LOCATION: Zakaznik, russia
TARGET SPECIES: Crane (Grus)
The Homeland of the Crane is the largest of the 12 state wetland preserves that contain fens in floodplains, bogs and dwarf pine forests. Populated with nagoon berry, cloudberry, spotleaf orchis, crowberry and dwarf birch these forests are home to 215 bird species of including the common crane, greater spotted eagle, azure tits, European curlew, pigeon hawk and Ural owl geese, ducks, sandpiper sometimes even swans and storks. Over 15,000 cranes gather in autumn. Mammals include elk, red deer, roe deer, bear, lynx, badger, wolves, foxes, wild boars, hares, weasels, beavers and more.
The Homeland of the Crane is the first Protected Area in Russia under local administration. It has a biological station in the village of Dmitrovka for research and education and conservation projects on peatland restoration, sustainable agricultural land management and bird conservation. The regional nature reserve of Homeland of the Crane also provides excursions to tourists, hosts environmental, folklore and conservationist conferences and holds field seminars an every year in September they organize a Crane Festival for schoolchildren from Moscow and northern Moscow Region to observe the hundreds of cranes.
Located in the Taldom District of Russia, 80 kilometers north of Moscow, this area includes a 40,000 hectare wetlands used as a major staging area for Eurasian cranes. CC worked with the Druzhina for Nature Conservation, the International Crane Foundation and the Viroqua Area-Taldom Friendship Association (Wisconsin) during 1994-1996 in developing a management, education and tourism program for the reserve.
In 1994, CC Director Rob Horwich was contacted by the Viroqua Area –Taldom Friendship Association (VATFA) a sister city Project to work together with Taldon District, a rural County north of Moscow. Its logo features a common crane with a boot since bootmaking was a major industry in Taldom. Horwich traveled with VATFA members Karen Dahl and John Ward a police consultant volunteering with the Taldom Administration. The Wisconsinites linked up with students from the Druzhina of Nature Conservation from Moscow State University who wanted our help to work with communities to save the Homeland of the Cranes Zakaznik (a protected area with no funding) complex of 40,000 hectares of wetlands. They were also hosted by members of the Moscow based Biodiversity Conservation Center. They visited with the Taldom Mayor and visited the Klitchkov Museum where the project was to create exhibits on cranes and wetlands.
Horwich and others returned during 1995 –1996 under a grant to Community Conservation and the International Crane Foundation from the Institute for Soviet and American Relations (ISAR). Working with the Dhruzhina they created a management plan for the wetland complex, GIS maps, and a monitoring system. Later, the Druzhina students created exhibits for the Klychkov Museum and a natural history guide to the wetlands as well as collected water quality data with help from the Kickapoo Water Monitors that later evolved into Valley Stewardship Network. The Klychkov was the home of S.A. Klychkov, a poet who was subjected to repression in 1937. The first floor still holds crane exhibits and is open in the village of Dubroyki.
This was the time during the breakup of the Soviet Union and money was unstable so the travelers had to carry large amounts of grant money in cash on them for the Dhruzhina partners who kept it in their houses for exchange when rates were best.
Since the Soviet Union had just broken up, the Taldom Administration and others were still functioning as the earlier Soviet Union, often dominating our sister city people and not allowing us to move around freely. Once when they saw Horwich was living in an abandoned building auditorium with Dhruzhina members and no running water, they ordered the students to put the foreigners in a hotel. The small $3 rooms had none of the ambiance of the auditorium with portraits of Lenin, Marx and others overseeing the Druzhina’s communal sleeping quarters and hotplate stoves. Dhruzhina was the first private conservation NGO in Russia that formed during the radical times of the 1960s and although they would resent being referred as true communists in the best sense of the word, as a group of young people in hard times they were sharing their houses, apartments and food with each other as well as with the foreign visitors.
When CC and its American colleagues left for the last time in 1996, the Taldom Administration (equivalent of a county government) was intending to register the Homeland of the Cranes wetland complex as a Protected Area like a county park and they were producing a budget and staff to manage it. So even though CC was not able to make real inroads into the community, the Taldom District was going to care for their cranes. CC left a museum and guidebook behind and Elena Smirnova, project leader, was beginning a Crane Festival. Unfortunately, in those somewhat chaotic times CC lost touch with their Russian colleagues and were never sure exactly what seeds the project had sown and how much sustainability the project would have
Although Community Conservation no longer actively participates in this project, Druzhina volunteers continue the program with an annual Crane Festival, lectures and crane and wetland expeditions for school groups in the Taldom and Sergei Posad Districts. An ecological center was created in Taldom as a base for Druzhina volunteers.
Since 1999, the Crane Festival continues to date with 200-800 participants each year. During the Celebration there is communal sowing of seeds for grassland restoration and folklore presentations and art and poetry sessions for children. Villagers from the adjacent Sergiev Posad District now is invited and bird studies and monitoring, protection of migratory grounds for the common Eurasia cranes, habitat management, reforestation and peat bog restoration occurs on a continuous basis and the Taldom administration has established a Centre for Wildlife Conservation, the Museum is the first and only crane museum in Russia and the Taldom District has formed the Taldom District Administration of Especially Protected Natural Territories as a State Agency in the Moscow Oblast (State equivalent). The project has integrated conservation with sustainable agriculture and the farmers wait to hay after mid –July when the grassland birds have fledged. They use the cows as grazers to maintain the grasslands and still feed the cows the grass.