New national park “Onezhskoe pomor’e” created on the White Sea coast
On February 26, 2013, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree to create a new national park encompassing over 201,668 hectares.
Onega Peninsula is unique in its exceptional landscape biodiversity and preserved indigenous boreal forest with rich flora, fauna and many rare species. The area plays an important role in regional climate regulation. Its high environmental value is combined with a distinctive way of life for coast-dwellers. Local people believe environmental and historical tourism development is the only way to sustain their traditions into the future.
«The need for a national park was generated by the massive destruction of Onega Peninsula’s unique natural ecosystems by industrial logging. Local people used forests for centuries, but did so carefully, without environmental damage. But over the last few decades of industrial development, 60% of the area was logged. A national park will save from degradation the ecosystems which haven’t been reached by harvesters yet», said Andrey Shchegolev, the Head of WWF-Russia’s Arkhangelsk office.
The national park is an example of «reserved protracted construction». In the early 90s, scientists announced that the northern part of the Onega peninsula should become protected, and developed an environmental-economic report. In 1996, the proposed park was included in a regional program for the creation of federal protected areas network until 2005, approved by the head of the regional administration. Then the park was included in the list of reserves and national parks, which the Russian Government was expected to create by 2010. And by the end of that period, the park slowly moved from one plan to the next, which potentially implied its creation until 2020.
During this time the park area was repeatedly studied by scientists and environmentalists, all villages arranged public hearings, two federal state ecological expertises was held. As a result, park boundaries take into account both conservation targets and local population’s interests.
WWF was actively involved in preparing the documents needed for the park's creation and in funding state ecological expertise.
Thanks to the joint efforts of scientific and environmental organizations, WWF defended 25,000 hectares of forests, which could have been removed from the park's area by regional government in 2011 to built a road. Representatives of leading research institutes and universities, academics and heads of environmental NGOs appealed to the Government to protect unique forest tract. As a result, the Arkhangelsk region administration decided to move the road outside the park boundaries.