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Problems of PA and trends

‘Green‘ecological-thinking started to give way to the consumerist, short-sighted attitudes of wild capitalism in Lithuania towards the end of 1992, when individual freedom, untouchable land ownership, the unconditional prioritisation of liberalism and predatory instincts towards the environment ruled. These sorts of convictions impact on protected areas in that they come to be seen as “enemies of the state“ that impinge on our human rights and personal freedoms to do as we please. In 1993 Prof. Č. Kudaba called these trends the beginning of the ecological dark ages. These prevailing ideas, combined with the shortcomings experienced by a state in transition, in particular the lack of economic compensation mechanisms, seriously threaten the existence and survival of Lithuania‘s protected areas in this stage in the development of our nation. Lithuania, just as other Eastern and Central European countries, has undergone immense and rapid social and economic changes that have had a direct effect on the conditions in protected areas. The following processes have had the most impact:

  • Land reform and related processes. Land reform, or the return and privatisation of land, and its related processes, primarily construction, has at present the most impact on landscapes in protected areas and poses the greatest barriers to their further protection. Periods of changes in legislation and institutional reform destabilised the situation from which conflicts between social and environmental interests arose, and gave protected areas an artificially negative image. The greatest conflict to arise in these areas is between private and public (environmental and recreational) interests. This conflict has resulted in the degradation of natural and cultural landscapes and reduced opportunities for adapting protected areas to tourism and other social uses.

  • The development of construction. The size of natural and semi-natural protected areas is decreasing due to intensive economic activity, especially construction, resulting in the degradation of natural landscapes, their division into smaller plots and changes in their overall structure.

  • In­ten­sified forest use. Forest use is not prohibited in protected areas, except for in strict reserves. All forest groups (each with their specific purposes) are represented in state parks. Not all forests in state parks are equally valuable; some simply join other complexes of greater landscape and biological diversity, which is why attitudes towards their use differ. The growth in the number of private forests has increased the amount of clear-felled plots, which pose the greatest threat to the values, especially the biological values, being protected. There are still quite a few incidences of unlicensed tree felling in state parks and reserves, and there is usually no great rush to replant the cleared area.

  • Growth in recreational use. Almost all of the most visited sites in Lithuania are located in protected areas as by their nature, they have the most to offer in terms of necessary recreational resources. But as visitor numbers grow each year, so does the pressure on these important conservation zones.

  • Previous landscape damage. This is most obvious in state parks where the landscape has been visually deformed by abandoned agricultural buildings, state farms and machinery yards as well as other remains. On average, there are around 5-6 in each state park. Also problematic are quarries or pits that have been dug without official consent or have no clear ownership.

At present the main drive is towards a qualitative optimisation of protected areas, while a long term change in public and government attitudes towards the protection of ecological and landscape values as necessary features of our national culture also remains a priority. One of the most important tasks ahead is to give protected areas a positive image in society. This must be done by making them appealing and accessible to the public, objective information about their benefits and the opportunities they can offer needs to be made widely available, and the image of the State Protected Areas Service and of the other institutions and directorates responsible for their upkeep needs to be raised.

The system of protected areas has become an integrated part of the environment, and its management is related as much to the country‘s cohesive development, as to agricultural and economic policies and planning in the agricultural sector. Below are the trends observed over the last decade of protected area development in the world, in separate regions and in Lithuania:

  • The integration of protected areas into general planning – the preparation and implementation of protected areas management plans and their integration into general planning processes;

  • The assurance of the status of protected areas and their improved management – the improvement of the system of legal acts and their implementation, the regulation of privatisation, the improvement of protected area planning, the effective implementation of these plans, and the administation of the protected areas system, the implementation of protected areas objectives in other sectors, protected areas personnel training, improved monitoring, increased financing;

  • Increased support for protected areas –the establishment of priorities related to particular communities in certain areas, a more comprehensive information system, stronger international cooperation, increased support for protected areas from the local community;

  • The development of the protected areas system – the completion of the national and regional parks system, the creation of the Natura 2000 territories network, the optimisation of protected areas boundaries, the creation of a marine protected areas system, the assurance of buffer zone protection, the creation of a nature corridor-ecological network on a national, regional and local scale.  

Last updated: 05-11-2019