President Václav Klaus — an avid skier and proponent of the proposed lift linking to Austria — takes in the view of Šumava National Park
Although an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study found that a new ski lift should not be built at Hraničník in Šumava National Park — a biosphere preservation area recognized by UNESCO — unless proven to be greatly in the public interest, Czech Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa has given the controversial project his blessing, as part of a draft park zoning law.
After hearing the opinions of experts, representatives from the region of South Bohemia, parliamentary group chairmen and members of the national park’s board, Chalupa on Wednesday closed the heated discussion about the zoning of Šumava National Park — the size and designations of its protected areas — and agreed to controversial plans to build a new ski lift in Hraničník.
“We did the most we could, but I’m aware that not all leave the meeting fully satisfied,” said Chalupa, a former Prague 6 district mayor (Civic Democrats, ODS). That’s putting it mildly. Environmentalists have strongly objected to the reduction in the “silent zone” protected area of the park, where essentially nothing can be built, and to a new funicular connecting of Šumava National Park to the Austrian ski resort of Hochficht.
Šumava National Park director Jan Stráský (left) with Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa
Under the final draft of the new law, 26.53 percent of the park will be declared part of Zone 1, of which the lion’s share is off-limits to loggers — “an area larger than the total size of the neighboring Baravian Forest National Park,” as Chalupa put it — and a provision that another 8.49 percent of the park could also be restricted in future. In the two other newly defined zones, protection will be less strict. Environmentalists had insisted that at least 30 percent of Šumava National Park be made a part of Zone 1.
Call of the Alps
Hochficht is immensely popular with Czech skiers — some 70,000 holiday there each winter — including the head of state, President Václav Klaus, who has said he wants to be the very first to make the journey. ‘This is such a valuable area from the point of view of natural science that there should be no funicular.’
Jaroslav Vrba of the University of South Bohemia, a member of the shadow scientific council of Šumava National Park said the decision was outrageous. “This is such a valuable area from the point of view of natural science that there should be no funicular,” he told the news server Aktuálně.cz.
Bedřich Moldan, the TOP 09 shadow environment minister, and director of Charles University’s Center for the Environment, told Czech public radio that while he “personally doesn’t like the cable car” he wasn’t against the overall zoning compromise, though Chalupa’s implication that further recreational infrastructure could spring up in future was “a bit worrying.”
Chalupa has argued that the narrow corridor around the Hraničník ski lift, which would be less than three kilometers long and comprise some 13 hectares, will not damage the park. The Ministry of Environment is expected to submit the draft law on Šumava National Park to the lower house of Parliament within two weeks.