A contribution by Susanne Blech, the LWA contact person for nature conservation, with a foreword by LWA founder Sebastian Schmidt.
Foreword - Why the preservation of wilderness is important to us: Whether on land or in the Packraft, for us, untouched places, wilderness and untamed nature are a very special attraction. These are the places that attract us and where we plan our adventures to. We want to give all our participants the special feeling of being on the move in such places, while preserving the wildness of nature and creating an awareness of the importance of its preservation.
Exerting as little influence as possible on nature wherever we are on our way, we have promised in our LWA conservation concept and commit all participants of our multi-day courses and expeditions to these guidelines.
In addition, we see it as our responsibility as a company to contribute to the preservation of the wildness and untouchedness of nature elsewhere as well, and have focused our attention here on the last wild rivers in Europe. We have explained our motivation for this in detail in an interview with the EuroNatur Foundation and now let Susanne speak about this in detail here.
Why Europe's last wild rivers need us
Susanne, our contact person for nature conservation, expert for environment and wilderness, guide for whitewater courses and expeditions and sympathetic, walking nature encyclopedia. Doesn't leave the tent without coffee.
More information about Susanne here.
It is hard for us to imagine that such a well-known, unique and picturesque place like the upper reaches of Soča would have almost disappeared into the big lake of a dam. This section of Soča almost shared the fate of so many rivers in energy-hungry Europe. Had it not been for the many voices that cried out in time.
Among the voices were also the numerous water sports enthusiasts who pilgrimage to this special place every year. Their economic importance added weight to the protection of the wild pearl and so the plans for the construction of the dams disappeared in a drawer for the time being.
At least for now, the upper reaches of Soča are allowed to retain their wildness and nature lovers as well as water sports enthusiasts will continue to find a unique resort here. All this happened a few years ago. Only a few of the last wild rivers enjoy attention like the Soča.
We at LWA also care a lot about the preservation of this special river. But we also want to focus on other threatened rivers.
The power of the wild currents
A wild river national park in Europe as long as a whole river and as important as a marine reserve. Why is that not yet the case? The idea for this symbolic project was born out of necessity. Because, like so many rivers in the Balkans, the mighty stream of the Vjosa is in danger of being cut.
Europe's last untouched rivers are acutely threatened by a dam boom designed on the drawing board. Approximately 3,000 new dams are planned in the region, some of them in national parks. They will complement the approximately 1,000 already built dams. The doubts about the economic benefits of these internationally financed large-scale projects are hardly being heard and the fragmentation of the rivers is progressing inexorably. An overall energy concept does not seem to exist and according to NGOs even a large part of the energy produced is to be exported.
Another threat posed by the dam boom is the majestic Vjosa, a meandering river that has so far been largely untamed, originating in Greece and flowing into the Mediterranean Sea in southern Albania. Musicians write songs about her, girls are named after her and now NGOs like Eco Albania, Riverwatch and EuroNatur are striving to preserve her wild beauty. They are planning something in this place that does not yet exist: the first Wild River National Park of Europe.
The spark has now jumped over and has also moved the company Patagonia to support the efforts to protect them. We have joined this initiative. All in the spirit of LWA's spirit of adventure. We think, the idea of a wild river national park is simply amazing!
With the power of water
Unbridled currents are rare. We in Europe and the world have cut and dammed many of the great lifelines to make them navigable and use their energy. From the simple mill of pre-industrial times to the towering dam, many rivers serve as energy suppliers and transport routes. Cut and dammed, enriched with harmful substances, used up and fished empty, they are no longer home to such impressive species as migratory salmon and sturgeons. Not few powerful rivers are only a shadow of theirself at their mouths.
The intervention in the dynamics of the large flows destroys complex ecosystems and causes consequential damage that is not always immediately visible or economically noticeable. In many places, the nature of Europe's lifelines gives a sobering picture and children grow up without knowing the animals whose home would be the great rivers. In some places, a lot of money is spent on renaturating river sections. It is an attempt to give the river back part of its former freedom. Until the next weir.
As a Packrafter and nature lover, you will inevitably be hard of hearing when there is talk of a whole dam boom. And the question arises as to whether we would not be in a position today to take other technical paths before we transform the last ecologically intact wild rivers into dammed reservoirs. It is not about preventing development, but about a sustainable energy concept and the preservation of precious landscapes for the generations to come.
Why LWA supports "Save the Blue Heart of Europe"
We preferred to packraft where we are a little more on our own and nature is a little more untamed than we are used to in everyday life. We don't just want to pursue this spirit of adventure far away. And so it is our concern to support efforts to protect wild river landscapes where they still exist in our vicinity. In some places these endeavours must have a particularly long breath.
This is when it comes to creating the legal basis for nature conservation in the first place. By supporting the work of EuroNatur, we want to play our part in creating the necessary conditions for the conservation of wilderness in the countries concerned. This includes basic principles, such as environmental impact assessments, which provide a legal framework for incorporating ecological and economic aspects into planning.
Euronatur's project is a lengthy process that requires a long breath. It therefore seems all the more important to us to invest here. And so one percent of the proceeds from the participation fees of our whitewater courses in the Soča valley and in Tyrol goes to the "Save the Blue Heart of Europe" campaign to protect the wild rivers of South Eastern Europe. Our first donation and the beginning of the support was our season end 2018 with the participants of our multi-day courses and expeditions.
We say thank you again and look forward to many more adventures together in the wild waves of Lech, Isar and Soča!