What inspired and impressed me most was the chosen narrative, the acceptance that different idea(l)s of Estonia exist, from the Estonian diaspora, islanders, people from the countryside, from towns or from Tallinn. It wasn’t supporting one national idea of what Estonia is, which too often seems to be propagated by countries even today but showing that there are many and that there is room for all of them. Visitors were also frequently asked to consider “what would you have done?” instead of condemning everything in good or bad. It was the perfect ending, summing up what we all had come to notice – that Estonians are a very resourceful and colourful people, proud of who they are and where they are from.
I’ll treasure many memories from our time in Estonia – swimming in the Baltic sea at sunset, climbing a lighthouse, seeing a moose, meeting Mari, but I also want to hold onto the lessons learned, and bring those home with me.
I can draw many parallels with Scotland – both have dramatic landscapes, vast wilderness and habitats, rich heritage and stunning beaches. And both have the same strongest asset- it’s people. I’ll be doing everything I can to embed what I’ve learned into helping connect, and reconnect, Scotland’s people with what they have on their doorstep, and the stories, skills and ancestry in their blood.
Secovlje Salt Pans
We learned that the park is on the list of Ramsar wetlands of international importance. In fact, in 2003 the solina was damaged which meant no harvesting took place, however European funding helped restore the site for birdlife, which in turn enabled salt harvesting to resume. It was really interesting to see how much of an asset wildlife has been for the park, as it enabled them to restore the salt-pans, and the park clearly takes great pride in its wildlife.
I work as a ranger at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park where my job can be best described as ‘helping visitors enjoy the National Park in a safe and responsible way’. This can be done through sharing of information, education and also enforcement through patrolling. My main patrol area is Loch Lomond so I was very keen to visit similar wetland environments in Poland and see how land managers do things there.
Grazing management in Poland currently appears to be wader friendly and it was encouraging to hear that many efforts are being made to make sure grazing is appropriate. At Ujscie Warty, large extents of the park’s floodplain meadows are rented out to local farmers for cattle grazing. Although farmers are keen to get stock out onto the meadows as soon as possible, the park authorities make an attempt to prevent cattle introduction until the second half of June to reduce trampling risk to wader nests but also prevent excessive damage to soft wet ground.
By participating in the survey and reporting bag numbers the hunters themselves are key figures in game management. Due to the vastly different cultural heritage of hunting in Norway, where hunting is much more a way of life than an elite hobby, divides between shooting and conservation communities simply do not exist as they do in the UK. However it is inspiring to see what can be achieved when all parties recognise the requirement for robust and contemporary population data and work together to ensure gamebird hunting is carried out at a sustainable level each year.
The important role of the mountain forests for ground’s stability has been observed at Dovre National Park. Betula pendula, B. pubescenis, B. nana, Juniperus communis, and Salex spp cover waist area overhead 1000 m above the sea level between stands of coniferous and alpine zone. Roots system holds poor, stony and wet soil and well protects against landslides. The woodland habitat creates much better biodiversity than post-grazing grassland. That is a good example for land management of similar areas in Scotland.
I was inspired by the focus placed on face to face engagement in Poland to connect people with nature. Given the small size of the teams overseeing the nature areas I felt the decision to concentrate on being out amongst people rather than focusing on producing written communications for press and social media allowed them to build support for nature with the people living next door to it. It highlighted the importance of having local people engaged with nature and supportive of their work which in turn helps with the delivery of conservation.
a common tactic seemed to be limiting public knowledge of the parks as much as possible, reducing pressure on the environment and disturbance to wildlife as there is just not the staff or infrastructure to support them. Has this resulted in Ujscie Warty National Park having one of the highest densities of birds in Poland? or Dabskie Lake in Szczecin having the highest number of White-tailed Eagles in Europe?
Of course, this is not to say they don’t want visitors, they just can’t currently handle them without the resources. Hopefully in the future perceptions will change and they will be awarded the funding they deserve, and be able show off the wonderful nature and wildlife of Poland in a sustainable way.
Action includes a ban on keeping on selling the species, a rapid eradication obligation of newly emerging populations and the management of established populations to prevent the species from becoming a wider problem and to keep them out of protected areas.