Conservation of protected areas is included in Acts No. 114/1992 Gazette and 64/2011 Gazette on the nature and landscape protection and the delegated regulation No. 395/1992 Gazette. Special territorial conservation is divided into two parts: large-size protected areas and small-size protected areas.
Large-size specially protected areas are divided into following categories:
- National park (NP)
- Protected landscape area (PLA)
Small-size specially protected areas are divided into these categories:
- National nature reserve (NNR)
- National nature monument (NNM)
- Nature reserve (NR)
- Nature monument (NM)
National parks are large areas that are unique on either a national or international level. Most of them consist of natural ecosystems or ecosystems little influenced by man, whose fauna, flora and abiotic nature are of exceptional scientific and educational significance. Authorities of national parks are not parts of NCA CR. There are four national parks in the Czech Republic with their own independent authorities (Krkonošský NP, Šumava NP, České Švýcarsko NP, Podyjí NP). Šumava NP and Šumava PLA are administered by a single organization, the Vimperk-based Authority of Šumava NP and Šumava PLA.
Protected landscape areas are large areas of landscape formed in a balanced way, with characteristic relief, a significant portion of natural forest and permanent graminaceous vegetation ecosystems, a large portion consisting of woody species and in some cases conserved historical settlement monuments. The Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic executes state administration in nature conservation and has 14 regional offices. The most recent PLA, Brdy, was designated in 2016. Apart from administration of PLA areas, the NCA CR is also responsible for management of national nature reserves and national nature monuments lying even outside the PLA area, according to their territorial competency (outside national parks and military areas).
Protected Landscape Areas (PLAs) are representatives of IUCN category V in the Czech Republic. They are designated by the Government of the Czech Republic and each governmental order sets out the mission and specific conservation measures of each PLA. The definition of a PLA and the process of its designation are specified in the Nature Conservation Act. The process of designation includes negotiations with land-owners, municipalities, regional and central authorities and other stakeholders.
PLAs are large areas of landscape formed in a balanced way with characteristic relief and a significant proportion of the area covered by natural ecosystems, often permanent grasslands and natural forests accompanied, in most cases, by well-conserved settlements with typical features.
The objective of each PLA is to preserve harmonious landscape and its typical features while ensuring the existence of well-functioning ecosystems and all natural values of the area. When considering the designation of a PLA the following criteria are assessed: the sufficiency of size, typical landscape features (geomorphology and configuration of landscape structures), the proportion of ecosystems that are either natural or are not significantly altered by human activity, and the focus on localities important for their biodiversity. The network as such aims to be representative of the types of landscape in the country, from mountain habitats to areas with pond systems, and from orchid meadows to floodplain forests.
With one exception, the Šumava PLA, which is governed by the administration of the national park of the same name, all the remaining PLAs in the Czech Republic are administered by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic (NCA). Except of all PLAs, the last IUCN category V area in the Czech Republic is the Krkonoše Mountains National Park, wich is a separate organisation and is administered by its own administration.
There is a management plan elaborated for each of the PLA, usually for a period of 10 years. The management plans are prepared by the NCA, and approved by the Ministry of Environment in a process including stakeholder consultation.
National nature reserves are defined as small-size areas of exceptional value, unique ecosystems of national or international significance in combination with natural relief and typical geological features.
National nature monuments and nature monuments are defined as small-size natural features. They are especially landforms or geological features, mineral resource localities or areas where rare or vulnerable species occur in the remnants of ecosystems. Where there is an ecological, scientific or aesthetic significance on either a national or international level, the area (even an area formed by man) is designated a national nature monument.
Nature reserves are small-size areas where natural rarities are concentrated and a typical and significant ecosystem of the geographical area is present.
According to act No. 114/1992 Gazette, there are some restrictions regarding specially protected areas. These restrictions depend on the protected area category and, in the case of national parks and PLAs, also on their zoning. The state body responsible for designating can establish additional, more detailed protection conditions. This is in practice a list of activities that can be carried on only with a prior permit issued by the competent nature conservation authority. The designation decree of each protected area defines these detailed protection conditions.
According to regulation No. 64/2011 Gazette, specially protected areas are marked by:
- a plaque with the large national emblem of the Czech Republic together with the definition of the protected area category (in cases of NP, PLA, national nature monument and reserve)
- a plaque with the small national emblem of the Czech Republic together with the definition of the protected area category (in the case of nature reserves and nature monuments)
- border marking by stripes on columns or border trees (in the case of national nature reserves and monuments, nature reserves and monuments and the core zone of NP). This consists of two 5cm-wide red stripes 5 cm apart. The lower stripe delineates the non-protected area, while the upper encompasses the whole girth.
Role of the NCA CR
NCA CR carries out state administration in nature and landscape conservation within individual PLAs (except the Sumava PLA).
NCA CR ensures the preparations and implements management plans for the 25 PLAs and 716 National Nature Reserves, Nature Reserves, National Nature Monuments and Nature Monuments on the Czech Republic’s territory. It also monitors and assesses their status in the long-term perspective. Together with local partners, NCA CR’s offices prepare and implement the management plans for areas and localities.
The core funding for the NCA, as a state entity, comes from the state budget. The management of protected areas, carried out in accordance with approved management plans, is financed from national funding programmes as well as from programmes administered by the European Union. The national funding comes from budget lines of the Ministry of Environment and is administered by the NCA. European sources used in nature conservation include the Operational Programme Environment, LIFE, EEA and Norway Grants, and the Rural Development Programme.