WWF’s hard work with municipalities and local communities already brings great results
As we reported last November, WWF Bulgaria and our partners mapped out the old forests on the territories of 38 municipalities in the country.
Municipalities manage 13% of the forests in Bulgaria (523 thousand ha) and only 9% of them are over 100 years old. They are mainly concentrated in watersheds and steep terrains. In addition to being home to amazing flora and fauna, they protect the waters, prevent erosion and floods, purify the air, and enrich the soil, making them of great importance to humans and to sustaining our environment in the face of climate change.
However, in order to continue providing these vital ecosystem services, urgent measures need to be taken. One of them – to convince the owner of the land – the respective municipality – to put the old forests under protection and declare them a no-go area for commercial use. The first municipality to answer WWF’s request was Botevgrad with 1000 decares.
In May the municipality of Sevlievo (Central Balkan) took that step, too, declaring 700 decares of 150-year old beech forests under protection.
We continue our work with state and regional authorities and there is hope that more municipalities will follow the example of Botevgrad and Sevlievo.
Identifying and mapping of old-growth forests is essential to protecting valuable habitats and the species living there.
WWF work closely with forestries and help them set and achieve goals on responsible and sustainable forest management. Or in other words, how to take better care of the forests.
One of our main regions in the last 2 years has been Eastern Rhodopi. We had field work on the territory of Zlatograd, Ardino, Krumovgrad, Zhenda, Momchilgrad, Shiroka Laka, etc. These forestry units are soon to be FSC certified.
The FSC system allows businesses and consumers to identify, purchase and use wood, paper and other forest products made with materials from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources. Approximately 40% of Bulgarian forests are FSC-certified so far.
We trained 150 employees of forest units in Eastern Rhodopi. A training usually takes 2 days. Experts from WWF and FSC auditors teach the emplooyees how to manage the forest while protecting the rare and endangered species. They also give advice on how to collect feedback from stakeholders and local communities.
It is a really hands-on training as it is always done during an approved logging activity. Attention is drawn to every aspect of the process – from the permission to cut certain number of trees to safety measures and clothing and best practices of transporting the wood out of the forest.
Within two years of scientific and field work, WWF Bulgaria and partners have mapped out old forests located in territories owned by 30 municipalities in the country. The large-scale survey was announced at an official press conference at the BTA, which was attended by representatives of municipalities, the scientific and environmental community, as well as non-governmental organizations and state bodies.
13% of the forests in Bulgaria (523 thousand ha) are managed by the municipalities, and only 9% of the municipal forests are over 100 years old. These are forests mainly concentrated in watersheds and steep terrains. In addition to being home to amazing biodiversity, they protect the waters, prevent erosion and floods, purify the air, and enrich the soil, making them of great importance to humans and to sustaining our environment in the face of climate change. However, in order to continue to provide these vital ecosystem services, urgent measures need to be taken to protect them.
Which forests are old-growth forests?
The old-growth forests are one of the last nooks and crannies of wildlife that are poorly influenced by man. They still hold examples of the biodiversity characteristic of the pristine forests that once existed throughout Bulgaria. Only in the old forests do the trees reach the age limit, often between 300 and 400 years old, and acquire majestic dimensions of over 40 - 50 m in height and 1 - 2 m in thickness, perishing without being cut down. Today the old forests in Bulgaria are concentrated mainly in places where access is still restricted due to lack of roads or steep terrain. WWF publishes more information on its public GIS platform: https://gis.wwf.bg/mobilz/
WWF Bulgaria has filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment and Water for logging violations
WWF Bulgaria has filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment and Water for logging violations on the territory of Pirin National Park. Under the pretext that sanitary felling is being carried out, trees may be removed in the park in violation of the Protected Areas Act.
Logging in the national park is the next threat to Pirin after the construction plans. WWF has warned that logging is often permitted without the necessary legal prerequisite. "To correct this vicious practice, we filed a lawsuit against one such sanitary clearing permit in the national park," said Dobromir Dobrinov of WWF Bulgaria.
Illegal logging in Bulgaria is between 1/4 and 1/3 of the officially sourced wood total amount in the country. This forms nearly BGN 150 million in favor of the grey economy each year. Illegal logging bereaves whole regions from forests and freshwater.
WWF and Interpol launched a project against forest crimes. The project's main activities focus on building a stakeholders network in order to tackle forest sector crime more effectively. A major role will be played by Interpol's law enforcement expertise in combination with WWF's practical experience in forest conservation.
Our experience has shown that limiting environmental crime can not be achieved only by introducing legislative measures and sanctions in the event of occasional inspections by the responsible authorities. For the measures to be successful, it is necessary for the whole society to understand and participate.
Everyone can join us!
On the occasion of the World Forest Day WWF Bulgaria reminded about its educational materials on how to recognize illegal logging. WWF Bulgaria presented a list with specific steps to follow in case you suspect that you witness illegal logging. You can find it here and here together with video lessons.
For the past month WWF Bulgaria received several new signals for illegal logging, our Forest team is working on them - right now specific details regarding the signals are still confidential. Expect more information in the next report.
Thanks to your support WWF believes that together we can build a future in which People live in Harmony with Nature!
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