A European Yellowstone Park
A new rewilding project on the borders of Ukraine provides a much needed ray of hope
While our eyes are on Ukraine and the terrible war going on, we are covering a positive conservation story from the region. Near the southwestern border of Ukraine, one of the world's most ambitious rewilding projects is currently being developed - not too far from where the devastating bombs are landing.
In the northern half of Romania, right up to Ukraine’s southwestern border, there is an ambition to create a European Yellowstone park in the Carpathian mountains. We thought we should check it out.
The Foundation Conservativa Carpathia (F.C.C.) was begun in 2009. It is protecting a vast area of the Carpathian forests — by purchasing property, leasing hunting rights, rewilding the land and halting illegal logging. The mountain range runs across southwestern Ukraine and northern Romania.
Eventually the plan is to return their landholdings to the public in the form of a national park based around the Fagaras Mountains, which, sitting alongside the existing Piatra Craiului National Park, would create a chain of parks and a wide-reaching wildlife reserve.
“FCC is involved in creating a new, non-destructive economy around the Făgăraș Mountains, for the benefit of biodiversity and local communities. Once the project is completed, this new National Park should be a world-class wilderness, an icon for conservation in Europe and an emblematic National Park on our continent”.
The area was uniquely preserved under Ceaușescu’s regime. Mostly through neglect and also because of his incredibly bad hunting ability. The stories are that he would go bear hunting but because he was so bad at it his lackeys would make sure that others didn't hunt to keep the game populations high and increase his chances of a kill.
Today it is fast becoming a reserve for some of the largest natural predators in Europe. The only mammals missing from the area are bison and beavers, both keystone species with a positive impact upon biodiversity. They are currently being reintroduced.
So unique in Europe, while other countries are beginning their rewilding efforts trying to return ancient woodlands that have been destroyed, Romania is effectively trying to preserve what still exists.
Romania is home to extensive swaths of old-growth and primeval forests, many of which sit in the Southern Carpathians. These areas are particularly biodiverse — and increasingly threatened. Now they are fighting to keep out big logging operations that are buying pristine forests and clear-cutting. And they are having relative success. Although it is a constant fight and race. But where isn't there friction in rewilding efforts?
The F.C.C. is working on 3 paths: reforesting where needed, wildlife monitoring, and community outreach programmes. At Letts Safari we believe all 3 approaches are vital for successful large scale rewilding and if done right can increase smaller scale efforts as well, simply through awareness and common learning.
And in time the F.C.C may realise their dream of a Carpathian Yellowstone.
In the meantime, this wonderful project can act as a haven for the wildlife sent running for their lives from the bombs devastating southern Ukraine. Truly a story of regional hope. And perhaps, in part, a model for Ukraine to consider as it rebuilds itself after the disgusting war is over.
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