Since 2014 the geographic scope of application of the Carpathian Convention in Poland encompasses 18,612.48 km2 (which accounts for approx. 6% of the terrestrial area of the country) in its three administrative provinces: Śląskie (westernmost), Małopolskie (centrally located), and Podkarpackie (easternmost). It has recently been extended upon the request of five local communities, and currently includes 200 municipalities (4 cities, 15 urban municipalities, 37 urban-rural and 144 rural communities).
One of the facts, which is of great importance for the implementation of the Centralparks project, is that the above three administrative provinces have the highest rural population density among all 16 provinces of Poland. Furthermore, this indicator for Śląskie and Małopolskie is twice the country average, and five times higher than for the least densely populated provinces in the north and northeast of the country. This adversely influences the quality of rural landscapes in the Polish part of the Carpathian region, as the settlements and farms often follow a scattered pattern, due to land ownership reasons. Unlike in the other Carpathian countries, the vast majority (some 73 %) of agricultural land has never been collectivized, not even under the pro-Soviet regime.
Moreover, over a half of the area is under at least one form of legal nature protection. Almost 50 % of the Polish part of the Carpathian Mountains are designated as Natura 2000 sites. Over 28 % are located inside 6 national parks and 13 landscape parks (Polish members of the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas), and further 12 % in their external buffer zones.
Therefore, effective conservation and maintenance of high natural and landscape values is not possible without the support and involvement of the local stakeholders.
The exceptionally high values of nature and landscape are simultaneously a treasure and a curse of the Carpathians, in particular in protected areas. The higher and better preserved these values are, the higher is their level of attractiveness regarding different forms of tourism and recreation, which can lead to tourism and development pressures.
For instance, if several flagship native large carnivore species are present within a specific protected area, it automatically becomes more attractive for visiting than any other area. Regardless of the fact that visitors will probably never encounter a brown bear or a lynx when hiking there, such a bait may have a strong influence on choosing the site as a holiday destination by hundreds of thousands of tourists.
Therefore, several of the most popular mountain tourism destinations and scenic protected areas in the Polish part of the Carpathians are already flooded by mass tourism well over the acceptable, much less sustainable limits. Needless to say, the quality of visitor experience in such overcrowded destinations (including protected areas) declines, and as a result, other tourists tend to avoid such places, at least during the high seasons.
Simultaneously, many other municipalities in the Carpathian region (some of them quite rich in natural and cultural heritage) are either neglected, or even not yet discovered as potential tourist destinations. As a result, their local economies are in decline and are additionally affected by the adverse effects of current demographic trends, such as the depopulation of rural areas (in particular affecting less-favored areas, such as mountain regions) and ageing of the society.