The rich and important forest biodiversity of the Galicica Mountain was the principal reason for declaring it a National Park, back in 1958. Restoration of degraded forest habitats was therefore of highest priority for the park managers in the first three decades after the proclamation. Active forest management was carried out in line with regular 10-year forestry management plans that were mandatory for all forestry operations in the country. The firewood produced in the process generated revenues that covered the operational costs of the park administration that started off with limited human resources and physical infrastructure. As the park administration and its operational costs grew over the next few decades, and being financed exclusively from self-generated income, economic goals often trumped nature conservation objectives, hampering the further progress in restoring the forests to a more natural condition.
The first management plan for the park, developed with a grant from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank, and formally adopted in 2011, endorsed a paradigmatic shift in managing the park. The management plan identified the key biodiversity values of the park, including many non-forest habitats and exceptionally high number of endemic and threatened species, and set out specific objectives to conserve them. The long-term goal, derived from the vision for the park, was to manage the park in line with international standards and best practice applicable to IUCN Category II Protected Areas. For the first time since the proclamation, with support from the KfW grant, the park administration established a regular biodiversity monitoring program, and set out to develop environmental education and actively manage visitor experience in the park.
With the income generated from firewood production as the predominant source of financing, the progress on achieving the management goals was modest and could not be sustained in the long-term, however. While the volume of wood extracted was gradually declining from 2015, the contribution of revenues from other sources increased moderately, as can be seen in the graph above. It was only after the financial support from PONT that the park management could decouple the financing of its key operations from the direct use of forest resources. This was achieved in 2020 when only a small amount of firewood was provided to vulnerable people from among the local communities.
The new Management Plan of 2021, developed by the park staff and with support from PONT, provides for active management of the forest habitats in the park to achieve specific conservation objectives, such as improving their structure and function attributes or removal of alien and invasive species. By eliminating the threats related to extractive operations, the park management has reached an important milestone in achieving and maintaining favourable conservation status of the forest habitats in the park, and with that the long-term survival of the associated plants and animals, many of which are endemic, rare, or threatened.
Acknowledgement: the graphical presentation of the sources of revenues and wood extracted was provided by the Public Institution Galicica National Park.