Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced today that Russia will create a new 1.5 million hectare park in the Arctic, a central area for the Barents and Kara Sea polar bear populations.
The ‘Russian Arctic’ park is located on the northern part of Novaya Zemlya, a long island that arcs out into the Arctic Ocean between the Barents and Kara Seas. It also includes some adjacent marine areas.
WWF has long been lobbying for the park, which is also a key area for walrus, wild reindeer and bird population. The park creation excludes all industrial activities.
“This is exactly the sort of thing we need to see from Arctic governments,” said Neil Hamilton, Director of WWF International’s Arctic Program. “The only way these Arctic populations are going to survive the ecological havoc caused by climate change is by providing them with enough breathing room.”
“If industrial activity is kept far enough from key habitat, the animals have a chance,” continued Hamilton. “We also need urgent global action on climate change to ensure that the parks stay cold enough for animals such as polar bears and wild reindeer.”
While WWF is pleased with the park creation, it notes that the protected area is smaller than the 5 million hectares initially planned.
“Despite the fact that the Russian Arctic Park is our big achievement, we’re sorry that not all planned territories were included in the park area,” said Oleg Sutkaitis, Head of the Barents Sea Ecoregional Office for WWF Russia. “Franz Josef Land and Victoria Island were crossed out from the project, but we will now work on widening the park’s borders.”
When announcing the park, Prime Minister Putin said he hoped it would be a major attraction for tourism and announced that he personally plans to vacation there.