Remarks at the Fall Roundup and Crane Feast in Hortobágy

– as delivered –

Jó napot kívánok! Good Morning! I am delighted to be here and I would like to give thanks, a very special thank you to Minister Fazekas for the invitation to join you all here today. I would also like to congratulate the organizers of this wonderful event, which helps maintain cultural traditions and customs, and keeps alive Hungarian crafts dating back centuries. Events like this enable us to appreciate cultural values and to recognize the importance of their preservation.  As part of my plan to visit all ten national parks in Hungary, this summer I also had a chance to have an official visit to Aggtelek National Park and now, I am pleased to be able to visit Hortobágy National Park as well.

Hungary and the United States are both committed to protecting the environment. We hold the future of our children, and that of succeeding generations, in our hands through the conservation of natural resources and cultural values. This puts a great responsibility on all of us. The right to health and to a healthy environment is regarded as a basic human right both in the United States and here in Hungary. We are always open and ready to international cooperation to protect this right.

Hortobágy, the Hungarian “Puszta”, refers to natural and cultural treasures, not only for Hungary but also for Europe and even for the entire world. That is why Hortobágy National Park became a world heritage site in 1999 with its unique flora and fauna, indigenous animals and cultural traditions. Shepherd life, the „Puszta,” and Hortobágy are synonymous for most foreign visitors to Hungary. However, it is not only about tourism.

We have to emphasize that habitat programs in protected natural areas play a key role in the preservation of biological diversity. Unfortunately, not everyone has recognized our responsibility for the preservation of indigenous farm animals, species, breeds and varieties. We cannot ignore the fact that genetic resource preservation – similar to environmental protection – could provide not only a key to the past, but to the future as well. We therefore have to pay attention to the safety of agricultural production and the adaptation of breeds and varieties to different conditions and their needs. Therefore, the livestock gene bank of Hortobágy is a common treasure for all of us and I congratulate you for the great work in its maintenance.

I have heard that in August a huge fire damaged more than 1,000 hectares of grassland in Hortobágy as a result of extreme warm weather conditions and the lack of precipitation. We know that climate change will trigger similar environmental disasters more often in the future.  I  hope this unfortunate event did not cause significant loss in the park’s flora and fauna.

However, the biodiversity and ecology of a national park  should be protected not only from nature, but also from the man-made disasters or damage caused by industrial activities or illegal practices. In this regard let me mention to you the environmental training  program  the U.S. Embassy has been running here in Budapest since 2010. The  U.S. Government endeavors to share its experience and knowledge on environmental protection and nature conservation with park rangers, environmental inspectors, prosecutors and judges from Central and Eastern European countries. Since 2011, twice a year the International Law Enforcement Academy provides the opportunity for Central and Eastern European participants to take part in a week-long training on environmental crime inspection and law enforcement practices. The trainings are led by American trainers of the Environmental Protection Agency. All together 30 participants representing three different countries can attend the course. Hungarian rangers and environmental inspectors and prosecutors took part in this course in 2011 and 2014.

The tradition of fall roundup and feast on St. Demetrius Day reminds me of home, as livestock grazing has been undertaken for centuries in the United States. Cattle grazing became a natural part of the West. Cowboys and cattle are very symbolic for most people when they think of the western United States. Similarly, the Hungarian grey cattle, “racka” sheep, the Nonius horse breed, and buffalos belong to the landscape of Hortobágy and the history of Hungary.

The United States and Hungary share similar values in terms of environmental protection and the importance and multifunctional role of the agricultural sector. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this incredible event and I wish you all a wonderful day.  You should be very proud of this extraordinary Hungarian cultural tradition.

Köszönöm szépen!