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Opportunities for the land stewardship approach in the Czech Republic.

While the state continues to play a strong role in nature conservation in the Czech Republic (vis. the 1992 post-revolutionary Act No. 114 on Nature and Landscape Conservation), a review of history reveals a tradition of private conservation. For example, virgin forests in the Novohradske Hory and Sumava mountains were declared nature reserves by private landowners a full century before the state established national parks. Under the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1939), all protected areas were established and owned by private conservation associations, which grew and flourished during this period. A recognition of these historical roots gives our current efforts to promote and develop land stewardship in the Czech Republic a stronger position from which to build public support, as we can draw not only on experience from abroad, but also from our own country.

Key land conservation challenges in the Czech Republic during the current post-communist period include: i) abandonment of extensive agricultural practices leading to loss of landscape diversity and the depopulation of rural areas; ii) uncontrolled development in suburban and recreational areas and along traffic corridors; iii) lack of a pro-active nature conservation policy to respond to new development pressures; iv) insufficient economic resources for nature conservation, for example, protected areas management, compensation of landowners and acquisition of new reserves; v) ongoing restitution of agricultural and forested land; vi) lack of coordination of policies between agricultural and environmental ministries; and vii) limited strategic planning and coordination among NGOs, which play an increasingly substantial role in the management of protected areas.

Development of stewardship in the Czech Republic is a priority for the Environmental Partnership for Central Europe. As a result of fellowships, study-tours, workshops and exchanges on stewardship, conducted in cooperation with QLF/Atlantic Center for the Environment over the past four years, NGO leaders, mayors and landowners are bringing the stewardship concept to life at the local and national levels. The Ministry of Environment recently established an official advisory committee on land trusts. Activities now underway include: a feasibility study on the legal and institutional basis for land trusts; strategic planning assistance to NGOs launching land conservation programs; establishment of two model land trusts; and a public campaign on land stewardship.

Miroslav Kundrata is Director of the Environmental Partnership for Central Europe in the Czech Republic, Panska 9, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic, Tel +4205-42218350, Fax +4205-4221-0561 E-mail:
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Author:Kundrata, Miroslav
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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