New Ak-Cholushpa Nature Park gets a quick start

Stone mushroom near Ak-Korum. View into the Chulyshman River valley. Photo by Igor Heitman

This great update on the new Ak-Cholushpa Nature Park was first published by RIA-Novosti, on October 26, 2012.

UN to give 9 million rubles to develop Ak-Cholushpa Nature Park

The first 3 “kordon” checkpoints for Ak Cholushpa Nature Park will be functioning by year’s end. This will increase protection of the new protected area and facilitate its development. The park’s director is Alena Maikova.

The new nature park was created in October 2011 with the goal of protecting the Chulushman Valley’s unusual landscape and its rare species from the tremendous increase in unregulated tourism. Today, the park is in the process of being established. The United Nations Development Project (UNDP) Altai-Sayan program has set aside 9 million rubles ($300,000) for the park as a part of its climate change program.

“This money will be a really big help; but we must spend out the funds by year’s end. Specifically, the money will be spent on construction of the main office and visitors’ center in Ulagan village… by the end of November. Regional “kordon” checkpoints will be set up in the Pazyryk and Chulyshman sections of the park,” said Alena Maikova.

There will also be several traditional ail-style museums in various parts of the park. The park will acquire vehicles and technology as well as erect signage.

Maikova also reported that a kordon will be set up on the shores of Lake Teletskoye. This kordon will be used jointly by staff of the nature park and Altaisky State Nature Reserve as a base for enforcement patrols and other collaborative activities. The checkpoint will be located in a place convenient to Uchar Waterfall and the Stone Mushrooms formation.

She added that “the park will have a dispatch center at Katu-Yaryk Pass, the place through which the majority of tourists pass into the Chulyshman Valley. From here we will be able to monitor the flow of tourists.”

The director stated that scientific research is planned throughout the park. Specialists also hope to prepare infrastructure to protect the most popular of the numerous natural healing springs in the area. Despite this, the park’s primary activity will be to proactively protect against environmental damage.

“For the time being, we will address the problems that are the squeakiest wheels. We also have our work cut out for us in the Chulyshman Valley, because tourism pressure there is tremendous. We’d like to create a separate program for the Pazyryk area, but haven’t yet found any support for that, as it is a slightly different arena – more cultural and historical in nature – and our funding is purely for environmental conservation,” she added.

Currently, the park has just 3 staff and a driver. They hope to have better enforcement capacity in the near future, especially to find poachers that fish illegally in the Chulyshman River during spawning season.

“There are already very few remaining fish in the river. We plan to contact local residents and discuss the possibility of a 2-3 year moratorium on fishing so that the population can recover, ” told the director.

According to specialists, 27% of plant species and 41% of animal species in the Park are listed in Altai Republic’s Red Book. Moreover, there are numerous ancient kurgan burial mounds, including the famous Pazyryk kurgans; these mounds are historical monuments and the unique heritage of the Altai people. The proximity of steppe and high-altitude alpine biomes found here is a rare occurrence on the planet.

Ak-Cholushpa Nature Park is 168,000 hectares (415,000+ acres) in size and is located in eastern Altai Republic within Ulagan District. It consists of three “clusters” – Chulyshman (on the southern shores of Lake Teletskoye), Kalbakaya (near the Malaya Kokorya River), and Pazyryk (southeast of Balyktuyul village).