GB No. 2(13)/94



As it is known, every biosphere reserve consists of 3 basic zones: a central or so-called "core" zone, a transition zone, and a buffer zone. To simplify, the operating principles of a biosphere reserve are based on maximum nature preservation and non-interference in the core zone and on creating possibilities of fair existence for the population inhabiting the remaining two zones. In Bieszczady, those zones comprise the Ci¶niańsko-Wetliński, San Valley, and Otryt Valley landscape parks.

The past decades have proved that there is no sense in developing industry, agriculture, and even cattle breeding in those areas. Bieszczady's forestry is increasingly a losing venture, sucking money out of the state budget and thereby tax-payers pockets in the form of huge government subsidies, on the level of 1 billion zloties per thousand hectares of wood a year.

While keeping in mind that the flora and fauna of the Carpathian Mountains (of which Bieszczady is only a small part) determine the biodiversity of the European continent, we should also consider the most important matter: the threat of a water shortage in Poland. This threat will soon become apparent -- maybe even in our generation. It will be painful and will have tremendous consequences. The threat which in many low-lying regions of Poland has already become reality will dramatically grow. Already, groundwater depletion and pollution is becoming a problem whose significance cannot be overestimated. The plant cover in the mountains from which our rivers flow plays an important role in retaining water from precipitation.

We are not a second Kuwait. We will not be able to afford to buy water. To protect the populations of Wielkopolska, Mazowsze, Silesia, Łódż, Stalowa Wola, and Warsaw against disaster we will -- probably in the next 60 years -- have to make some drastic decisions: Decisions to abandon agriculture in the Beskidy area. Decisions to afforest hundreds of thousands or millions of hectares of land situated in the mountains, and to resettle the previous users more to the north, or at least to effectively halt further population growth in these mountain areas.

In this situation the only chance for the present inhabitants of Southeastern Poland is to develop the tourist industry in areas adjacent to Bieszczady National Park -- which is to say, in the above- mentioned landscape parks and the Solina Lagoon Landscape Park. The tourist industry should guarantee the creation of a sufficient number of jobs. It is extremely important to attain a decent civilization and population level in a well-balanced way not harming the natural environment. photo

A fundamental condition for the proper functioning of a biosphere reserve is the minimization of human activity in the core zone, which means NOT INVESTING in buildings and consequently in social infrastructure in the Bieszczady National Park area.

Unfortunately, in Bieszczady it is exactly the opposite!!!

In the core zone, in Ustrzyki Górne, a grand hotel and a parochial house (although there is no parish ) were built (see the picture). There is now a considerably increased army of national park employees to whom official flats were assured, and these flats are in places where they should not even exist because they are in the central zone of the biosphere reserve.

At the same time, little attention is paid to the fact that the most precious and valuable parts of Bieszczady from a natural and landscape point of view are being irretrievably destroyed. These are the valleys in which villages like Krywe, Hulskie, Wołosate, and Tworylne were located, according to Walachian law. These valleys have been deserted for half a century, and the rivers and mountain streams are once again running wild. They are the last real "bieszczads" in Bieszczady. And these are the bieszczads -- spelled with a small "b"-- which should be especially protected. They were the greatest tourist attraction in this part of Europe. Tourists from New Zealand, Japan, and Canada were coming to see them. Sir Edmund Hillary, a conquerer of Mount Everest, admired them, too.

And this part of Bieszczady is being destroyed before our eyes and with our money by ruthless and arrogant bureaucrats who are wasting the last chance of the inhabitants of Bieszczady (with a big "B") for improving their standard of living through tourism development.

Unfortunately, this truth has never appealed to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources, and Forestry; the management of Bieszczady National Park; the Voivodeship Nature Conservator; or the Regional Management of State Woods from Krosno. The deputy minister responsible for forestry and the executive director of State Woods were recalled from their posts. The General Nature Conservator resigned.

The mechanism created by nature protection bureaucrats is still working and efficiently sucks from the budget and hence taxpayers' pockets hundreds of million zloties, allowing the devastation of that which is most precious in Bieszczady -- the bieszczads. It should be stopped immediately!

During 1991-93, the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Economy set aside 32 billion, 582 million zł for financial support of nature preservation projects in Bieszczady National Park. In 1991 it was 650 million, in 1992 - 27.882 billion and in 1993 - 4.050 billion. The "agreement was estimated" at this amount. The sum actually paid as of December 15, 1993 amounted to 19 billion, 458 million zł.

At the same time, Poleski National Park --which includes a complex of swamps and peatbogs unique in Europe -- received from the same fund a mere 50 million zł, or 600 times -- yes, 600 times -- less than the sum designated for Bieszczady National Park. This reflects BNP's exceptional position as the central zone (core) of the International Biosphere Reserve in the Eastern Carpathians. But if we are dealing with a Biosphere Reserve, as was just said, all future investments should be located outside the Bieszczady National Park!

What did they spend 19 billion for, and for what do they intend to spend an additional 32 billion? Unfortunately, both the park management and the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources, and Forestry have refused information concerning this matter.

Bieszczady's Yearbook (Volume I, 1992, page 78) revealed a fragmentary list of amounts spent for the "correct functioning of the park." The most important item (several billion) was used to fund the Bieszczady National Park Protection Plan. The park managers wanted to extend the park's area and that was positive, but spending so much money on producing a plan is a case of glaring uneconomical management, especially since "new" borders of the park do not yet exist and "old ones" will be changed.

Most unnecessary was spending so many billions on constructing and furnishing exclusive "guest rooms" in unfinished buildings left by IGLOOPOL in Wołosate. These buildings should simply have been dismantled. The rooms were approved ahead of time as "scientific research posts." Such posts should certainly not have been there, just like the whole Wołosate building. And the "guest rooms" could have been set up at empty Workers' Hotels in Smolnik, Zatwarnica, Tarnawa, or Muczne.

Nature protection is an important matter. Naturalists from various specializations generally study materials collected in the field in the privacy of their offices and laboratories in Cracow, Lublin, and Warsaw. In Bieszczady the most eager live in tents, and they should continue to do so, like their colleages exploring the Canadian taiga or the Amazon jungle. "Guest rooms" at Wołosate are surely needed for ministerial "nature protection experts" for whom the more than a dozen kilometers-long approach to Tarnawa or Zatwarnica could be difficult. All right, let the employer pay for it. But under no circumstances should those buildings have been located in the central zone of a Biosphere Reserve. Putting it mildly, it was a great misunderstanding to spend billions of zloties from the National Environmental Fund for this purpose -- but it happened.

I am not an authority on any natural sciences, but I dare say that in the case of Bieszczady, Polish science and Polish scientists have made many mistakes in the past:

A shameful change of geographical names was approved by the then president of Jagiellonian University.

Assessment of the cutting mass and the resulting decison to build a timber industry combine in Ustianowa (which was an aborted investment from the beginning) was carried out and endorsed by an outstanding specialist and professor whose name can be found in many manuals and encyclopedias.

Titled scientists and consulting groups approved a completely insane location in the mountains for no-litter cattle breeding farms.

Idiotic ideas that an alder is "a forest weed" caused a "weed-killing" by means of bulldozers and explosives. And this also had the approval of scientists.

Of course we can say that this is the fault of a bygone system which corrupted people and a disaster of professional ethics treated as a "vestige of the past."

We can assume, although at a quite great risk, that nowadays the situation has undergone radical improvement and we are dealing with perfect, unselfish scientists who are not connected with any of the interest groups.

We can accept the decisions of the Bieszczady National Park management to commision certain groups of scientists and experts and not others to produce some studies whose estimated costs are billions of zloties. Of course, we can do that.

Nevertheless, there is one question left: In Bieszczady, in a region where on average every week somebody takes his own life because of misery, hopelessness, and lack of prospects, so many billions are being spent on scientific research which for sure will not win a Nobel prize and which could be moved along. Is this fair ? Is this consistent with any principles of Christian ethics?

Bieszczady National Park has received the above-mentioned subsidy intended to finance projects connected with nature preservation in a Biosphere Reserve. At the beginning they should elaborate efficient methods of employment restructuring of the population in rural districts situated in the transition and buffer zone of the Reserve (i.e. the populations of Cisna, Lutowiska and Czarna).

Unfortunately, so far nothing has been done. The representative of the Park's Scientific Council found the proposal of extending the Council to include sociologists and economists who could take care of the Bieszczady region's population problems to be absurd.

But I think she was wrong. Bieszczady's inhabitants do not want to be the only recipients of the manna falling down from ministerial heaven. They do not want to reach out a hand in order to feed and dress their own children. In a democratic country, as taxpayers they have the constitutional right to know to whom and for what money is being paid. They also have the right to change the priority of spending, and they should use that right.

Witold St. Michałowski
ZB 2 (56), p 19

GB No. 2(13)/94 | Contents