On January 1st, the Brdy military training area, a vast more than 35,000 hectare stretch of land between Prague and Plzeň, is to formally become a nature reserve after spending decades as an off-limits military training area. I spoke with Vojtěch Kotecký of the Glopolis think tank, and began by asking him to explain the story behind this transformation:
“Several years ago the army decided that it does not need so many military training grounds in the Czech Republic, and that it would vacate one of them. After assessments were carried out, it selected Brdy. This site was chosen to be left for civilian usage, and after the government carried out an environmental assessment, it decided to turn it into a protected natural reserve, which is a sort of softer category of protection in the Czech Republic.”
I understand that it didn’t qualify to become a full national park, correct?
“There actually was some debate around 100 years ago about making Brdy into a national park. But in more modern assessments it wasn’t even considered because it’s not that valuable in terms of nature.”
What about the process of transforming Brdy to be open to the public and ready to provide tourist facilities. Obviously, in the past the land was used for military exercises, so munitions and possibly even mines and the like had to be removed.
“Yes the army had to clean up the area to remove munitions. And some of the most contaminated parts of the area will remain closed, because the military will continue clean-up efforts. But most of Brdy will be open to the public from January 1st, and it will function as a fully civilian area open to tourists who have been unable to enjoy one of the largest forest ranges near Prague for decades.”
“An interesting aspect of Brdy is that it is not particularly wild. It’s more empty rather than wild. And most of the mountain range is covered with spruce timber plantations – forests that were created by a transformation of the native beech forests. So it is not a particularly pristine environment, but within these plantations are lots of smaller sites with wild wetlands that host many endangered species of birds and other animals. And there are some remaining areas of wild beech forest and native broad-leafed forests that used to be typical for this part of the Czech Republic, and some of these have been under protection for almost 100 years now.”
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