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Saving Rospuda Valley
A pristine valley in north-east Poland, is crammed with spectacular wildlife. It is called the Rospuda valley, that has eagles, wolves and orchids. Species which have long been rare or extinct in western European countries, such as lynx, elk, wolf and beaver, along with scores of uncommon bird species, from eagles to corn crakes, still have substantial populations in the 10 central and eastern European nations which have recently joined the EU. But the pressure of economic growth is so strong that they are now planning to run motorway right through it, and leading up to the Baltic States.

The Raspuda valley combines the vast extent of ancient forests, some of which are still primeval – meaning they have never been cut down and replanted – and the wetlands. The Rospuda river flows through the ancient Augustow Forest near Poland's border with Lithuania, one of the most pristine forest regions in all of Europe; and the river's course is bracketed by a peat bog which is astonishingly rich in mammals, rare birds, plants and insects. The protected species of bird's range from the white-tailed, short-toed and lesser-spotted eagles, through the black grouse and the capercaillie, to the corncake, the crane and the great snipe.

The Raspuda is any bird-watchers dream land but in environmental terms, the valley is a jewel. Yet it sits squarely astride the route for one of Europe's most ambitious road schemes, the so-called Via Baltica expressway that will one day cut through the valley's heart.

The Rospuda valley is characterized by the undisturbed landscape conditions and vegetation. The sedge-moss communities, covering over 100 ha are the most valuable habitat of the Rospuda valley. They have permanent high water levels and in most part are free of encroaching willow or birch shrubs.

Most of the Rospuda valley plant communities belong to the mesotrophic small sedge-brown moss vegetation. In addition, small patches of other plant communities are scattered in different parts of the valley. These are for instance: raised bog patches, springs and oak-linden-hornbeam forests growing here and there on mineral islands on the mire and on the slopes of the valley.

The ecological value of Rospuda valley is one of the most valuable mire complexes in Poland. The most precious qualities of the Rospuda valley are the vastness of the valley and the totally undisturbed water relations. Its hydrological system bearing no signs of human-made disruption guarantees the stable existence of unique habitats together with the plants and animals relying on them.

The rarest and most valuable species of vascular plants in the valley are: Musk Orchid, Fen Orchid, Lady's Slipper Orchid, and also Dwarf Birch, Jacob's Ladder, Adder's Mouth Orchid, Slender Cotton-grass, Cotton Deergrass. The great part of species mentioned above occur in a large number in the Rospuda valley and it is the only site in Poland, where Musk Orchid occurs.

When Poland acceded to EU, it was obliges under the EU law to declare some of its best wildlife sites as protected areas. Rospuda valley is one of these, part of the Augustow primeval forest special protection area, which means that if a development is likely to harm a protected site, alternatives have to be explored.

Visitors to the valley have seen the black woodpecker, a spectacular re-crested bird and a wild boar. The locals are trying to protect their pristine valley against the strong-willed politicians who have their ambitions on growing economy. But the to put a road through Raspuda would be a wilful destruction of some of Europe's most wonderful wildlife sites.
About the Author
© 2006 Harish Kohli. Harish Kohli is an avid traveller who likes to share good adventure travel ideas with others. He is also CEO of AwimAway.com where he can help tailor-make an experiential or adventure holiday for you.
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