Strategy workshop for the Forest reserve Snežnik

Following the successful strategy workshop implemented for the component part of Virgin Forest Krokar, the Slovenia Forest Service implemented another strategy workshop also for the forest reserve Snežnik, through the BEECH POWER project. The workshop followed the same basic principles as the workshop for Krokar and was modelled in large part on German workshops in Altkünkendorf. 

Snežnik forest reserve is the largest forest reserve in Slovenia, conserving and showcasing the Illyric beech forests on the timber line in the Dinaric Alps, where beech forests form this timber line. Additionally, the extreme weather conditions in this area also force the beech trees to adapt into particular morphological shapes, thus demonstrating the outstanding adaptability of beech. Similarly to Krokar, the forest is part of an extensive forest complex extending to Kočevsko and Croatia. However, in comparison with Krokar component part, visiting of Snežnik reserve is possible along the four marked hiking trails. Nevertheless, since the inscription on the World Heritage list in 2017 and particularly since the COVID-19 outbreak the visitor pressure on and off trails has increased significantly. 

The strategy workshop was implemented in the town of Ilirska Bistrica, some 24 km from the component part, on the basis of results of last year’s situation analysis workshop. The entire component part and its buffer zone are state owned, and the component part is remote from any permanent residential areas, except the touristic conglomerate at Sviščaki (about 4 km away). Therefore, most of the threats to the component part, such as migrant routes, climate change, and transboundary pollution, cannot be addressed with local communities. However, the size and very panoramic peak of Snežnik Mountain and other phenomena make it a popular visitor destination, with tens of thousands of visitors every year. Thus, we defined the scope of the workshop on focusing on visitor management within the reserve and the wider area in the surroundings. 

The workshop took place on Wednesday, 30th September, in the afternoon and evening. Through the collaboration with Regional Development Agency Green Karst, the Slovenia Forest Service managed to ensure a wide ranging participation from local, regional, and national stakeholders, ranging from local tourist and cycling guides, through the regional development agencies and municipalities, to the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning. The mix of different views and needs worked well with the adapted Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation methodology, which yielded interesting and useful results.

Participants worked in two groups and elaborated concrete activities that should be implemented both on the regulatory and managerial levels, as well as specific actions that can be bilaterally organised between a selection of participating organisations to improve the situation and reduce the visitor pressure on the forest reserve itself, while utilising a wider surrounding area to create economic profits for local communities. The results were elaborated with the participation of Slovenia Forest Service and the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, thus improving the chances to transfer the results into the preparation of the Decree on Nature Reserve and the subsequent management plans that will have to be produced for the UNESCO forest reserve.