, that including language to this effect in our submission would come at the expense of stating and explaining our main goals.
All the supporting documents referenced here, along with the current draft of our motion and the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum linked throughout the text. We hope that you will join us in support of the motion for the IUCN to call for its own rules to be observed, for its recommendations to be implemented, and for international cooperation in preserving transboundary and migrating species in the heart of Europe.