Reaction to the article: Hunting practice is the core of the dispute over the Křivoklátsko National Park
It is the aim of this post, to set the right balance for a whole series of statements that were made in the original text, having been published on the Ecolist website, and which refers to hunting as the key (core) of the entire controversy over the establishment of the Křivoklátsko National Park.
Right at the beginning of the article by authors Libor Ambrozek and Jaroslav Obermajer, it is emphasized that they provide a rational view of the issue of the long-term rejection of the proposal for the creation of the Křivoklátsko National Park. However, this must be unequivocally rejected.
The authors conceived their text as a one-sided promotion to support the creation of a national park. In the following few points, it is quite clear why the issue of hunting is only a proxy problem.
We can get an idea of the history of hunting (and thus also the real conditions) of cloven-hoofed game in Křivoklátsko during the period of the Fürstenberks from the hunting report compiled by Rudolf Maxera for the period 1814–1913. In that century, a total of 17 576 red deers, 2 275 wild boars and 17 671 roe deers were hunted on the Křivoklát manor. And that was in times when the total number of hoofed game was many times lower than nowadays and when it was much more difficult to come across animals, or even to hunt them.
In addition, game was hunted with incomparably worse weapons. The hunters of that time did not have thermal sight sights or night vision devices, and yet they achieved respectable catches. This clearly proves that the game had a significant influence on the formation and development of the current forest ecosystems, which reached the state of the forest that we now want to protect!
Now, let us compare the historical data with the current state. For example, in the central part of Křivoklátsko, a total of 1 254 ungulates were hunted on 9 999 ha of hunting land in 2022. The number of game hunted per 100 ha is therefore 12.54, which is more than twice as much as the average value for the rest of the territory of the Czech Republic. At the same time, almost eight times more game is hunted in Křivoklátsko at an area of 100 ha, than, for example, in Šumava National Park, which cannot be characterized as a failure of hunting management.
However, the problem of the high number of ungulates is not a specific problem for Křivoklátsko, but for the entire Czech Republic. So should the entire Czech Republic become a national park? By the logic of the authors of the original article, yes. But is it not possible to solve possible situations with an increased number of ungulates in other ways?
Of course, it can be solved differently. On the basis of demonstrably established abundance, the amount of game hunting can be significantly increased in specific hunting areas. However, if this is not happening, should we interpret the current situation as a failure of the simultaneously set management of the Protected Landscape Area (CHKO-PLA) Křivoklátsko, which does not implement possible increases in hunting plans?
Of course, the extent of hunting cannot be the only criterion for assessment of the success of hunting management. Success or failure can rather be evaluated based on the state of the forest. Let’s look at some data that was also not mentioned in the article.
In 2010 and 2016, the Nature and Landscape Agency (Agentura přírody a krajiny) itself repeatedly had the study “The influence of wildlife on the state of forest ecosystems in the Křivoklátsko PLA” („Vliv zvěře na stav lesních ekosystémů v CHKO Křivoklátsko“) prepared. The results of the study show that damages caused by game are above the national average, but in the period between the investigations, there was a significant decrease in the intensity of damage caused by new game browsing in forest stands. As part of the inventory trials in the Křivoklátsko area, it was found that between the NIL1 and NIL2 measurements, there was a reduction in damage to the forest by game, and an increasing natural representation of forest tree species was also proven.
In the article, there are also published photos of damaged trees on the locality in Křivoklátsko. But anyone, who moves through the forest, knows well, that animal damage can be found practically everywhere. In the case of the establishment of a national park, the right to hunt would be exercised by the national park administration. So is it possible to assume, that there is no damage caused by animals in the territories of national parks? This is most certainly not the case.
For your interest, we attach photos of damaged forest stands from NP České Švýcarsko and NP Podyjí. If we consider Křivoklátsko to be an extremely valuable area that was created by the cooperation of nature and man, then we should rather think about how to improve the current situation even more, and not go the way of measures of the national park administration, consisting in limiting hunting activities.
Photo: Damages caused by game in NP České Švýcarsko (left) and NP Podyjí (right); archive of authors
In the proposal for the announcement of the National Park Křivoklátsko, there are enlisted measures for the regulation of cloven-hoofed game, which should consist mainly of adjusting the numbers (especially cloven-hoofed game and wild boars game), when the game care plan is not based on a breeding approach, but aims to adjust the age structure and sex ratio and achieve minimizing the negative impact of game on ecosystems.
In the case of non-native game species (mouflon, sika deer, or fallow deer), the goal is their effective reduction in a short time. This can be achieved again by increasing game hunting in existing hunting areas. Unfortunately, the plan does not specify how these goals are to be achieved, so their achievement is not guaranteed. With regard to the mentioned statistics of hunting in the territory of Křivoklátsko and in the national parks, we may have some doubts as to whether the goals set by this route are feasible in practice.
As for the strategy to reduce the number of cloven-hoofed game in the national parks, it has certainly not yet yielded very satisfactory results. From the records of hunting licenses and hunting activities in the Czech Republic as of April 1, 2022, it is indicated that we would need 270 average hunters to achieve the goals set out in the plan to declare Křivoklátsko National Park. Will the possible management of the park have the personnel capacity to cope with this situation, or is it possible, on the contrary, to legitimately worry about the subsequent increase in the population of cloven-hoofed game on the territory of the National Park?
If, in addition, the same approach was not applied in the immediate neighbouring of the NP, game would be concentrated in this area, which would have another drastic impact on the most valuable ecosystems of Křivoklátsko, built over centuries by generations of local foresters and residents. In addition, the management of big carnivores cannot be assumed in the territory of Křivoklátsko, and the reduction of the number of ungulates will still depend only on human activity.
In conclusion, it must be stated that hunting belongs to Křivoklátsko as well as the local forests and foresters, who shaped the local forests for centuries with their activities and achieved the uniqueness of the local forest ecosystems. The problem of resistance against the national park in Křivoklátsko is not related to hunting! Let’s look for this problem, where it is really. An example can be the “Mayors’ Christmas Wish”, which was signed by 45 mayors of Křivoklát municipalities, which are practically all municipalities in the central part of Křivoklátsko.
We completely agree with the authors of the article, that it is important “…to make decisions not only based on the opinions of experts, but also on the opinions of the public (Ambrozek, Obermajer 2023)”. Representatives of the municipalities are bothered by the bad communication from the Ministry of Environment, the content emptiness of the plan (it does not contain any principles of care, zoning, etc.), they also mention the absence of studies on the impact of the NP on the lives of local people, and they also have extremely bad references from municipalities located on the territory of other parks. The result of the pressure on the creation of NP by the Ministry of the Interior is the establishment of the Association of Municipalities of Křivoklátsko, the aim of which is to create a unified negotiation platform that can use all legal instruments to protect the interests of local residents.
It is sad, how some people can find proxy problems for claims, which are not based on exact data. So let us not look for problems where there are none, as is usual in today’s society.
Issued 1. 2. 2023 by following organizations:
- Czech Forest Company (Česká lesnická společnost, z. s.)
- Czech Academy of Agriculture Sciences, Department of Forestry (Česká akademie zemědělských věd, Odbor lesního hospodářství)
- Forest Park Křivoklátsko (Lesnický park Křivoklátsko)
- Civic Initiative Open Křivoklátsko (Občanská iniciativa Otevřené Křivoklátsko)
- Forestry and Game Management Research Institute, Department of Hunting
Contact: Ing. Jan Cukor, Ph.D., VÚLHM, v. v. i, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org