WWF helps improve effective management of European protected 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
WWF European Forest Programme