View the area that activists are currently working at: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Modrava,+Czech+Republic&hl=en&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=37.819897,79.013672&vpsrc=0&t=m&z=12
Sumava is the biggest and strictly protected natural park in the Czech Republic. It has had to repeatedly face attacks on its strict level of ecosystem preservation. Local business lobbyists backed by political pressures would prefer to see Sumava open to the construction of ski resorts and infrastructure for mass tourism. Therefore, a wild, difficult to access forest obviously does not correspond with such a vision.
It is usually bark beetle calamity that repeatedly raises controversy around the issue of “to cut or not to cut”. In a strong simplification, the bark beetle attacks the trees and kills them. The traditional forest management approach pushes for cutting infected trees to prevent the beetle from spreading. The modern environment-friendly approach suggests to leave nature to deal with itself – some of the temporary generations of trees will die, but in turn will provide cover for a new generation of trees, that will grow stronger and more resilient to any future bark beetle infestations. However, in clear-cut areas which are unprotected from further destruction by storms and wind, new generations of human-planted trees grow to be too weak for resisting future beetle attacks.
The Czech law is clear – any intervention in the protected areas of natural parks that can significantly impact the local ecosystem is prohibited. In extreme cases, exceptions can be granted. In Summer 2011, there was a large logging intervention, but no accompanying legal permission.
This act triggered activist protests which insisted that companies follow the law. In order to prevent illegal cutting, activists started blocking the cutting themselves. Blockades triggered a massive police intervention that attempted to push activists out of the forest. It took four weeks of chaining, tubing, and arrests. The forest was not saved, but one of the goals– to draw the public attention and raise discussion around this issue– was successful.
Who is involved: Hnuti Duha (Rainbow Movement) - Friends of the Earth Czech Republic, had the protection of the Sumava National park in its core programs since early nineties. The scope of activities ranges from political lobbying, policymaking, awareness raising and campaigning to (in very extreme cases) direct nonviolent action. Early after the cutting started in June 2011, Hnuti Duha was banned by the court from organizing any protest in the area, therefore, the operation became selforganzied by activists independently. Nevertheless, Hnuti Duha is currently the leading actor in the environmental damage assessment and undertakes the legal actions against the management of the natural park.
What is needed: Once the chainsaws went silent, and the police left the forest, the time for proper documentation of the damage had come. Experts observed the cut trees, many of which actually were not attacked by the bark beetle at all. Simultaneously, visual and geographic documentation took place from a ground perspective.
As it stands today (Autumn 2011), after almost 6,000 trees were cut, the inspection by the Ministry of Environment finally took place, investigating whether the cutting intervention did significantly impact the local ecosystem or not. We now have our own evidence that will be used for three purposes: First, to document the scale of damage. Second, to observe during time how much of the wood will remain in place (despite the fact that the majority of the wood mass should remain on spot, every single tree was cut into logs of precisely 4.1 meters in size, a standard size for trucks. It wouldn’t be the first time when such high-quality wood “disappeared” suddenly). It is the third purpose that is most important – this sends a clear message that we are watching, and that no further logging operation will remain covered-up.
Regardless if the cutting is over for now, there is a need for continuous observation to prevent any further illegal action. The ability to set up a reporting system together with rapid data aggregation and visualization can significantly improve the efficiency, outreach and coordination of the campaign. Our Grassroots Mapping operation is supporting the campaign of Hnuti Duha.
Resulting from the lack of maps and databases, it was our objective to support only the protest first, but soon started evolving into long-term and more comprehensive support. The data collected and the interactive maps aim to target multiple groups and stakeholders - for Hnuti Duha it is to create documentation in time and in order to provide a visualized data repository for future reference and possible legal action. The audience is also the general public, media, hoping to gradually develop a publicly accessible reporting system.
Short and Long-Term Goals: In case there are future protests, we aim to have accessible platforms able to be the go to place for independent activists joining the protest in order to provide them with timely information, situational updates and ready to print maps.
A long-term goal is to provide an online system for reporting, data aggregation and visualization related to threats of environmental damage in Sumava Natural Park.
Jaroslav Valuch (@jvaluch) is the lead for this site and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.