Over the past decade of its existence, the Slovak Vlk organization has employed techniques ranging from squatting in trees to lobbying government in order to save the last beech-fir forests on the European continent. It is now trying to save a part of the Čergov Forest by purchasing it before it is cut. The organization has established what by all records is the first private reserve in Central Europe, covering over 21 hectares of mixed beech forest in the Čergov Mountains in eastern Slovakia.
Most remarkable about the reserve are its owners: not Vlk, but over 1,500 individuals from around the world who have each paid 1,000 Sk (roughly USD 25) to symbolically purchase a tree.
Among the owners are Slovak Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda, former President Michal Kováč, Czech President Václav Havel and people from as far away as Minnesota and Australia. The greatest contributor has been Pro Natura-Friends of the Earth Switzerland, which has purchased a grove of 108 trees.
Over two-thirds of the 3.2 million Sk (roughly USD 77,000) needed to complete the purchase has been raised so far. It is a modest undertaking compared with North America, for example, where projects to establish land trusts regularly run into the millions of dollars and thousands of hectares. But its significance is groundbreaking for Central Europe, not only for nature conservation but, also for the development of a civil society. The project is not only protecting 3,200 trees, but also connecting 2,000 people.
Andreas Beckmann, 23 April 2001
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