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How we drive rare wood grouse out of forests.

Foresters plant too many trees in bare areas, subsequently destroying the natural habitat of western capercaillie (or wood grouse, Tetrao urogallus).One of the symbols of Slovak forests, the wood grouse (Tetrao urogallus), has been dying out for more than 30 years.

In 1973, around 3,700 of these birds lived in Slovakia but the most recent data estimates their are less than 900 left. Environmentalists say the population keeps declining.

Creating protected bird areas fails to stabilise the population of grouses as there is no guarantee that these protected areas will not be logged. In recent weeks, intense logging has taken place in places like the protected bird area on the borders of the Muranska Planina (plane) national park.

"Wood grouse cannot survive on vast clearings left after logging," photographer and environmentalist, Karol Kalisky says. A grouse is relatively clumsy and weighs around three kilograms as an adult so in cleared areas, they cannot defend themselves against predators.

Dense forests are not suitable for them, either. To take flight and defend themselves effectively, grouse need enough space.

If the trees are too close to each other, a grouse hits branches and can break its wings, ultimately falling prey to their predators once again.A dense forestWithin the debate on wood logging in national parks, foresters argue that they plant the same number of trees they log.

Environmentalists who fight for the salvation of wood grouse see the problem, however, in such afforestation as the man-planted forest is much denser than a natural one."If the trees are too close to each other, they grow faster, as they try to get as much light as possible," dendrologist Hana Strasiftakova explains.

According to activists, this is why foresters plant the trees close to each other. Moreover, trees planted like this grow straight, without bigger side branches.

For wood processors, this means that they have at their disposal good-quality and straight roundwood without gnarls, which can be easily processed and also traded. This method of logging and replacing is not a problem in commercial forests but in national parks, natural biotopes cannot be renewed in this way.

Today, there are less than 900 western capercaillies in Slovakia 40 years ago, there were more than 3,500 of them in the country."You really mean the thing with the trees? We would like to hear specific arguments from you, which will prove your claim," answered the communication section of the Agriculture Ministry.

But even after the current state of matters was described, the ministry failed to answer the question directly.Saving the grouseIn the last 10 years, more than 6,700 hectares of spruce forests were logged in the Low Tatras alone, destroying an apt habitat for the grouse, the civic association (OZ) Prales (i.

e. Primaeval Forest) writes on its website.

"Due to logging, at least 24 mating areas were demolished," Martin Mikolas of OZ Prales adds.The Environmental Ministry is currently working on a programme that will save wood grouse in the years 2018-2022. Originally, the concept was slated to be ready next spring.

"We are going down the path of preserving the natural biotope of wood grouse so that they can continue to live in the wild," ministry spokesman Tomas Ferenak claims.This year, the government approved the Programme of Care for Protected Bird Area, Horna Orava (Upper Orava) where the wood grouse has mating areas.

The sense in such measures is questionable, however, as not even the protected bird area can prevent logging of calamity wood which threatens grouses the most."If we do not stop logging in old mountain forests immediately, then wood grouse will totally disappear from our forests," said Karol Kalisky, environmentalist and photographer.

For localities with occasional sightings of wood grouse, it is already too late."Memorandum on forestsOn November 30, the Agriculture Ministry announced that it has launched a debate with the Environmental Ministry on the National Memorandum on Forests.

The Environmental Ministry sent this memorandum to its agricultural counterpart back in September and is still waiting for an official answer. But the Agriculture Ministry's version differs from that of the Environmental Ministry in many ways.

For example, the ministries have differing opinions on how forests should be managed."I cannot agree with the opinion that the care for forests, especially in protected areas, should not change it should be precisely the other way round," Ferenak opined.

According to him, the basis for the September proposal suggests that in the most precious protected areas, environmental protection should take precedence over economic interests connected with wood logging.This point has not been reflected in the draft memorandum of the Agriculture Ministry.

11. Dec 2017 at 10:04 |By Peter Kapitan
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Publication:Slovak Spectator (Bratislava, Slovakia)
Date:Dec 11, 2017
Words:866
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