IUCN WCPA Regional Vice-Chair North Eurasia
Countries of the region
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
North Eurasia unites very different countries – from Kyrgyzstan in the South to Russia with its nine time zones in the North. In general it includes countries of the former Soviet Union. The region has a diverse range of habitats, various cultural traditions, and different environmental problems, conservation challenges and opportunities.
The largest country – Russian Federation – currently (2015) has 103 national nature reserves, 47 national parks, 70 federal reserves, and a number of regional and local level protected areas (PA). The establishment of protected areas dates back to 1916, when the first nature reserve (zapovednik) – Barguzinsky – was created on Baikal Lake. Since then there were many ups and downs in the history of nature conservation, but thanks to the efforts of many conservation-minded people, large natural areas have been protected, and many rare species have been saved from being extinct.
At first the main emphasis of protected area management in Russia and CIS was on preservation of ecosystems primarily for ecological research. Management strategies excluded any type of economic activity, access to the areas and resource use were strictly controlled and limited. Local communities and visitors usually were not involved, and the importance of their support for conservation process was not recognized. Isolation of protected areas from public often brought about such problems as lack of environmental awareness, negative attitudes of local communities and indifference of other stakeholders. The main issues included poaching, illegal logging and illegal entrance to protected areas.
This approach dominated the management goals in PAs up to the early 1980s, when the first national parks appeared in Russia (Sochinsky and Elk Island in 1983); after that the conservation policy broadened to include environmental education and, recently, ecotourism development.
Today one of the main priorities of protected areas in Russia and CIS is environmental education, cooperation with local communities and their involvement into conservation, as well ecotourism. If organized professionally, ecotourism can serve as an alternative to poaching and other forms of illegal land use, bring support and increase environmental awareness of PA. However, ecotourism development in strict nature reserves, such as zapovedniks in Russia, can be very tricky, as it puts at risk main values associated with this type of protected areas and can threaten unique ecosystems.
Today many protected area managers face a challenge of balancing the needs of nature with human needs so that on the one hand, they raise public environmental awareness, provide alternative livelihoods to local communities and get necessary support of various stakeholders, but on the other hand conserve unique wild nature and provide special wilderness experiences for visitors.
There are many other issues in conservation, besides ecotourism, that can be named in Russia and CIS – in law enforcement, research, monitoring, issues that are attributed to inadequate legislation, lack of qualified specialists, etc. But there are also many wonderful and passionate people who work in the field of nature conservation in Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union, and who devote their lives on a daily basis to protecting wildlife and providing sustainable livelihoods in the nearby regions.
The main goal of WCPA in North Eurasia is to help these people to join their efforts, so that together we can make a difference and rich sustainable environmental, social and economic outcomes.
- To restore membership, attract new professional members and engage them into the WCPA activities;
- To raise public awareness and promote WCPA work in the region;
- To provide PA specialists in North Eurasia guidance on international experience related to different aspects of protected area management;
- To provide opportunities for PA people of North Eurasia to work together on shared issues within protected area management;
- To initiate capacity building activities and partnership programs among PA specialists, local communities, representatives of relevant authorities, NGOs and business;
- To support protected areas of the region in their conservation efforts.