A beech forest in Thayatal National Park, along the border of Austria and Czechia.
Mountain view in Gesäuse National Park, in the central Austrian Alps.
Along the Grossglocknerstrasse, in the Hohe Tauern National Park.
The Neusiedler Lake, in eastern Austria.
Donau-Auen National Park, along the Danube River near Vienna.
During the past few months I’ve been able to visit several of Austria’s national parks, including the Donau Auen, a spectacular bosque river landscape that starts practically in downtown Vienna and extends all the way to the border with Slovakia. The Donau Auen is one of the biggest remaining natural river landscapes in central Europe and stands as testament to the power of grassroots activism. When plans for a giant hydropower plant were revealed in the early 1980s, students, teachers, artists and others banded together to occupy the area, eventually winning the public relations battle and leading to preservation of the area.
While Austria is best known for its mountain landscapes, the Neusiedler See is located on the eastern border of Austria, where the mountains tilt away to the great steppes of the northernmost Balkan region. The other two parks in shown in this set are in the heart of Austria’s Alps, featuring classic mountain landscapes. Most Austrian parks are just a few decades old and were inspired by national parks in the U.S. Indeed, the concept of public places as showcases of ecological diversity and preservation is probably one of America’s best exports.
Dried grass glows under afternoon sunlight against the backdrop of a dark forest in Thayatal National Park, Lower Austria.
Late afternoon light shimmers on budding trees in Thayatal National Park, Lower Austria.
A fallen beech in Thayatal National Park, Austria.
Green tinged fields in Lower Austria under an evening sky.
A spring rainstorm builds above the agricultural plains north of Vienna, Austria.
The Lower Austrian landscape encompasses everything from wild beech forests and deep river canyons to manicured fields — not to mention acres and acres of vineyard, but that’s another story! Austrians are still getting used to the concept of national parks. Thayatal was founded in 2002, so some local visitors still don’t quite understand why the park managers simply leave downed trees on the ground. It’s considered a waste by some, and the park features signs explaining how it’s a deliberate effort to recreate landscapes where natural processes are left to function without much interference. In this small country, nearly every acre of land is spoken for, most of it outside towns and cities dedicated to agriculture, but slowly, resource managers are making some headway in restoring natural ecosystems in a few areas, to the benefit of native species.
The National Park Service is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year, and visitors can join the party by taking advantage of free admission to all national parks from April 16 to April 24.
“We have an amazing variety of special events taking place during the centennial,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a press release. “Some commemorate our first hundred years, but many others look to the future, to the next 100 years, and will help connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates. It is through them that America’s lands and stories will be preserved and passed on to future generations,” Jarvis said. Continue reading “Travel: National parks celebrate centennial by offering free admission April 16-24”→
A series of unusual storms in October dropped locally heavy rainfall in several areas of the park. The most rain fell in places without official rain gauges, but the National Weather Service estimated that over 3 inches of rain fell in just 5 hours in one area of the park. This autumn soaking was followed by enough winter rain to cause the widespread wildflower bloom. Continue reading “Travel: Death Valley sees wildflower ‘ super bloom’”→
Some populations likely to blink out because of global warming
Climate change may push pikas out of some western national parks, but they are expected to survive in others, where global warming won’t hit quite so hard, scientists said in a new report.
The tiny mammals are common residents of the alpine zone in the West, but warmer and drier conditions will shrink their habitat in some regions in the coming decades. The study concluded that warmer temperatures in Rocky Mountain National Park will cause habitat suitability and connectivity to decline, making that population “highly vulnerable to extirpation.” Continue reading “Report offers mixed climate change outlook for pikas”→
Agency acknowledges potential for adverse impacts to park values
The recent surge in fossil fuel exploitation on public lands near national parks has raised serious concerns about air quality, wildlife and scenic values — to the point that the National Parks Conservation Association outlined threats in a report a few years ago.
Now, the National Park Service wants to tackle some of the concerns by updating drilling regulations. The proposal would revise current rules that are 36 years old, predating the modern fracking area. The agency hopes the update will give the fossil fuel industry more certainty, improve the agency’s ability to protect park resources and the values for which the parks were set aside, and protect visitors from potentially adverse impacts associated with fossil fuel development. Continue reading “National Park Service to update oil and gas drilling rules”→