Kuzneztsky Alatau

Kuznetsky Alatau protects high peaks of the Altai-Sayan Mountains of western Siberia, some 2,867 square miles (7,429 km2) of taiga forests, flowering high meadows, and rushing mountain streams that are home to a dense, richly varied wildlife. Among these are reindeer, brown bears, musk and roe deer, wolves, lynx, sables, ermines, golden eagles and 273 other bird species, of which 229 migrate here for the breeding season. Most common at lower elevations are yellowhammers, red crossbills, scarlet rosefinches, great tits, and higher up, Pallas’ reed buntings, twites, solitary snipes, and rock ptarmigans.

Beavers colonize rivers. Siberian chipmunks and red and long-tailed ground squirrels along with dozens of kinds of shrews, voles, and other small rodents are prey base for wolverines and badgers as well as larger carnivores.

Among rare “Red Book” bird species are black storks, Bewick’s swans, hooded cranes, ospreys, steppe, golden and imperial eagles, Pallas’ and white-tailed sea eagles, gyrfalcons, and Saker and peregrine falcons.

Colorful flower communities cover alpine meadows in spring—brilliant orange Asian trollflowers, pink martagon lilies, Pallas’ primulas—and in fall, purple columbines, pink persicaria, and Daurian goldenrod, among succulent ripe bilberries sought by birds and mammals alike.

Worst threat is atmospheric pollution, especially acid rain. At least 68 industrial pollution sources are in the plains below the reserve in Kemerovo Oblast. Each year hundreds of tons of harmful chemicals rain down. So far, the reserve’s waters are clean, filtered by high-altitude sphagnum swamps. However, since abolishment of the Russian Committee for Protection of the Environment in May 2000, the Natural Resources Ministry has pressured for surveys to search for gold in the reserve. An ecotourism program has been launched to raise conservation funds, and the reserve now offers a variety of trips featuring hiking, trail rides, summer skiing, and more. Guests are housed in a rugged cabin on Fish Lake.