Following the tradition, our meeting opened with a symposium at the University of St. Petersburg, jointly organised by the university, the regional NGO Baltic Fund for Nature, and SCB. It comprised two presentations by Russian conservationists, and several introductory contributions by the Europe Section on how SCB works, what it does and a collection of main issues on our agenda at the regional, national, and international levels (e.g. CAP, IPBES, roadless areas). The venue – a spectacular Rococo-style room within a 400m-long corridor, added a particular historical aura to the event: A man-size golden clock took the elegant, luxurious Tsar way of reminding the speakers to keep to their time slots.
Having our Board meeting in Russia is indeed a historical event for the Society: An important strategic aim was to strengthen the links between East and West, improve the integration of Russian researchers and students in the SCB community, and, overall, draw greater attention to the Greater Europe in the Section’s agenda.To experience wilderness and near-roadless areas, we travelled into the taiga and visited the beaches of Lake Ladoga and a bird-ringing station in the strictly protected, Nizhne-Svirsky Nature Reserve, encompassing an area of 41,000 ha. A travel on a narrow road (video taken by Francisco will come soon, to demonstrate how shaky it was ;-)) gave us the opportunity to watch several capercaillies, millions of mushrooms, and several spots of beaver activity. Finally, at the sandy shores of the (sadly over-fished and still-too-polluted) lake, we came to a crossroads: Where a small stream ends at the waters, animals have to pass as well. There we found the footsteps of elks, wild boars, wolves, raccoon dog and a bear. A crossroads also for us: here we shared a glass of champagne (actually plastic cups) with our András to commemorate 12 years of service to the SCB on his last board meeting.
Back at the beautifully simple venue, an attentive crew allowed us to maximise the time allocated for intense discussions. Issues of particular importance in our Board meeting involved membership and involvement: how can we improve participation of students, and better serve their wishes and needs? Can we facilitate the creation of new, vivid Chapters that would support local themes? And how can we improve communication – especially toward ICCB-ECCB? Other thematically important issues were wilderness, roadless areas and EU policy (e.g. the CAP).
We are indebted to Rustam (Board member and Director of the Baltic Fund for Nature), his assistant Tanya and the team at the reserve for making the visit of the Society in “true” eastern Europe so smooth.
For more information on issues such as the ICCB-ECCB, Šumava and the Common Agricultural Policy, and to know more about our Edina, our new coordinator, please await the next blog entries over the coming days.