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Fighting bark beetles in Šumava

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Vimperk – A month before the early general elections, South Bohemia regional Governor Jiří Zimola has threatened to declare a state of emergency in Šumava national park because of bark beetles.

Zimola says the policy non-intervention currently applied in selected areas of the park has resulted in a bark beetle pandemic that requires a prompt action. “The state of emergency would mean that I could order the logging and removal of infested trees,” said Zimola, a member of the Social Democrats (ČSSD).

The Environment Ministry and the national park management, on the other hand, say no radical measures are needed. Environment Minister Ladislav Miko called Zimola’s words a political statement.

“Declaring a state of emergency is more or less part of the regional governor’s election campaign. The situation in Šumava is under control,” ministry spokesman Jakub Kašpar told Aktuálně.cz. He dismissed the suggestion that there is a bark beetle pandemic in Šumava.

No pre-election move
South Bohemia regional leaders deny that Šumava has become a political issue. “It is not a pre-election move,” Zimola’s spokeswoman Kateřina Koželuhová told Aktuálně.cz.

At the news conference where Zimola said he was ready to declare a state of emergency, there were no other candidates standing in the October elections, Koželuhová said.

Senator Tomáš Jirsa (ODS, South Bohemia) was there, in support of Zimola’s statement.

Jiří Hůlka, mayor of Horní Planá and chairman of the association of Šumava municipalities, said politics was not involved at all in the issue.

But there are other Social Democrats engaged in the Šumava bark beetle problem — supporters of former Prime Minister Miloš Zeman. Zeman has even said he would file a criminal complaint against national park director František Krejčí and Environment Minister Martin Bursík.

“The bark beetle is something that got complicated there after the Greens’ intervention,” former Education Minister Eduard Zeman told Aktuálně.cz. Former regional Governor Jan Zahradník (ODS) was strongly engaged in Šumava as well.

And the Green Party promises in its election platform that it will promote the inclusion of selected parts of forests in valuable nature areas into a non-intervention regime.

Who wants to weaken the national park
Unofficial statements from sources in the Environment Ministry suggest that those fighting the bark beetle might be interested in more than a little bug that is destroying spruce trees.

Their objective may rest in weakening the national park management and gaining access to lucrative plots of land in Šumava, or at least to local timber.

“The bark beetle may be just an excuse,” said a source who did not wish to be named.

The South Bohemia region and the association of Šumava municipalities reject such statements, say they only want to save Šumava.

“I have lived here for 46 years and looked at those hills all around. It is more than a disaster. It’s a dead landscape. The situation around Plešné jezero has never been as bad as it is today. The bark beetle is already approaching even ordinary forests outside the park,” Mayor Hůlka told Aktuálně.cz.

Zimola is calling for the establishment of a special commission to work out a binding crisis plan.

“If this commission is not set up in a very short period of time, and if the Environment Ministry does not show a willingness to talk to us and really deal with the situation, then I am ready to declare a state of emergency on the territory of Šumava in line with the crisis law,” Zimola said.

Bark beetles will destroy 1.5% of Šumava forests
The mayor said he based his statements on conclusions by a team of experts. “The measures allowed in the non-intervention areas of the park are insufficient and inefficient. The methods applied there are of a research nature,” commission member Josef Vovesný said.

“The standing system of care promoted by the management of Šumava national park and supported by the Environment Ministry and by environmental movements is leading to the fatal devastation of Šumava, with huge consequences,” said Vovesný.

National park head František Krejčí said no scientist and no expert in forest ecology was among the team members, however.

“We have a higher bark beetle occurrence in Šumava now, but it is not a disaster,” Krejčí told Aktuálně.cz. This year, bark beetle will affect 1.2%–1.5% of forests in Šumava, he said.

Environment Ministry spokesman Jakub Kašpar said that the non-intervention policy is only applied in the most valuable zones of the park, in the top parts of the spruce groves. The forest regenerates naturally in those areas.

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