GB No. 3, winter 1990/91
Ecologically-minded people in Zakopane were shocked when they heard, in January, about the plan for intensive exploitation of the area around Kasprowy Wierch: new ski-lifts are to be built, thus increasing the number of skiers by a factor of five. Now we have a new danger facing the Tatra Mountains that is connected with agriculture; sheep-breeding to be exact. About 170,000 sheep are kept in this region, and it's necessary to find pastures for about 50,000 of them. Previously they were transported to the pastures of other Polish mountain regions - in summer to the Bieszczady mountains and the Sudeten ones. But the state has ceased to subsidize the railway network. The cost of renting a railway carriage, in which 120 sheep may be transported, amounts to 4 mln zł. People in the villages of the Tatra region propose to let those sheep graze in the Tatra mountains because "it will be cheaper". Now there are some sheep on Tatra meadows but it's so called "cultural" grazing - its purpose is keep up the tradition of sheep-breeding in the region. The rule is 5 sheep for a hectare. In the period 1942-47 about 12,000-26,000 sheep were allowed to pasture in the Tatra mountains, but this far exceeds the real possibilities existing in the region. We have to remember that the grass was healthier and stronger then; its ability to regenerate was much better than it is now. When the grazing herd is too big, it not only causes too much damage to the living structure of the biological system, but it's also a question of losing the biological balance. Some types of plants are vanishing, while others, usually those less important, are growing too much. At the same time, oversize herds are destroying the thin layer of soil, causing the erosion of the slopes. After 1947 the number of sheep grazing in Tatra National Park diminished; in 1979 there were no sheep there at all. Because of the protests coming from various groups, especially those connected with the Union of the Mountaineers, the sheep returned.
"Cultural" grazing was set up, and now it functions for about 1000-2000 sheep. Experts from the Tatra National Park say that this number is correct and shouldn't be increased.
The Union of Mountaineers is now trying to double the number of pastures. Some shepherds are even talking about feeding their animals in the mountains without any permission. An additional problem is connected with the fact that in 1960 many owners were expelled from their land - now they want to regain it, feeling morally entitled to its exploitation.
I've tried to show the arguments of both sides. Can we solve this prob- lem without either the shepherds or the Tatra mountains.
ZB no. 4(10)/90