UZBEKISTAN – On May 30, four USDA Forest Service representatives concluded a two-week, hands-on training on trails and recreation infrastructure in Sukok recreation area outside of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. As part of a broader partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the Uzbekistan State Forestry Committee to develop nature-based tourism. The training included 10 representatives from Uzbekistan’s protected areas system and 10 students from the Tashkent Agrarian University. The Forest Service instructors were Autumn Ela, Bitterroot, Flathead and Lolo National Forests; William Shoutis, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest; Zachary Lowe, Manti-La Sal National Forest; and Jordan Burge, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
Topics discussed during the workshop included trail design, layout, construction and maintenance as well as safety practices and the proper use of equipment for construction purposes. The training event was covered by local media. Representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent were also visited, with Forest Service specialists leading a special hike for Embassy staff on Memorial Day.
The vision is for Sukok Recreation Area to become a model site for nature-based tourism in Uzbekistan, the first place in the country to demonstrate quality trails and sustainable recreation infrastructure. USDA Forest Service representatives first visited Sukok in April 2018 to explore possibilities, returning in September 2018 to conduct an initial three-day workshop on recreation infrastructure design. Prior to the USDA Forest Service engagement, there were no recreation or trails specialists in Uzbekistan. This event managed to train a cadre of local specialists who will lead efforts to develop recreation infrastructure in the area and promote nature-based tourism throughout Uzbekistan.
Interestingly, Sukok was founded in the 1930s, during Soviet times, as a reforestation site designed both to prevent erosion and to be a test site for observing the growth and health of various species in Uzbekistan’s climate. Today, Sukok is an oasis of trees in a broader landscape marked by agricultural lands and deforested slopes.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization office in Uzbekistan provided co-funding for the event, while Green World Future, a local NGO partner, implemented the logistics for the training.