WWF helps improve effective management of European protected areas | WWF

WWF helps improve effective management of European protected areas

Posted on
23 July 2003
Gland, Switzerland - As a recent WWF report shows, Europe’s forest protected area network is not sufficient and does not ensure the long-term protection of all forest types and associated species. The ecological representation of protected forest areas at a national level is still generally poor and the areas of protected forests are often too small. Many of Europe´s “protected areas” are parks that exist on paper only.Since the 4th Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe WWF is now assisting governments all around the world to improve the effectiveness of park management with its RAPPAM methodology (Rapid Assessment & Prioritization of Protected Area Management). Many protected areas have been declared by a government but are lacking adequate protection through proper legislation, management plans, staff, equipment, capacity, and the support and co-operation of neighbouring communities. The RAPPAM methodology helps identify management strenghts and weaknesses and to prioritise management decisions.“Communicating that forests where logging and infrastructure development are allowed are 'protected', is misleading the public,” said Duncan Pollard, Head of the WWF European Forest Programme. In a recent European opinion poll, Europeans have sent a clear message to their Governments about the need for more protection. Not only did 80 per cent of the population in the 12 surveyed countries ask for more protected areas such as National parks, they also gave a clear indication that logging and construction are not compatible with their view of protected areas. “Any numbers game on forest protection is a disappointment to us because it simply does not reflect the real state of Europe's forest protection. What counts is that forests are effectively protected to sustain biodiversity. This is simply not the case,” said PollardA review of the WWF European Forest Scorecards for 2003 shows that there has been virtually no change in the quality and quantity of forest protected areas in recent years. Governments have been weak at committing to further protected forest areas.
Threats to protected areas in various European countries


Spotlight on the Czech Republic
: The core zone of the Sumava National Park was reduced from 15,400ha to about 9,000ha and split up into 135 fragments. Over the last years extensive logging occurred in the heart of the National Park. Large-scale clear felling has already lead to more than 2,000ha of basically deforested land, mainly bordering the German National Park Bayerischer Wald. Sanitation measures against bark beetle occurrences are cited as one of the key causes for logging. However, income from timber harvesting seems to be also an important driving force for logging in the Sumava National Park. Between 1994 and 2001 more than 1.3 million cubic metres of wood felled in the National Park were sold, generating an income of around EUR 65 million. Yet, there is hope for improvement as Dr. Libor Ambrozek, Czech Minister for Environment, has promised to change current practices — concrete steps now need to follow.

Spotlight on Belarus
: Belarus has recently begun large-scale harvesting of trees on their side of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest which is designated as a National Park. The Bialowieza Primeval Forest situated on the Polish-Belarussian border, is the best-preserved and largest primeval forest complex in Europe.

Spotlight on Italy
: The most famous National Park of Italy, the Abruzzo National Park, has already been subject to an ecological disaster. It is home to eagle, bears, wolves and the Abruzzi´s chamoix and is of particular value from an ecological point of view. Over 2,000 ancient trees have been clearcut to make place for the ski resort Coste delle Vitelle in the territory of Pescasseroli. A second project is now planned to be expanded in the heart of the Carapale Valley with new slopes and ski lifts. Infraction procedures are ongoing against both of these projects. Another ski development project is planned in the Monte Greco area which is in the buffer zone of the Abruzzo L.M. National Park which is also a Natura 2000 area.Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park: The Regional Administration of Abruzzo has presented a new project for wintersport infrastructure development in the area of Campo Imperatore, the core zone of the National Park. The development foresees 7,200 metres of slopes, 7 new ski lifts, a plan for the construction of over 15,000 cubic meters private residences and another 5,000 cubic metres of public construction. The environmental impact of the project would be disasterous. It would definitely destroy the biggest Karst highland in Europe, which is home to endangered species like eagles, wolves and chamois and contains rare botanical endemic species. Sila National Park (Calabria): 23 ha of the youngest Italian National Park — about 43,000 ancient trees — are threatened to fall victim to a new wintersport area which has been approved by the public administration without taking in account the existence of the new protected area and their management.In addition to the high environmental impacts, the economic profitability of these planned projects is questionable.

Spotlight on Estonia
: Illegal logging occurred in the heart in Lahemaa National Park without appropriate action against the known perpetrators. Lahemaa National Park is the oldest National Park in Estonia. In March 2002 illegal logging occurred in the heart of the National Park. More than 80 ha were destroyed. Despite knowledge of the perpetrators the Estonian government did not take appropriate action. As a consequence illegal harvesting continued and again more than 100 ha were damaged in July 2002. Despite wide outcry by NGOs, media, and community, officials reported that it is very difficult to evaluate environmental damage done and that they could not stop the private company involved in illegal logging. Again in October 2002 illegal logging occurred in the Park. Although National Park administration and environmentalists alerted the police and the Environmental inspectorate the logging was not stopped. Reasons given by the officials: unclarity of nature conservation and forestry legislation, and rights of private companies. The administration of the National Park is left without any official support to protect this very valuable nature reserve and to preserve the future Natura 2000 area. Naturally, the fact that illegal forest clearcuts in the heart of the National Park remains virtually unpunished is giving very negative signals to other forest owners in Estonia.

Spotlight on France
: Logging is still common in French National Parks. Several incidents have been reported in France, especially in the Cevennes National Park and the Vanoise National Park. In the latter, 500-year old trees have been planned to be felled in the core zone of the National Park since 1998. Very few old-growth forests like this Swiss pine forest are known in the French Alps. It is home to very rare birds such as the Picoides tridactylus which is merely found in three locations in France. It was only due to the mobilization of NGOs that the felling was postponed and the case is currently being dealt with in court.

Spotlight on Greece
: In Greece, lack of protection and effective conservation management is a key problem in the "Drimoi" Forest reserves, an old protection category that provides for a very strict legislated protection status that is not in line with contemporary conservation approaches and is not implemented effectively. The forests in Greece’s “Drimoi” include some of the most valuable forests of Greece. The key problems are: Lack of management plans for forest conservation; lack of effective control over illegal activities like poaching; lack of effective control over vehicle access; no visitor management plans. The number of visitors in the area often surpasses the area's carrying capacity, causing considerable disturbance for the residing species and ultimately degradation of ecological values. The forest service responsible for the management and protection of these areas is under-staffed, insufficiently trained, and lacking the necessary equipment. Many of these problems could be overcome through legislating the "Drimoi" as "National Parks". The development of these National Parks which is currently underway is however slow and lacks guarantees for the effectiveness and viability of their management.

For more information

Helma Brandlmaier
WWF European Forest Programme
E-mail: helma.brandlmaier@wwf.at