WASHINGTON, DC—Two Forest Service landscape architects, Matt Phillips of Sawtooth National Forest and Autumn Ela of Bitterroot, Flathead and Lolo national forests, traveled to the Republic of Uzbekistan in mid-September to share Forest Service recreation expertise with Uzbekistan’s State Forestry Committee. Phillips and Ela taught a workshop in the Sukok Reserve with sessions on recreation site planning, trail design and construction, interpretation and community engagement. Uzbekistan does not have a history of nature-based tourism or adding recreation infrastructure to its protected areas, but is eager to learn from the United States experience.
The Forest Service has worked in Uzbekistan since 2015, hosting professional exchanges on land management in the U.S. and building relationships with counterparts in the government of Uzbekistan.
The late 2016 transition of power following the death of Uzbekistan’s first president, who ruled from 1989 until his passing, led to widespread changes in Uzbekistan’s government structure. In 2017, the forestry department was converted to a separate state committee, thus significantly raising the profile of forestry management in Uzbekistan. In the year since this change, Uzbekistan has continued its path toward reform and openness.
In this reform era, Uzbekistan’s unprecedented openness and desire for increasing technical capacity through outside engagement are reflected in the area of natural resource management. The Uzbekistan State Forestry Committee directly manages nearly 25 percent of Uzbekistan’s land. Several key pieces of land—including the country’s two largest national parks—are being developed to include explicit recreation zones for nature-based tourism. The State Forestry Committee has turned to the United States and other countries to assist with developing domestic capacity and expertise to design recreation areas.
The Sukok Reserve will serve as a model for effective, responsible recreation development, and the Forest Service will continue to provide technical support for the duration of Sukok’s design and development.