Once upon a time, a group of conservation biologists go in a rural landscape for holidays. They were fascinated about its beauty. Many protected birds everywhere, orchids, wetlands, traditional land use. Nice, smiling villagers and beautiful landscape. They saw something like this (Picture 1):
Picture 1. This is what our biologists saw. It is really unimportant where this place is - lets say: it can be anywhere in Eastern Europe! (Photo: Letitia Cosnean)
Real “trap of hospitality” - they told. And they make lots of pics about local people and enjoy eating what they – strangely call – bio products! Healthy rural life! Just a perfect human and environmental dimension, certainly very different from that of the big city.
Some of these ecologists noticed (from the corner of the eye) that local people are just smiling when the Alauda arvensis, Gymnadenia conopsea, Triturus cristatus or other creature names were pronounced. "Well , they are not specialists like us" - biologists told. But the biologists also noticed that these people are not stupid at all. Of course, they don’t know what a laptop is and don’t have wireless internet. One old TV in the village seems to be enough for them and there is a phone too, which is rarely used. One conservationist noticed that the knowledge of these people is both qualitatively and quantitatively very different from that of the city people. And not very different from the scientific knowledge! And they name it indigenous knowledge and were very happy – apparently – for this new concept! After few nice days in the rural landscape, they go away, smiling and promising that they will come back.
And they do it. This time with more colleagues, big, fancy cars, all smiling and asking nice questions to villagers. They told that now they work within the framework of a research project - an FP7! They start to make lists using those strange names. And they told to villagers: these beautiful landscape need protection. There are so many species and habitats here which are endangered in European level … “Look for example that little toad in the ditch on the front of your house!" - told the herpetologist to one villager. "Its scientific name is Bombina variegata. This is a legally protected species because it is endangered by extinction! You are so-so lucky to have it! and should take care of it!” The villager look to the toad, and to the conservation biologist, and back to the toad and then to his wife. And smile. He told his wife that these tourists (which call themselves research scientists) are very nice people, no doubt, but sometimes they behave strangely. But, the world is big, there is place for everybody here, so, “I go to make hay and they go to do their job to search flowers, birds and frogs”.
And an other season and year was spent. Villagers somehow get used with these nice researchers. Next year the researchers come back. With more cars, and this time with the mayor of the village as well. Villagers noticed that their clothes, their behavior is a bit more different than previously, and seem to not be prepared to be dirty as before. The other foreign people who come with them are also interesting: women with lots of makeup in her face, and men dressed with costume (they told that they come from the Environmental Protection Agency!!!). “These people are gentlemen, from high society and wise, not like us” – some of the villagers told silently. And they ask the villagers for a meeting to make for them a very important announcement. Some villagers go to this event. Finally, a small group of 10 people formed in the court of the priest. And they wait (and eventually ease the waiting with a glass of wine…). The “new people” were continuously smiling and they make an announcement for villagers, in a very official and imposing way. They announced that now, finally, the whole landscape and community received a – much deserved – legal protected status. Up to 50 strictly protected plants, and up to 80 protected birds, tens of habitats everywhere scattered in the landscape (even in the village!). And all these are underestimations! These species and habitats need to be protected. And they told (shortly, to save time of the farmers and to be explicit) that:
(i) Basically no intervention (i.e. development) should be implemented in the landscape before a management plan is written (they assured people that many very good scientists and professors are intensively searching for funds to carry out even more detailed studies and write an integrated management plan). If some interventions are planned by villagers (for example, somebody would like to connect his house to the gas, or if they want to restore their houses or anything else!), then an environmental impact assessment need to be done. They were so kind to suggest some organizations to do this – on personal (or community) expense, of course.
(ii) The traditional land management practices need to be continued to protect the rich biodiversity of this landscape. No land use intensification will be allowed, no machinery and no chemical use. And there are some potential sources of funding (through agri-environmental measures, for example) and all the details on this can be easily accessed on the internet.
(iii) If any “bad” intervention is made, from this time, the penalties are very “salty”.
And after making the announcement, these very nice and wise people go away with their fancy cars - back to their institutes and offices. And, as a manifestation of generosity, they give the reprints of some scientific papers to the mayor and the priest, where scenarios based on complex modeling will show what will happen with various creatures under various management regimes.
In this way, an other protected area was delineated somewhere in a rural landscape of