Protecting Eastern Europe's Natural Heritage
Project location: WORLDWIDE, Eastern Europe
Project start date: October 2001 - Project end date: June 2003
Project number: 2001-04
Beneficiary: Birdlife International
A training course on campaigning for threatened sites took place between 13 - 18 April 2002 in Slovenia with 25 participants. It aimed to increase the capacity of IBA (Important Bird Areas) co-ordinators at BirdLife Partners to plan and implement site conservation campaigns more effectively as this skills are crucial when they need to remove threats.
The workshop covered the following topics: the role of communication campaigns in influencing environmental decision making, campaign tools, developing campaign strategies, training on practical communication skills. The workshop has been built around the case study of the Selcovje Saltpans, an IBA threatened by the development of a local airport. The trainers included two communication (Sara Sharpe, European Communications Officer, and Michael Szabo, Global Campaign Manager) and one conservation staff (Szabolcs Nagy, European Conservation Manager) from BirdLife International. The session on practical communication skills were led by Alex Kirby from BBC.
Advocacy & Rapid Site Actions
Call for tenders, application form and selection criteria were published on 20 November after consultation with the Nando Peretti Foundation. Some application has been received, but by now only one "Changing the rules on regulating burning of vegetation in Belarus" has received a grant of Euro 4,480 paid via UNDP.
The project addresses the problem of inappropriate burning of vegetation which threatenes fen mires, the habitat for the globally threatened Aquatic Wabler. Increased burning has caused decline of population by 1.6 times compared to previous years and the number of this endangered species can be restored only if there is no burning at its key habitat for at least two years. Therefore, ASP, BirdLife in Belarus, has convened a meeting of experts and relevant authorities to discuss the need and possibilities of legislative changes. As a result of the meeting leislative changes has been agreed and supposed to be enacted by June. APB is also preparing a video about the threats caused by burning and it is agreed to be broadcasted by the national TV channel. The project made a very important contribution to protect the habitats for some 40% of the global population of the species.
A very successful workshop on stewardship and involvement of local communities took place between 8 - 12 December 2001 at Tápiószentmárton in Hungary with 21 participants from 11 Central and Eastern European countries. The workshop has been hosted by the Jászkun Természetvédelmi Szervezet, a local affiliate of MME/BirdLife Hungary.
The workshop has covered the following topics: exchange of current experience (MME/BirdLife Hungary and three of four stewardship demonstration projects supported by the Nando Peretti Foundation), land stewardship experience in the US, UK and Hungary, planning and executing land stewardship programmes, land stewardship in practice (visiting the Tápió region), role play exercise to develop collaboration, funding opportunities and further steps.
The workshop has effectively contributed to broaden the view of BirdLife partners in Central and Eastern Europe and triggered new initiatives in a number of countries (Slovenia, Estonia, Poland). It has happened at a critical time, when these countries are facing the challenge and opportunities related to the accession to the European Union. It also served a good opportunity to share the experience with the rest of the partnership about the results of the four stewardship demonstration projects.
The project has resulted in establishing caretakers on 27 sites (instead of the planned 18). A successful national workshop was held on 26 - 27 January with 24 participants. The workshop has introduced the caretakers to matters related to monitoring and protection of IBAs. The proceedings is ready and sent electronically to participants. The caretaker manual, based on the European IBA Best Practice Guide, and brochure is in press and to be printed next week. These documents will give further practical guidelines and promote the Important Bird Areas in Romania. These all contributed to a substantially increased capacity of ROS to protect key sites in Romania because the local caretakers have clear guidelines and advice how they can protect them more effectively.
The project is a pilot scheme for local eco-educational activities. Two groups of trainers, made up by 18 volunteers, attending schools and use the Volunteer Guide Book for Environmental Education. An article about the project has been published in Kuscu Bulletin. . There is a bulletin for environmental education that DHKD distributes to primary schools (around 100 teachers and 400 school children) and the group has written about their project for the February issue. The group made a very well received presentation about the project at the 5th Birdwatching Conference held in Samsun between 20 - 23 April attended by the community leaders as well. The BirdLife Secetariat was represented by Guven Eken, Project Development Officer.
Awareness about the conservation importance of the area was raised through radio interviews. SOVS has managed to make substantial contribution to the management plan for the Senne-fishponds Nature Reserves and it was submitted to the Slovak Ramsar Committee for approval. Scrub was removed from 2 of 3 islets to improve breeding and roosting habitats for birds. The work was not completed on one islets due to adverse whether conditions and drainage of the fishpond made it inaccessible. Restoration of dykes, sluices and the bridge has been largely completed and the Ostrovik meadows were flooded. It was also grazed by 90 cattle till mid-November under close supervision of SOVS. Materials for the guide to the area are compiled and printing companies were contacted and consulted, however, it is not printed yet. Reparation of dykes and the bridge were more expensive as forecasted and it is suggested to cover these costs from the budget allocated to flooding which were not used due to favourable agreement with the water management authorities. As the result of the project the site hold the highest ever number of waterbirds peaking around 30-40 thousand (video is available). On 12 April SOVS hold a field visit for journalists with participation of 25 people including representatives of major stakeholders (including 2 majors), which resulted in good media coverage including the national TV station. There are problems with producing a spare screw and SOVS suggest relocation of budget to additional repairs of sluices. They are lagging behind schedule with producing a new brochure. As a result of the project SOVS has been offered management right for the state reserve.
This project aimed to mobilise local support for the protection of the riverine habitats critical for the globally threatened Aquatic Warbler, Corncrake and large number of migratory waterbords. The project started in late October. A public opinion survey has been carried out interviewing 270 people from the region and it will be used for developing a media plan. Media opportunities have also been inventoried. The leaflet about the consevation value and the potential impact of canalisation has been produced in 1,300 copies. A moving exhibition is being held in the local schools of 17 settlements. It consists of 10 stands: photos of birds, landscapes, information about problems in region and ways of solving, UTOP's activities, announcement of competitions. The regional department of Ministry of Education has agreed to encourage the moving exhibition activity. Although, due to parliamentary elections the mass media was completely occupied by political news, through the moving exhibition UTOP managed to secure a good coverage of the issue in newspapers, the regional TV and radio stations. The round table discussion was held on 17 April in Lubashov with 14 participants including water management authorities and local municipalities. The workshop resulted in an agreement about collaboration between UTOP and the authorities responsible for flood protection to avoid damages of valuable habitats through involvement of ecological consultants.
Urgent Intervention in Poland
For many years a major part of the Bialowieza Forest has been intensively used for timber production. The Polish Government has been lobbied to establish a national park over a whole area of the forest and preserve unique forest ecosystems. This efforts has not delivered much success so far.
A present situation can be worsen by intensification of timber removal from the forest as the Regional Forest Office announced in media that they are in a bad debt which can be paid by higher production of timber. This can lead to disturbing valuable over 100-year-old forest stands which are habitats for many birds and mammals. An urgent action is needed to stop an intensive timber production and implement protection measures that can save the last lowland primeval forest in Europe.
In 2001 the Minister of Environment announced that the Bialowieza National Park is going to be enlarged over the whole Bialowieza forest. However, forthcoming elections to the Parliament stopped this process and presently the National Park covers only about 17% of the forest. Additionally, about 6% is protected as nature reserves. The remaining 77% of the forest is commercially managed and used for timber production. This includes also many forest stands with trees older than 100 and 200 years. Bialowieza Forest is the last lowland primeval forest in Europe and it holds 250 bird species were recorded including 177-180 breeding. A decision-making process in case of establishing or enlarging nature protection areas in Poland is very slow and requires a very strong public support. This project will address this important issues and will help to develop a co-operative programme that could speed up a decision-making process on including the whole Bialowieza Forest into the Natura 2000 network, enlarging the national park and implementing protection measure.
The action aims at developing a campaign for the effective protection of the whole Bialowieza Forest. As a result of this action a change of a protection status of the commercially managed part of the Bialowieza Forest is expected. The actions should lead towards enlargement of the existing national park and better conservation of forest stands and thus of habitats for birds and other animals.
The project was possible thanks to a financial support of the Nando Peretti Foundation through BirdLife International, Wageningen.
Maintain the ecological integrity of the Bialowieza Forest (IBA PL 031) through enlarging national park over the whole forest.
Minimise the impacts commercial management in the Bialowieza Forest by providing comments on the new management plan for the years 2002-2012 and ensuring that the whole Bialowieza Forest is included in the proposal of the Natura 2000 network.
Activities carried out during the project and their outputs:
The Bialowieza project was implemented since June to December. During the project period the following activities were carried out:
Output: The meeting took place in Bialowieza, on the 28th and 29th June 2002. In the meeting representatives of the Bialowieza National Park, forestry administration, local commune administration and 4 NGOs took part. The meeting resulted in establishing a close cooperation between environmental NGOs that have been working on the Bialowieza Forest protection for many years. The cooperation concentrated on the commenting on the new management plan for the forest and consultations on legislative changes of the new nature protection act and of the Natura 2000 proposal which is being prepared by the government. The NGOs expressed their common position that the whole Bialowieza Forest should be included into the Natura 2000.
Output: As a result of these activities OTOP has received an answer from the Deputy Minister prof. E. Symonides on the progress in legislation work on the new status of the Bialowieza Forest. Additionally, the Minister claimed that the whole Bialowieza Forest is going to be included to the final proposal of the Natura 2000 network, as the forest was identified as the Important Bird Area of international significance (due to data collected and published by BirdLife International).
Output: Pawel Sidlo took part in the 2nd meeting of the commission for the management plan in Bialowieza (10 October 2002). During the meeting a common position of OTOP, WWF, LESZA Initiative, Workshop for the Landscape Protection and Society for the Protection of the Bialowieza Forest was presented. In the paper we expressed our disappointment due to the fact that the final version of the plan was not sent to NGOs before the meeting and we were not able to prepare detailed comments. Additionally, we commented on the forest administration's proposal that so called "moratorium" on removal of over 100 years old trees should be cancelled. During the meeting OTOP and other NGOs were on the position that this "moratorium" along with protection of the old growth forest stands should be a basic principle in the new management plan for the next 10 years in the Bialowieza Forest.
Output: OTOP closely follows the development of the new legal act and hired lawyers to advise on the legal consequences of the government's proposal. The consultations covers analysis of the new legislation versus existing nature protection act and detailed regulation of the government regarding enlarging protection areas in Poland. Additionally, during the conference Natura 2000 Integration of Nature Conservation in EU Policies (12 December, Brussels) Pawel Sidlo contacted with Nicholas Hanley, Head of Unit Nature and Biodiversity (DG Environment) on the issues related to the Bialowieza Forest and its protection in the light of the Birds and Habitats Directives. Mr Hanley was explained that according to the present nature protection act in Poland all new protected areas can be established after receiving an approval of local communities. Such a situation can lead towards serious delays in implementation of the mentioned directives. Mr Hanley expressed the opinion that the Polish nature protection act seems to be in opposition to the Article 6 of the Habitat Directive. He invited Pawel Sidlo to contact him and present this issue to the lawyers who work for DG Environment.
Output: this is an ongoing activity and includes maintaining contacts with the Ministry of Environment, Bialowieza National Park, scientific institutions (like Mammals Research Institute, Bialowieza), other environmental NGOs and local authorities. The collected materials are used for national media campaign and press releases.
Output: during the project there was prepared and distributed a press release on the 2nd meeting of the commission for the management plan of the Bialowieza Forest and the position of NGOs regarding future of this area. The press release was sent to the most important national media in Poland. Additionally, the second press release on the importance of the old growth natural forest for birds, including Bialowieza Forest was prepared and published in the bulletin Ptasie ostoje (IBA Bulletin).
Output: during the project time, OTOP has collected and updated the number of articles, position papers and pictures presenting the most valuable parts of the forest (already protected) and activities of the forestry administration (outside the national park) which results in removal of over 100-year-old trees. The materials were collected (pictures scanned to the resolution that can be used for printing) and sent to the BirdLife International Secretariat, as well as to other BLI partners. The preparation of the international campaign started during the meeting of the BLI Task Forces in Bratislava (September, 2002). The OTOP's representative during this meeting was Professor Tomasz Wesolowski.
Output: As a result of contacts with other NGOs involved in the protection of the Bialowieza Forest at the national and international levels the NGOs agreed on further cooperation, especially in the field of commenting legislative acts on the Bialowieza Forest and management plan. The plan will be obligatory for the next 10 years and will require updating when Poland implements the Natura 2000 network (with Bialowieza Forest included.
Urgent Interventions in Bulgaria
The Strouma Motorway, part of the Trans-European Corridor No. 4, is planned to cut through the Kresna gorge that is located in the Tissata IBA (BG003). The Ministry of Environment and Water in Bulgaria should take a decision about the environmental impact assessment for the only one existing route. However, they are looking for suggestions for alternative routes, as well.
Maintain the ecological integrity of the Kresna gorge (IBA BG003).
Minimise the impacts of the Strouma Motorway on the valuable areas for biodiversity and for human settlements.
Activities carried out during the project
The project "Kresna gorge Strouma Motorway impact study" was implemented since 5 July to 15 December. During the period of implementation the following activities were carried out:
Copy of the documentation was submitted also to the Bern Convention Bureau, Ministry of Environment and Water, Delegation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, Brussels office of the BirdLife International and the partner NGOs.