ljubljansko barje

History of the conservationist endeavours at the Barje

As an area of exceptional natural and cultural heritage, Ljubljansko barje began to be recognised only in the last few decades. The history of this marshy area has been in the last three centuries otherwise associated particularly with several attempts to subdue nature with more or less infelicitous land drainage, acquisition of arable land and economic exploitation projects. Even in the years following World War II, a project as to the final and total draining of the Barje was seriously discussed. More by sheer luck than wisdom, however, insufficient funds were gathered for this >grand< plan. In spite of the fact that as early as in the early 1980s first attempts were made to protect nature at the Barje, many still consider this area the main reason for the famous Ljubljana fog and unhealthy environment with millions of insects, which due to its modest agricultural potentials and inappropriateness greatly hinders the development of our capital city and its surroundings.

The 1990s gave rise to non-governmental ecological movements, research and inventarisation of natural and cultural heritage of the Barje, and brought, from still distant Europe at that time, the first obligatory documents by which the members states obliged themselves to protect and conserve their nature and biodiversity. The result was the signing of the Agreement on cooperation in the proclamation of Ljubljansko barje Nature Park (1998) between the councils operating in the area of Ljubljansko barje (Ljubljana, Brezovica, Vrhnika, Borovnica, Ig and Škofljica) and the national ministries competent for agriculture, environment and culture. It is difficult to say who signed the agreement false-heartedly, for the agreement remained far from implemented. Although numerous expert valuations, necessary for the Barje to be proclaimed a Nature Park, were made, due to which the Barje is today one of the best researched areas in Slovenia, there was simply not enough will nor funds to make the most important step - to proclaim the Barje a protected area.

In such a relatively little space as covered by Slovenia, it is often very difficult to adjust all interests. Wind turbines or park, motorway or agricultural land, flats or landfill? A similar story unrolled at the Barje, too. Although the voice of people speaking in favour of nature was well heard, it seems that the decision makers gave in to the logic of nonconflicting concession to those groups of interest which at the Barje saw, above all, the opportunity of earning something for themselves.

Approximately at the same time, some very important issues from the sphere of nature conservation began to take place in the European Union. In 1992, the Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds from 1979 was joined by the Habitat Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) with a list of animal and plant species and natural habitats significant for the conservation of biodiversity in Europe. The latter includes an article binding the member states to delineate the necessary conservation measures to protect natural habitats from deterioration and to assess the consequences of any human encroachments on their natural environments. Not, of course, in the entire territories of the states, but within Natura 2000 areas as stipulated by the member states on the basis of the species and habitats (from the above-mentioned directives) present there. In May 2004, Slovenia joined the EU as a full member, with all the rights as well as obligations. In view of the existing biodiversity and its conservation status in Slovenia (the country is inhabited by about 15,000 animals species, 6,000 plant species, and 5,000 species from the kingdom of fungi), which has officially become part of the collective European natural heritage, it was to be expected that a fairly large part of Slovenia would be covered by Natura 2000 areas, including the entire area of Ljubljansko barje.

In the sphere of nature conservation, Slovene legislation stipulates several different forms of protected areas, from national parks to smaller reserves. Nature parks are defined as areas with long standing interaction of the highest quality between man and nature, with high ecological, biotic and landscape vales, which certainly holds true for Ljubljansko barje that is in its present shape the result of both natural processes and human activities. The founding of Ljubljansko barje Nature Park and the regimes of its functioning thus do not mean only conservation of species and their habitats but also an active integration of the local inhabitants, local communities, groups of interest and entrepreneurial initiatives in all the activities concerning the actual planning and management of the protected area. With regard to the specific position of the Barje in the middle of an urban region and on the fringes of our capital city and other urban centres, in view of several ten thousand inhabitants living within the area of the planned nature park, as well as with regard to its predominantly agrarian character it is impossible to expect a positive attitude by the locals as well as their councils towards exclusively nature-conservationist interventions into this area. The fact is that during the establishment of protected areas in Slovenia conflicts break out just too often, caused by contradicting standpoints and interest by the subject involved. In order to insure that the Barje retains the identity of cultural landscape as a nature park as well and brings opportunities for a better life for all those working and living at the Barje, a highly active cooperation should be provided for during the founding of the park. Such particular mode of work in the founding of Ljubljansko barje Nature Park is also foreseen by the new Agreement on the collaboration during the proclamation of Ljubljansko barje Nature Park, signed by the Barje mayors on June 9th, 2006. The agreement stipulates the manner of mutual cooperation and organisational structure of the Park's founding, and its actual founding in 2008.