Since its independence in 1991, Ukraine has faced numerous challenges in adapting forest management to a transitioning economic and political context. As Ukraine’s forested area is among the largest in Eastern Europe (7.8 million hectares), the ability of land management agencies to sustainably manage forest and natural resources is of great importance to Ukraine and the region. Kiev has the largest amount of green space of any European city and offers many recreational opportunities. Crimea in southern Ukraine represents the main tourist destination for Ukraine with its beaches, mountains, and cliffs along the Black and Azov Seas, forested areas to the south, and numerous protected areas with scenic, ecological, and cultural significance. Many economic development opportunities exist. Sustainability of forestry, tourism, and other uses will rely on effective planning and management to ensure the health of the ecosystems.
US Forest Service teams are working with both Ukrainian and USG partners to review priority issues facing the natural resources sector and to identify possible opportunities for collaboration.
Fire Risk in Chernobyl
The 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located 130 kilometers north of Kyiv, had wide-ranging effects on the surrounding natural environment and society. Following the accident, 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of forest were contaminated and an Exclusion Zone, with a radius of thirty kilometers (approximately 300,000 hectares), was established in an effort to evacuate the local population and restrict access to the heavily contaminated area. Approximately 2/3 of the area is covered by a Scotch-pine dominated boreal forest; grasslands make up the rest. Since the 1986 explosion, very little vegetation management, important for reducing the amount of biofuel in forests, has taken place. Decreasing budgets for managing the contaminated area and an inability to utilize the contaminated wood have compounded the problem. Improved detection methods and suppression efforts, following severe fires in 1992, have been relatively effective. By mandate, all fires in the Exclusion Zone must be suppressed, however, forestry and fire specialists have expressed growing concern that the increasing density and biofuel structure, as well as the spread of disease in the forest following years with few or no fires, elevate the risk of fire and associated health threats.
Forests play a significant role in sequestering contaminants. Ensuring healthy forest conditions in the Exclusion Zone can help alleviate potential risks from fire. Since 2006, our specialists have been working with Ukrainian counterparts to assess current and future risk of fire and find solutions for reducing the threat of fire in the Exclusion Zone. The teams have reviewed existing information on vegetation, forest inventory, forest health, hazardous fuel loads, seasonal and annual fire occurrence, and management plans. They have also recommended a number of steps that could be taken to mitigate the risk of a catastrophic fire, including fuel inventory and reduction, active fire monitoring, and understanding risks from smoke. The US Forest Service is also working with the National University of Life and Environmental Science on fuel and fire modeling to capture what the future of the Exclusion Zone may look like. Next steps include working with partners to assess the potential use of the Incident Command System in Ukraine.
Protected Area Management in Crimea
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea, in southern Ukraine, represents one of the main
tourist destinations in the country. With beaches, mountains,
and cliffs along the Black and Azov Seas, forested areas to the South and numerous protected areas with scenic, ecological, and cultural significance
it is easy to understand why
tourists visit Crimea. Increased
recreational use, however, is
exceeding the resource capacity
of forests and protected
areas in the region. Managing
these areas for the development
of low-impact tourism could help to alleviate some of the pressure placed on the natural resources. Additionally, the sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products and effective community involvement hold the key to
not only improving the natural resource base, but to enhancing local governance and community
investment. The US Forest Service is working with various government and nongovernment agencies in Crimea to address protected area management concerns, particularly the use of non-timber forest products and development of sustainable tourism.
Sustainable Tourism Development in Western Ukraine
In 2002, the United Nations declared a new protected biosphere reserve in the Carpathian
Mountains of Western Ukraine. The area
is well-known for its abundant flora, including natural plants for brewing tea and grasses
used to make souvenirs and art products, as well as edible mushrooms. While these
non-timber forest products are well-known and have been traded among the former Soviet
countries for many years, they are just beginning to reach European markets and beyond. The new popularity is increasing the demand for these products and impacting forested areas.
A lack of trails and clearly marked paths leaves fragile ecosystems exposed to an ever-increasing number of hikers and backpackers who see Ukraine as new ground for
experiencing the out-of-doors. The US Forest Service is working with various NGOs and governmental agencies to identify sustainable
practices for tourism development and protection of forested areas.
- US Agency for International Development (USAID)-Ukraine
- US Department of State
- US Foreign Agriculture Service
- National University of Life and Environmental Sciences
- Moscow State University Branch, Sevastopol, Ukraine
Back to top