WWF organized expedition to the Onega Pomorye National Park

WWF organized an expedition in the newly established National Park Onega Pomorye, Arkhangelsk Region, from July 29 to August 8.

Members of the expedition were environmental scientists and experts from Russia (Arkhangelsk, Vologda, St. Petersburg), and Norway. Within 10 days, they studied the natural values of the area and consulted with the residents of Pomorian villages.

“The sites are simply stunning: a huge number of pristine lakes; rivers, where salmon spawn, facing the coast of the White Sea; endless forests”, – says a member of the expedition, the head of Arkhangelsk branch of WWF Andrey Schogolev. “The most important thing has already been done as the territory was granted a protection status. It will save the northern parts of the peninsula from the forest cuttings, as the rest of the forests of the peninsula are already lost due to loggings. Together with other environmental and scientific organizations, as well as the Government of the Arkhangelsk Region, we have put a lot of effort to the establishment of the park. Now it is very important to help form its effective operation. ”

Landscape in the Onega Pomorye National Park (Photo: Antonina Kuliasova)

Landscape in the Onega Pomorye National Park (Photo: Antonina Kuliasova)

Respecting rights of the local communities

One of the main tasks of the expedition was to collect information to improve zoning of the park. According to the scheme, which was constituted 20 years ago, the whole central part of the park would be under the most strict protection, thus, prohibiting not only all business activities, but also access to the territory. According to environmentalists, the scheme needs to be changed according to the interests of the local population, which has used the area for hunting, fishing and gathering mushrooms and berries, not causing  harm to nature.

Therefore, according to environmentalists, local Pomor people must retain certain rights to use the park. But the territory needs to be protected against unorganized tourism e.g. hunters and fishermen.

Small villages Onega Pomorye (Photo: Antonina Kuliasova)

Small Pomor village (Photo: Antonina Kuliasova)

From unorganized exploitation towards ecotourism

”One of the major threats is ice fishing on the lakes. In winter, cars come here as a continuous stream and visitors catch a lot of fish using all available, and not always legitimate, methods”, argues Andrey Schogolev.

At the same time it is necessary to develop organized tourism in the park. According to the participants of the expedition, there are a lot of interesting routes.

Proposals prepared according to the results of the expedition will be delivered to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for administration of federal protected areas. WWF Russia hopes that the proposals will help to achieve a balance of environmental and social interests in the work of the Onega Pomorye National Park.

Coast in the Onega Pomorye National Park (Photo: Antonina Kuliasova)

Coast in the Onega Pomorye National Park (Photo: Antonina Kuliasova)

New colors in the BPAN map

Onega Pomorye is a key element of the network of protected areas in the Barents Region. Recently, status of the area has been changed from the planned protected area into the category of “existing”. “Experts of the BPAN project had to update the maps, but it was a pleasant work”, points out Denis Dobrynin, expert of the Arkhangelsk branch of WWF and inter-regional coordinator of the BPAN project in Russia. “However, much remains to be done to balance the environmental and social interests on the Onega Peninsula. In particular, to ensure effective and transparent governance, and to agree on the functional zoning of protected area. “