25 Years since the fall of the Iron Curtain

Male capercaillie

Still existing in Bohemian Forest National Park: the western capercaillie

© Andreas Köck

The EuroNatur Award for 2014 goes to Czech nature conservationists

Press release, 10 July 2014


Radolfzell.  The coming November will see the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. To commemorate this event the Nature Conservation Foundation EuroNatur is presenting the EuroNatur Award for 2014 to the Czech Environmental and Nature Conservation Organisation Hnutí Duha (Friends of the Earth, Czech Republic) EuroNatur President Christel Schroeder explains the choice: “Over the last two decades Hnutí Duha has shown outstanding commitment to the protection of the Bohemian Forest National Park. Their contributions to the conservation of natural resources along the European Green Belt with their international understanding of civil society involvement are a shining example to us all.”

The Bohemian Forest (in Czech: Šumava) is a low mountain range of about 200 kilometres in length along the German-Czech-Austrian border. During the Cold War the Iron Curtain cut right through what is now the Šumava National Park. In this former no-go area nature was left to develop practically undisturbed for decades. Today this mosaic of ancient Norway spruce forests, moorland and wild flower meadows offers a habitat to endangered species such as the lynx, elk, Eurasian three-toed woodpecker and Western Capercaillie. Together with the Bavarian Forest National Park, Šumava National Park forms one of the largest stretches of wilderness in Central Europe and is an essential part of the “European Green Belt”, which connects vital biotopes along the former Iron Curtain.

Hnutí Duha campaigns to preserve the Bohemian Forest as one of the last remaining wildernesses in Central Europe and mobilises the national and international public to work for this goal. The Czech organisation works closely on this task with German nature conservationists in Bavaria, such as BUND Naturschutz (Friends of the Earth, Germany). For, although on paper the park has been a protected area since 1992, the natural treasures of Šumava are under threat. The core zone of the National Park has gradually been further split up and reduced in size over the years. Moreover, here – in contrast to the Bavarian Forest - there has still not been any mandatorily defined zoning carried out to date.

For example in 2011 the newly established National Park  Management further reduced the area of the core zone and ordered measures against bark beetles even in ecologically sensitive regions. Environmental activists from Hnutí Duha blocked the logging activities and drew international attention to the dangers in an extensive signature campaign. The violent police action taken to disband the tree sitters caused great concern right across national borders. Subsequently Czech courts confirmed that the measures taken by the National Park Management and the police were against the law.

Currently a bill is being planned which could make the whole idea of the National Park an absurdity: among other points permanent permission for the utilization of wood and hunting would be granted and barriers to building development removed.

As expressed by Christel Schroeder: “There will only be a future for a peaceful Europe if we take action to protect our European natural heritage. The idea at the heart of the European Green Belt is to create and foster peace and Hnutí Duha realises it in exemplary fashion.”

Background information:

  • EuroNatur Award: Formerly awarded among others to Dr. Ernst Paul Dörfler, Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, Prince Charles, Michail Gorbatschow, Luc Hoffmann and Dr. Hans Bibelriether. The EuroNatur Award is an honorary one and is awarded for outstanding services to nature conservation. The EuroNatur Award 2014 will be presented to Hnutí Duha on 8 October 2014 at 5 p.m. on Mainau Island in Lake Constance.
  • More on the “European Green Belt Initiative”
  • Šumava is protected not only by Czech legislation but also at the European level in accordance with the Birds Directive and Habitats Directive.
  • Hnutí Duha (Friends of the Earth, Czech Republic) is one of the leading nature conservation organisations in the Czech RepublicFurther focuses of the organisation are climate protection, renewable energy and environmental protection policy.

Enquiries and contact persons:

EuroNatur, Konstanzer Straße 22, 78315 Radolfzell, Tel.: 07732 - 92 72 10, Fax: 07732 - 92 72 22, info@euronatur.org, www.euronatur.org, Press contact: Angie Rother, Interviews: Romy Durst


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