Trees… They shade us from the sun; when it is raining, we hide under them and perceive their fragrance, the rustling of their leaves. Did you know that our ancestors have protected trees already in the 12th century? How do we care for trees today? Join us on our quest for monument trees in the Karlovy Vary Region.
Tree Conservation in the Past
In the Middle Ages, tree conservation was closely associated with forest management. One of the oldest preserved orders stipulating forest management and punishments for damaging forestland is the "Law of Conrad II Otto, Duke of Bohemia" dating back to approximately 1189. Punishment for unlawful felling of trees may also be found in the municipal law of Jihlava and in the book written by the old Lord of Rosenberg in the 1360s.
Chapter 50 of the draft of the Majestas Carolina code of laws promulgated by Charles IV, King of Bohemia, in 1348 states: "Wishing that the forests of our wondrous land and their admirable abundance be preserved and strenuously safeguarded against any felling whatsoever, except as explicitly permitted by us, to save them and their immaculacy for evermore, we hereby order ..." In 1355, however, Charles IV repealed the Majestas Carolina due to pressures from the Assembly of Lords.
In 1754, Maria Theresa issued the "Forest Order", a quite progressive and exhaustive regulation on forest conservation and management in its time. Alexander von Humboldt (1769 – 1859), a professor at Berlin University, was the first to denote elderly and majestic trees that he encountered on his scientific expedition in South America in the years 1799 – 1804 as a nature monument.
The history of conservation of monument trees at the turn of the 19th and 20th century in our country is closely linked to the foundation and the activities of beautification associations. On October 30th, 1904, the Union of Czech Beautification Associations in the Kingdom of Bohemia with its seat in Prague was founded in Prague (at the "U Choděrů" restaurant). In 1905, it changed its name to the Union of Czech Beautification Associations in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia and with the birth of the Czechoslovak Republic, it transformed into the Union of Czechoslovak Associations for Beautification and Protection of the Homeland in Prague.
From 1904 until the early 1950s, the union had been publishing a rather interesting magazine entitled "Krása našeho domova" (The Beauty of Our Homeland), in which we may find plenty of information on the conservation of monument trees even today.
In 1899, Jan Evangelista Chadt Ševínský (1899) published the first overview of monument trees in Bohemia. In 1908, in the XVII year of the "Český lid" (Czech People) magazine and in a special edition, the same author published a list entitled "Elderly and Monument Trees in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia", containing descriptions of 165 rare trees, including 30 pictures. A complemented edition with descriptions of 320 rare trees and 160 pictures of significant species was published in Písek in 1913 and subsequently, as a separate section in the book entitled "Dějiny lesů a lesnictví" (The History of Forests and Forestry). The list, assembled with the aid of numerous contributors, is the first detailed list of monument trees in our country which is still used as a source of valuable information on our monument trees even today.
Tree Conservation Today
Pursuant to Section 46(1) of Act No. 114/1992 Coll., on Nature and Landscape Protection, trees of major significance, their groups and alleys may be declared "monument trees" based on a decision of a nature conservation body. To safeguard monument trees against harmful effects, the nature conservation body declaring such monument trees may determine a protective zone for a monument tree and define conservation conditions or specify what activities can be carried out in such protective zone subject to the previous consent of the nature conservation body.
Where a protective zone is not delimited in this manner, a basic protective zone is allocated to any monument tree under the applicable law, whereas the protective zone is of circular shape with a radius equal to ten times the size of the tree diameter measured 130 cm above the ground. Moreover, the law stipulates basic conservation conditions in the sense that no activities harmful to the monument tree are permitted in the protective zone (Section 46(3) of the above-mentioned Act).
Timber species distinguished by their size, age, as well as dominant landscape elements, especially valuable introduced tree species, and last but not least, historically valuable tree species, which represent historical monuments commemorating historical events or with which various tales or legends are associated, may be declared monument trees, their groups or alleys.
A proposal for declaring a tree a monument tree may be submitted to the nature conservation body by any citizen.
Pursuant to Section 76(2)(d), (3), (4) of Act No. 114/1992 Coll., commissioned municipal councils of municipalities and statutory towns and cities (Act of the Czech National Council No. 367/1990 Coll.), the Prague City Hall, national park administration, protected landscape area administration are authorised to declare monument trees, their groups and alleys, as well as their protective zones within their jurisdiction (i.e. in their territorial districts, however, not in protective zones of national parks or protected landscape areas).
The competent authority as regards the territory of national nature reserves and national nature monuments, even if such instances are likely to be quite rare, is the Ministry of the Environment of the CR, and the competent authority as regards the territory of nature reserves and nature monuments (outside the territory of protected landscape areas and national parks) is the regional authority.
In accordance with Section 77(1) of Act No. 114/1992 Coll., district authorities are authorised to recall the protection of monument trees, while with respect to national parks, protected landscape areas and their protective zones, such decision pertains to the competence of national park and protected landscape area administrations in compliance with Section 78(1) of Act No. 114/1992 Coll.
It should be emphasized that municipal councils are not authorised to permit the felling of tree species, which are declared monument trees, prior to the cancellation of such protection by the competent nature conservation authority (see previous paragraphs).