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"Only when the society will have the responsibility not only to access, which has a direct benefit, but also the whole creation from the beginning is what this world can be called mature. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)"

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Polana – Old Growth Forests on volcano

Polana is one of the highest extinct volcano (1 458 m) preserved in the Central Europe and is well known for its one of the largest old growth forests in Slovakia. Forests of Polana have preserved their natural character for a much longer period than in the surrounding areas especially due to the presence of a vast hunting grounds (Zvolen forest - „Silva de  Zolum“, Big forest - Magna silva 1291) owned by an aristocracy.

Part of the Silva de Zolum was assigned as a royal game preserve, Silva regalis, by the king Belo IV. The area was not settled and forest continuity could therefore remain uninterrupted.

Gradually the logging of the old growth forests advanced and at the beginning of the 18th century natural forests were at some places substituted by grown forests. Despite of rather intensive logging activities back in the 50s old growth forests still cover significant areas of Polana. Nowadays, on Polana the old growth forests are spreading on the area of 675 ha, which is one of the largest old growth forest in Slovakia.

Largest and the most important is old growth forest in the Nature Reserve Zadna Polana spreading at the highest points of Polana. Nature Reserve was designated in the 1992 to ensure protection of 160-190 year old spruce stands that are present at the south border of their original occurrence in the Western Carpathians on the andesites. Spruce forests are supplemented by fir, sycamore maple, Norway maple, mixed forest with beech, oak and hornbeam including pedunculate oak etc. The whole area of the Nature Reserve is 855 ha large whilst the old growth forests are present on the area of 477 ha. Area forms part of the Protected Landscape Area Polana that was included into the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves network in 1990. The whole strictly protected area is subject of a biological research focused on botany, zoology, forestry and other natural history science.

Peripheral parts of the Nature reserve had been interfered with sporadically up to the 1994. In 1996 there was a windfall affecting especially eastern slopes of the Nature Reserve. Since that time strict protection has been enforced prohibiting any further interference with the forest stands. However, after 2004 there were more disturbances (wind, insect) that consequent in accelerated disintegrations of the spruce stands. Whilst the natural forests disintegration is gradual, grown spruce forests disintegrate fast and on the large areas.

In the past few years increasing number of application for granting logging exceptions and permissions in the protected areas has been noted. This resulted in 2010 when Ministry of Environment granted exception to log the vast areas with no set limitations up to the year 2018. Manager of the area - Lesy SR (state enterprise) Banská Bystrica have been ready to commence logging. FSC Slovakia developed enormous effort to ensure protection of this area. Petition backed by scientists took place. Over 200 scientists, researchers and professionals from the field of ecology, forestry, zoology, botany, landscape and other natural sciences from Slovakia and the Czech Republic submitted the call to the Minister of Environment, Minister of Agriculture and to the general director of State forests to stop logging in the Nature Reserve Zadna Polana. FSC Slovakia initiated massive media campaign publishing intentions and also position of the scientists on the subject. Initiative of FSC Slovakia coupled with the support of professionals and of the general public resulted in the annulations of the exception by MoE. Unfortunately, attempts to log in this precious Nature Reserve are continuing to date. In 2011 forest users applied to log nearly 30 000 m3 of the timber.

This could entail direct threats for the surrounding old growth forests in the proposed protected areas Butlavka, in locality Koryto in the buffer zone of the Nature Reserve Hrončecky Grun.