Expert forestry excursion to Transcarpathian Ukraine

Two representatives of Kolowrat´s forests (the leader of forest management Ing Vladimír Šístek and forester Jan Ryba) participated in an expert forestry excursion to Ukraine, which was arranged by Sdružení vlastníků obecních a soukromých lesů v ČR (Association of Owners of Municipal and Private Forests in the Czech Republic) – further refered to as SVOL - from 25th until 31st of August. The week long excursion took place in the Ukrainian Carpathians.

Monday, August 26th

The program began in Uzhgorod, where we visited the headquarters of the territorial department of the Ministry of Forestry and Hunting for the Transcarpathian Region. The department director, Mr. Igor Fizyk, Ph.D, informed us about Ukrainian forestry.

Forest coverage of the country is 15.6%, with the area of forested land occupying 10.8 million hectares and growing every year. The vast majority of forests in Ukraine are owned by the state. Only less than 1% of the forests are privately owned. The privatization of forests has not yet been considered. The predominant tree species in the Transcarpathian region is beech with 59%, spruce and fir with 32%, oak 7.5%, 1.5% other species. All state forests are areally certified by the FSC system.

Then the director of the non-profit organization FORZA, Ms. Loyko Lesia, informed us about their experience in applying the principles of close to nature forest management. During the whole stay in Ukraine the ecological principles of forest management were emphasised in almost every presentation we attended. We were then introduced to a project on the lifelong education of foresters, which is designed in cooperation with the National Forest Centre in Zvolen.

Our guide through Zakrpatje region was Mr. Kwiatkowsky Mykhailo – Deputy Director of the Forests Department of Territorial Division of the Ministry of Forestry and Hunting for the Transcarpathian region. We visited the forest arboretum „Berezinka“ in the morning, where we learnt the details of the ongoing research into the behaviour of different types of plantation and forest trees ecotypes in different environmental conditions and at different altitudes.

In Mukachevo we met the director of the Mucachevo forests state enterprise, who spoke of revitalisation, enhancing diversity and species pattern and about efforts to expand the area of suburban greenery. We then visited a local open-air museum, where we learned that the wooden houses that are still seen in local villages, have their own unique history and cultural value. A tour through the city of Uzghorod followed in the evening.

Tuesday, August 27th

After transfer to the Mizhgirsky forests, we took a hike to the waterfall Šipot below the Gemla mountain. This is a frequently-visited sight exuding an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The director of the Mizighirsky Forests state enterprise, Mr. Ivan Barna spoke here about the economy of the region.

We then visited Sinevir National Natural Park. We stopped at a rescue centre for brown bears, where 12 animals currently reside. These animals are mostly from circuses or cubs found and raised by people. The eldest bear brought up here is a female bear, Ira, who is 30 this year. The largest bear taken in by the shelter is an eight-year-old male, Djuryj, weighing 380 kilograms.

There followed a trip to Sinevirsky lake. According to legend, the lake was created because a girl hopelessly head-over-heels in love was constantly in tears. In its vicinity tourists can buy lots of souvenirs, such as a variety of wood products, colourful clothes, or excellent spices - tea blends of Carpathian herbs, sheep cheese, dried mushrooms and berries.

After moving to Koločava, we visited a museum dedicated to Nikola Šuhaj, an outlaw and thief, who became famous thanks to the Czech writer Ivan Olbracht. The writer fell in love with the local people and the country and spent several years of his life in this area.

Wednesday, August 28th

Right after breakfast we went into the hills above the city of Rachiv and heard a lemure, "Rachivský experimental forests" given by the director of the state enterprise, Mr. Volodymyr Prystupa, Ph.D., on the application of the principles of nature-friendly farming in spruce forests. Co-operation with Swiss experts, financially supported within the programme for international co-operation by European Union funding, is taking place in these forests. It must be said that Ukrainian foresters have doubts about the expertise and experience of their Swiss colleagues. We then moved to the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. We took a guided tour of the museum and were happy to be reunited with a member of the expedition, who got lost in the Biosphere Reserve and enjoyed an extended stay for couple of hours.

Thursday, August 29th

Despite the rainy weather we set off for the Vorocktynsky forests close to the tourist resorts Yaremcha and Bukovel. We were guided by Mr. Korzhov Volodymyr, Ph.D. and the director of the state enterprise „Vorocktynsky Forests“, Mr. Melnyk Dmytro. They introduced us to spruce management of selection by thickness and ongoing transformation of spruce forests to forests with a composition of mixed species. We were forced to postpone the trip to the fir reserve because of rainy weather and complicated access by bus.

A visit to a Ukrainian – Italian sawmill focused on the processing of beech logs was next. Staff equipped with just knitted gloves and slippers probably would not pass the check of our BOZP (stands for Safety and Health Protection). Also, the storage of crooked logs was surprising. However, the director of the sawmill spoke about the planned construction of the dryer / kiln and storage space, so a change for the better can be expected in the future.

In the evening we took a trip to the deep, hilly forests close to our accommodation in the tourist resort Bokovel.

Friday, August 30th

Before we set off on the final tour of the city and its interesting cultural sights, we met the director of the territorial department of The Ministry of Forestry and Hunting in the Lvov Region, Mr. Tyrchyk Andrij, who had prepared a lecture on forest management in his region. The opening discussion showed that one of the main problems encountered by the Ukrainian forestry includes inadequate infrastructure and associated accessibility problems to deep, hilly forests. Furthemore out-of-date machinery is used in forestry. Currently, there is not even one harvester in use in the Transcarpathian region. Additionally, I should mention the absence of effective protection against bark parasite insects. We had the opportunity to see several traps, but they were missing pheromone bait and it is not unusual to see dried trees infested by bark beetles. Ukraine is a beautiful country with vast natural resources, fertile soils, mixed forests and a wide range of animal and plants species. I believe that with well thought-out investment in technological modernization and to the development of the wood processing industry, the standard of living of the population of this country will rise and its nature will flourish. As a farewell, I have to wish our Ukrainian colleagues good luck and perhaps we will meet again some other time.

My thanks go to the SVOL organization for organizing this interesting forestry-oriented excursion that expands the horizons of its members and allows colleagues in often remote forest estates to meet and exchange information.

Ing. Vladimír Šístek