Ekologija| Ekonomija| Putovanja| Sport| Životinjski svet

Downhill for montane conservation

albicilla RSS / 03.04.2009. u 10:23

Across central and south east Europe, coalitions of conservationists and communities are up in arms about the marauding mass of ski resorts currently being developed in ostensibly protected areas, many of them Important Bird Areas. James Lowen investigates.

Ski lift at Stara Planina, Serbia: the State owned Serbia Skiing Enterprise constructed the first ski lift without a prior Environmental Impact Assessment study, violating Serbian law (Segej Ivavnov)


This article first appeared in World Birdwatch, the award-winning magazine from BirdLife International, full of in-depth articles about the work of the BirdLife Partnership and all the latest bird conservation news from around the globe. For more information and for details on how to subscribe visit http://www.birdlife.org/

The skier jinks off the black run, heading off piste. Hurtling downhill, he flushes a large black bird hiding from predators in an ‘igloo' in the snow. Adrenalin flowing and forced to burn valuable calories, the Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix flees for the safety of a remaining forest fragment.

Neither skier nor grouse are alone. Rising living standards and cheaper air travel underlie the recent explosion of winter sports across Europe. As demand for snowy slopes multiplies, skiers head farther afield for pristine pistes. And  governments and developers are whizzing down the metaphorical black run to supply them, riding roughshod over legality, financial sustainability and biodiversity in the process.

The appeal is clear. Skiing often takes place in economically disadvantaged, rural areas that benefit greatly from tourist euros. Many European public authorities prioritise ski tourism infrastructure in regional development plans. The problems now are the scale, pace and location of construction.

The wintry conflict between developers and governments on one side and, on the other, committed conservationists (including BirdLife Partners) reaches its peak in national parks the length of the Carpathian, Balkan and Rilo-Rhodopean Mountains in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. These ostensibly protected areas are of international importance for wildlife conservation in what Boris Barov, BirdLife's European Conservation Manager, calls "Europe's best-preserved montane biodiversity and ecosystems". Almost all are Important Bird Areas (IBAs), housing several Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs; see box).

Fears of an impending environmental blight are wellfounded. Research in western Europe demonstrates that ski tourism has profoundly harmful impacts on habitats and species. For Antonio Rolando, a leading researcher in the field, ski resort development is currently "one of the most detrimental anthropogenic threats to alpine bird communities".

Forests, other montane vegetation and soils are bulldozed and fragmented to make way for pistes and access infrastructure. The results are incontrovertible: plant and bird diversity and density are lower on and near ski pistes relative to undisturbed areas. SPECs such as Crested Tit Parus cristatus shun the newly created forest edge, while others such as Wood Lark Lullula arborea and Redbacked Shrike Lanius collurio avoid ski runs, probably because of their lower arthropod richness and abundance.

It also takes little to upset the finely tuned physiology characterising animals inhabiting alpine habitats. Grouse appear particularly susceptible. Disturbance by snowboarders has been shown to elevate stress hormone levels in Black Grouse; densities around ski resorts are a third lower than elsewhere. Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta breeding success is lower near ski infrastructure. Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus has become extinct near numerous Alpine ski stations, a phenomenon that Josef Ridzon, Conservation Manager at SOS/BirdLife Slovakia, fears may be replicated in Slovakia: "if the situation with ski resorts does not change soon, Capercaillie may join the list of extinctions in some mountains".

In a recent study, the World Wildlife Fund found that nearly 50 ski resorts have been constructed or are planned for evidently unsafe havens in the Carpathians. The areas targeted are theoretically conserved by overlapping international categorisations (such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites), national designations (national parks) and, for European Union Member States, Community legislation (such as the Natura 2000 network of Special Protected Areas [or SPAs] and Special Areas of Conservation [or SACs]). Yet ski-resort developers and governments are sidestepping legal obligations, paying mere lip service to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and ignoring calls for public participation.

The scale of development beggars belief. Of 100 sites identified by the Romanian government's ‘Ski in Romania' initiative, half are in SACs and a fifth in SPAs. In Slovakia, 30 developments are proposed, the largest being in Slovak Paradise National Park. This project is likely to be subsidised by EU Structural Funds so European taxpayers and institutions may unknowingly finance a wildlife calamity. In Ukraine, a massive ski complex costing €3 billion is being constructed near the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve.

Their ire ignited by the private and public sectors' flagrant disregard for legality and transparency, conservationists along the Carpathians and beyond have leapt into action. In Bulgaria, the most deleterious developments have prompted public outcry. Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for 25 years, now hosts the Bansko Ski Resort. In 2006, the Save Pirin NGO coalition, whose members include BSPB (BirdLife in Bulgaria), released a damning report that tarred Bansko as "one of the most calamitous environmental crimes in Bulgaria in the last 15 years". The report's authors concluded that the government's EIA decisions breached national and international legislation, and that the developer had violated every requirement of those flawed decisions.

Nevertheless, Bansko opened Bulgaria's floodgates, developers surmising that they need not worry about legal niceties  in their quest for a fast buck. Next, the government overruled legal objections to construction of a ski lift and access road in Rila National Park. This incited a grassroots group, Citizens for Rila, to present more than 160,000 signatures opposing the project to Community institutions, and complain to the European Commission regarding Bulgaria's contravention of EU nature legislation. For David Morand, President of France-Rila, this "scandalous, ecologically irresponsible and illegal" ski resort has "broken dozens of European and Bulgarian laws".

In Slovakia, IBAs such as High Tatras National Park are under threat. Five ski areas are currently being developed, prompting the European Commission to investigate the impacts of development in Natura 2000 sites. For Jozef Ridzon, ski resorts could be the proverbial straw that breaks the Slovakian Carpathians' camelid back: "Many mountainous regions are already threatened by intensive forest management, and are starting to suffer from climate change. Ski resorts are the next negative element".

February 2008: Stara Planina, Serbia, only partially covered in snow. Given future climate predictions this scenario will be become more commonplace decreasing the shelf life of new resorts (Luka Rubinjoni)

In Serbia, the Government has given the green light to a resort for 40,000 skiers in Stara Planina Nature Park, another IBA. Some 3,000 hectares of coniferous forests and montane meadows-home to scarce birds such as Saker Falcon Falco cherrug (Endangered), Corncrake Crex crex (Near Threatened) and the Balkans' only breeding Eurasian Dotterel Eudromius morinellus-face clearance. A coalition of 60 NGOs has formed the Association for Preservation and Sustainable Development of Stara Planina to oppose the development, lobbying senior politicians, filing legal objections and organising an online petition. "If the plans go ahead, the greatest loser will be the park's wildlife because it cannot move elsewhere", explains Dragan Simić, vice-chair of the League for Ornithological Action of Serbia. "Ski resorts are to mountains what tropical strangler figs are to their host trees, enveloping them until final asphyxiation."

Ski resort problems go beyond illegality and biodiversity loss. Throughout the Carpathians and even into Greece, opponents contend that the promised socio-economic benefits of development will never materialise. Previously supportive, a third of Bansko citizens now feel worse off due to the development; a further half perceive no benefit. Protesters at Stara Planina disagree that ski development will improve local living standards: "there will not be many jobs for the local population", argues Dragan Simić, "once built, the ski centre will leave locals aside". Simić and collaborators calculate that the €31 million that the Serbian government had originally budgeted for resort development during 2008 would be sufficient for 500 households to establish a sustainable agro-tourism business.

Scepticism of sustainability is widespread. Almost all Carpathian resorts are being planned for altitudes below 1,500 m. Should predictions about warming temperatures be accurate, the resorts' physical shelf life will be much shorter than developers and governments envisage. Rather than providing financially sustainable contributions to local livelihoods, "climate change places serious doubt on the long-term economic viability of and justification for new ski resorts in  southern Europe", argues Boris Barov.

But there is good news too. The tide of public opinion is turning: 80% of Bulgarians now oppose further construction in national parks. Environmental awareness is also rising among Europe's skiing community: the Ski Club of Great Britain publishes a Green resort guide that assesses resorts' efforts to minimise adverse environmental impacts, candidly detailing objections to Bansko. Critically, conservation coalitions are getting their collective voice heard in the seat of European power. In 2007, the European Court of Justice ruled that Italy had failed to assess the environmental impact of works to modify ski runs in Stelvio National Park, a Special Protection Area and IBA-a judgement that serves as a warning to new Member States. In October 2008, a European Parliament delegation visited Bulgaria, examining the devastation wrought at Rila. The following month, the European Commission bared its teeth at Bulgaria, opening infringement proceedings for (non-ski resort) construction projects in the Kaliakra Special Protection Area, a signal that lawmakers will not tolerate further contravention of the Birds Directive.

Like all national and local conservation organisations, BirdLife Partners have been stymied by governments and developers colluding behind closed doors before emerging with illegal faits accomplis. But the Partnership is now sharing its experiences, strengthening its role and clarifying its Europewide demands. BirdLife wants ski resort development and expansion to adhere to environmental legislation on impact assessment and to avoid protected areas. Overall, says Boris Barov, the Partnership "seeks a significant reduction in the number and size of planned resorts". Due to collaboration between BirdLife Partners and others, a chink of blue is now appearing in the otherwise leaden sky above the Carpathians' reserves-cumresorts. That Black Grouse may yet return to its igloo, unmolested, while the skier slaloms elsewhere.

Some Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs) affected by ski resort developments in the Carpathians

Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush
Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush
Crna roda Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Riđi mišar Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, Zmijar Short-toed Snake-eagle Circaetus gallicus, Orao kliktaš Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, Suri orao Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Stepski soko Saker Falcon Falco cherrug (Endangered), Prdavac Corncrake Crex crex (Near Threatened), Ruševac Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix, Jarebica Grey Partridge Perdix perdix, Kamenjarka Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca, Šumska šljuka Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, Buljina Eurasian Eagle-owl Bubo bubo, Leganj Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus, Troprsti detlić Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Stepska trepteljka Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris, Obična crvenrepka Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Kos kamenjar Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush Monticola saxatilis, Šumski zviždak Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix, Ćubasta senica Crested Tit Parus cristatus, Strnadica kamenjarka Rock Bunting Emberiza cia, Konopljarka Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina & Crvenokljuna galica Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax.

BirdLife's five goals

1. A significant reduction in the number and size of planned new ski resorts.

2. No new ski resorts developed in protected areas.

3. Strict, precautionary, transparent and accountable application of environmental legislation.

4. Integrate an assessment of ‘wilderness' quality into the determination of the conservation status of Natura 2000 sites.

5. Inform consumers by raising public and skier awareness of the environmental footprint of ski resorts.

(World Birdwatch)

To read the WWF report on ski resorts visit http://tinyurl.com/b7y23k


Komentari (18)

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Covek u belom Covek u belom 10:59 03.04.2009


There is no single area in Alps that is not covered in snow resorts with very intensive off-piste and back country skiing. And then some agency comes and questions ski resorts in eastern Europe. Comedy...
Seams Alps ski resorts are loosing their customers for cheaper eastern European resorts and it's time to start with another type of campaign, negative marketing this time....
Cheap and sticking out a mile...
49 41 49 41 13:38 03.04.2009

Stara ali prekrasna

Izvinjenje, zog velicine slike.
Radi, dozivljaja.
rastinjak rastinjak 13:41 03.04.2009

Al ti je fazon...

Preporuka za temu, ali na engleskom... Ništa, moraću večeras da se udubim u čitanje, pa nov komentar
49 41 49 41 14:04 03.04.2009

Bio ubedjen

decenijama; da se otac rodio u nekoj vukojebini na Staroj Planini.
Sad vidim, da sam ja rodjen u gratskoj vukojebini.

Babin Zub - Stara Planina
gorran2 gorran2 15:07 03.04.2009

Re: Bio ubedjen

Ova dekorativna cvetnica sa slike zove se kiprovina ili vrbica (chamaenerion angustifolium).
Jelica Greganović Jelica Greganović 12:17 04.04.2009

I mnogo je lepa

leopold_lady leopold_lady 19:41 03.04.2009

Volim ....

tvoje tekstove,a i slike nisu loše - samo sam umorna da razmišljam na engleskom sada ....

- i prelepe slike kako tvoje,tako i ostalih blogera ....
albicilla albicilla 21:52 03.04.2009

Re: Volim ....

pomislio sam da u srbiju stigne tek nekoliko primeraka tog casopisa, a da tekst predstavlja problematiku ugrozavanja najveceg i najocuvanijeg rezervata u srbiji iz znatno sire perspektive, te da ga vredi pribliziti citaocima
rastinjak rastinjak 22:31 03.04.2009

Stručnjaci i ''Eksperti''

Na žalost našim političarima su puna usta '' održivog razvoja'' , ovu priču sa ski stazama pokrenuo je i izgurao šef naši ''eksperata''. Žičare i ski staze , em su ''fensi'' em može da bude i koja kinta za ugrađivanje. Što bi on lomio vrat sa 500 domaćinstava koje treba da pomogne da se okrenu pružanju usluga u turizmu, em veći posao em nema ništa sa strane. Bolje im je ovako, dok su na vlasti mazni lovu, za posle videćemo
albicilla albicilla 09:13 04.04.2009

Re: Stručnjaci i ''Eksperti''

find out more on the same subject at fatbirder.com / jos o istoj temi mozete pronaci i na pticarskom fatbirder.com:

49 41 49 41 12:51 04.04.2009


Konji moji vrani.
U prostor razigrani.
albicilla albicilla 14:19 04.04.2009

Re: Stara

malo je tuzna prica o tim konjima. ako nisam krivo informisan, sada ih vise i nema, a inace su gajeni poludivlje, slobodno lutajuci, da ih vlasnici potom odstrele puskom i prodaju klanici. moz' bit da sam ja krivo informisan, konjima se obicno ne bavim
mirelarado mirelarado 16:38 04.04.2009

Re: Stara

albicilla albicilla 17:10 04.04.2009

Re: Stara

za vodopad ne znam (mislim da nije stara), a pretpostavljam da je pejsaz gore levo zaista stara (lici), ali dole levo je vlasinsko jezero, a u sredini djavolja varos kod kursumlije - i jedno i drugo podaleko od stare
mirelarado mirelarado 19:11 04.04.2009

Re: Stara

za vodopad ne znam (mislim da nije stara), a pretpostavljam da je pejsaz gore levo zaista stara (lici), ali dole levo je vlasinsko jezero, a u sredini djavolja varos kod kursumlije - i jedno i drugo podaleko od stare

За овај пише да је на Старој

49 41 49 41 02:22 05.04.2009

Re: Stara

malo je tuzna prica o tim konjima. ako nisam krivo informisan, sada ih vise i nema, a inace su gajeni poludivlje, slobodno lutajuci, da ih vlasnici potom odstrele puskom i prodaju klanici. moz' bit da sam ja krivo informisan, konjima se obicno ne bavim

Ni ja se ne bavim konjima; ali sada znam - nekad nisam.
Na mnogim visokim planinama, Durmitoru, Bjelasici (iako ih ima tri), deo Maglica, Sar Planini,..
seljaci su zauzeti poljskim radovima. Nemaju vremena i za konje; mahom im u letnjem periodu i nisu tako neophodni.
Sva planinska sela u dogovoru sakupe svoje konje; isteraju na planinsku visoravan sa najsocnijom planinskom travom. Ostave ih tako preko celog leta. Oni se brinu o sebi, pasu i samostite nocu od divljih zivotinja.
Jednom nedeljno, neko od seljaka ode obidje ih i odnese kamenu so; koja im je neophodna za ishranu.

Kad sam se nasao sam; na jednoj prilicno udaljenoj visoravni Durmitora; ugledao krdo 50-tak brdsko planiskuh konja kako pasu.
Bio sam ocaran ambijetnom i pejsazem. Masio sam se za ranac da izvadim aparat; automatski celo krdo koje je mirno paslo prekinulo je ko po komandi - fiksirali i dali se u stampedo ka meni.
Sta da kazem; kakav je osecaj, kad sve tutnji od njihovih kopita.Cekati i biti pregazen od 50-tak konja?!?
Stavio sam zamisljenu crvenu crtu od 15-stak metara; a onda, kao spas uz liticu iza ledja na 10 m.
Na 15, mozda jedva 10m od mene svi su stali ko ukopani. Opet me fiksirali nemo; i to svi!
Zatim su nastavili da mirno pasu i da me ignorisu.
Sad to znam; prvi put na Durmitoru ne.
Kad su mi prisli u galopu; videli da nisam od njihovih i da nema soli; jednostavno su me,...
49 41 49 41 04:58 05.04.2009

Bio iznenadjen

Na drugoj planinskoj visoravni; kad sam takodje, ugledao krdo 30-tak prekrasnih planinskih konjica - bio ocaran pozadinom, bojama prirode i na kraju u svemu tome; konjice - "zalepljene" na to.
Rekao sam sebi snimak za uspomenu i vecno secanje; ali zbog efekta treba im prici bar 100 m.
Potrosio sam vreme da im pridjem - nije mi uspelo. Mirno su pasli i stalno drzali tih od mene - potrebih 100 m rastojanja.
Klizim ja niz visorovan; klize i oni.
Imali su soli od prethodnog dana; ili, prepoznali da nisam njima znano lice.

Nema, albicila divljih konja na Balkanu - ima ljudi!
albicilla albicilla 21:10 05.04.2009

Re: Bio iznenadjen

secam se jedne pesme, objavljene davno u knjizevnom glasniku, jedan moj prijatelj, istoricar i planinar ju je napisao, zao mi je sto je nemam, da je ne prepricavam, vec navedem

govori o varvarima koji su spalili rim - a tako su nezno gladili gubice svojih konja...

koja slika ih bolje odslikava? meni je ona druga, neznost, uvek bila dominantna



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