Conserving large mammals and their habitat as incentive for ecological sustainable development of a Romanian municipality

The Rewilding Foundation is represented in an initiative for green economic development in the Romanian Carpathians.

Working on the premise that local action implies global change, the objective of this project is to provide viable socio-economical incentives for ecologically sustainable development of Vama Buzaului, a county with a proud independent community in Transylvania, Romania. The project is largely grass roots motivated, involving the local council. The area holds great opportunities to integratively develop, achieve and brand green tourism, small business & industry, alternative living, energy production, agriculture and education.  Hence strengthening local economies with ecological goods & services, inspiring further ecologically sustainable development across a wider region and Eastern Europe. The credo of this initiative is “to add green value, instead of subtracting it”, diverting away from mainstream developments that now run haphazardly through the Carpathians.

New green prosperity

The ecological component involves an investigation into promoting the Romanian Carpathians as Europe’s Yellowstone National Park, a vision proposed Prof. Michael Soulé during a workshop in 2003 during the Safeguarding the Romanian Carpathian ecological network project, in collaboration with the Wildlands Network and culminating in an inspiring Vision Plan.

Workshop with Michael Soulé on rewilding in Romania in February 2003. By E. van Maanen.

The Romanian Carpathians with still common traditional human communities are exemplary for a harmonious relationship between man and nature. The mountains are a mosaic of meadows, forests and gardens, that have been extensively managed for eons and maintain rich landscape and biodiversity.

Forests, meadows, coppices, streams and agro-communities in Romania are traditionally intertwined and finely attuned, safeguarding rich landscape and biological diversity values and holding keys for ecological sustainability for Europe.

The village Vama Buzaului is situated next to the protected EU Natura 2000 area of Ciucaş, with sizeable large carnivore populations of bear, wolf and lynx, as well as other important forest and grassland biodiversity. In achieving green socio-economic development (read also social capital) and educational empowerment from village to region, important parallels can be drawn with Yellow Stone National Park in the United States, based on similar ecologies. Added value is the rich history (incl. the Austro-Hungarian legacy) cultural diversity of the region.

Rewilding can only be effective and sustained if widely supported by local people and with the provision of viable ecological sustainable livelihoods and socio-economic welfare according to the People Prosperity Planet principle. By E. van Maanen.

Large mammals as attractors: the wolf and the bison

The presence of the wolf, for example, is good for considerable revenue as an attractor for eco-tourists; a staggering 25 million Euro per year in Yellowstone National Park! With the effectuation of many envisaged green opportunities and ecosystem-based (or closed) forest management the conservation of large carnivores as part of a green regional economy can be accomplished. The Romanian Carpathian Range, above all, is potentially rich in delivering revenues from cultural activities, organic food export, forest products and biomass, education, tourism, wellness and ecosystem services. The mighty bison also appeals to the imagination of people. Hence there are many parallels to be drawn between the Carpathians and Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.

Vama Buzaului as stage for an ecological sustainability pilot project, sprung from the grass roots. By Vama Buzaului Municipality.

People and rewilding

Rewilding is about people and safeguarding or enhancing people’s livelihoods. In Romania the traditional way of life, largely responsible the balanced system of livestock herding (transhumance), agroforestry and wildlife is threathened by rural abandonment, with new generations seeking their fortune in the cities. Other immediate threats are land privatization, haphazard development, industrial forestry and mining.

Two generations. Young people are key in preserving the environment and upholding the  custodianship of the land as still practiced by their parents. Will they? By E. van Maanen.

A prime condition is that sustainable ecological development is in true sense of the word achievable, inspired from the grass roots, instead of the top-down, short-sighted and ecologically damaging developments currently spreading across the region. This is most feasible around and with human communities that still adhere to land ethics through religious and traditional cultural values, as a well as a great sense of custodianship. Read more on the ecology, ecological network and environmental developments of the Romanian Carpathians. Treasure of the forest by David Quammen.

Ecological and economic benefits of the wolf

Return of the bison?

One great opportunity for the Vama Buzaului community is reintroduction of the European (lowland) bison in the region, including the Ciucaş Natura 2000 reserve. Fabian Roth is a village council member and manager of the Zimbri Park (Bison Park) next to the village. He has composed a bison herd consisting of stock from Poland, Austria, Italy and France. His dream is to realise a reintroduction project starting with a 85 ha accustomization enclosure, for which Fabian is currently trying to obtain funding. A feasibility study is required with respect to the survival of this highly inbred species in a mountainous to foothill forest environment, interspersed with meadows. The herd is currently propagating with the birth of several calfs. Eventually a sufficient herd of at least 30 animals can be released in the surrounds of Vama Buzaului.

European bison as a potential flagship species for the Vama Buzaului region near Brasov, Romania. By E. van Maanen.