Celebrating conservation wins in the Danube-Carpathian region in 2017
The Green Heart of Europe
As 2017 comes to a close, we reflect on what we have accomplished for wildlife, nature and people in Central and Eastern Europe in the past 365 days.
We fought to preserve Pirin National Park and World Heritage Site in Bulgaria,
We improved protection for old growth forests across the region,
We saw more bison return to the Southern Carpathians,
We worked to save sturgeon, the world’s most endangered group of fish.
These and other achievements would not have been possible without your support and that of many others. Thank you for joining us in saving the Green Heart of Europe.
Take a look at our 2017 in review:
Thousands of people worldwide stood up to protect Pirin, a World Heritage Site and Bulgaria’s premier national park. The proposed management plan for the park would permit construction on an area which is 12.5-times larger than currently permitted and could lead to commercial logging affecting nearly 60 per cent of the park. According to UNESCO, the conservation outlook for Pirin National Park in 2017 is of "significant concern", just a step before "critical". If you have not done so already, please make your mark and support our continuing efforts to save this natural jewel.
A total of 5,500 hectares of primeval and virgin forests in the Carpathian Mountains and Podillya in Ukraine and 24,000 hectares of old-growth forests in eight areas of Romania were designated as part of the "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe". More than 7,000 ha of the most valuable natural forests in Slovakia including 3,000 ha of old-growth forests are proposed to be designated as National Nature Reserve Old Growth Forests.
In Ukraine, 2017 saw passage of a new law protecting the country’s virgin and old growth forests – a timely measure given increasing pressure from logging. 85,000 hectares of old growth forests have been identified in Ukraine, of which 54,000 ha are in the Carpathian Mountains.
In 2017, WWF stepped up its efforts to stop illegal logging in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine by enlisting local volunteers to monitor and control the forest areas. 70 volunteers were trained to identify illegal activities and infringements in forests. They undertook 20 field inspections to monitor and report potential illegal activities to relevant authorities.
Over the past 50 years, sturgeon populations have collapsed around the world due to poaching, habitat loss, pollution and new dams blocking their migration routes. With most sturgeon species heading for extinction, in 2017 WWF announced a new global strategy to tackle the overexploitation of wild sturgeon for caviar and meat, preserve key migration routes, protect and restore critical river habitat, and create breeding centres to restock wild populations.
In 2017, the fourth translocation of bison was successfully completed in Romania. The emblematic European bison (Bison bonasus)
disappeared from the country about 200 years ago. Currently, more than 50 individual bison are roaming in the wild in Romania in two reintroduction sites - in the Țarcu Mountains/Southern Carpathians and Vanatori Neamț.
In a move expected to contribute to the sustainable management of Bulgarian forests, this year the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved an FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard (NFSS) in Bulgaria. FSC is a certification system that ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. Approximately a third of Bulgarian forests are certified by FSC at present. Bulgaria ranks among the first countries in Europe to successfully secure a National Forest Stewardship Standard.
With the official support of over 350 cities across Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine, thousands of people in Central and Eastern Europe celebrated Earth Hour 2017. Well-known landmarks and facades of government buildings turned dark to shine a light on climate action. In Bulgaria, a night mountain tour spotlighted the need to preserve the pristine Bulgarian mountains; in Hungary, an oath for sustainable living and development was taken; and in Slovakia the Earth Hour celebrations raised awareness of green living and sustainable choices in everyday life.
In October 2017, the international conference “CEE Energy Transition” gathered professionals and opinion leaders from Central and Eastern Europe in Prague to collectively design a path for energy transition by 2050. More than 200 participants from 11 countries joined with an aim to bring European policy into practice on national and local levels. The high-level event with 25 speakers highlighted the roles of different sectors and success stories from low-carbon community projects and innovations.
At the beginning of 2017, over 258,000 Europeans called on the European Commission
to radically reform EU agriculture. Later in the year, the EC’s communication on the future of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) beyond 2020 called for a transition towards more sustainable farming. The Commission proposed to give Member States a stronger role in deciding how to allocate EU public subsidies to farmers.
In 2017, WWF-Romania and Carrefour Group announced the beginning of a three-year strategic partnership which aims to protect 21,000 ha of forests and promote responsible consumption and a sustainable lifestyle among customers, employees and suppliers.
In 2017, WWF and The Coca-Cola Foundation celebrated the 10th anniversary of their global partnership to help conserve the world’s freshwater resources because water is essential to nature, communities, and business. Beyond the global initiative, by 2020, the Living Danube Partnership of WWF, The Coca-Cola Foundation and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River will restore over 7,422 football pitches worth of wetland habitat (53 km²), increasing the river’s capacity by the equivalent of 4,800 Olympic sized swimming pools (12 million m³) and
After 56 years of circus performances, in 2017 scenes in which tigers, lions, bears, elephants or other wild animals are forced to perform acrobatics to entertain the public became history in Romania. The country became one of 25 European states to introduce a ban on wild animals in circuses. “Free the animals! Their place is in the wild, not in the circus” campaign in Romania was supported by more than 63,000 nature lovers who signed the WWF petition within a few days and called for change.
WWF-Hungary’s catamaran River Panda participated in the fifth PET Cup event in July 2017. The competition with custom built boats made of recycled PET bottles aimed to clean the floodplain of the Tisza River and promote environmental awareness.
This year, the European Union celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the LIFE Programme and of the Habitats Directive. Both were approved on 21 May 1992 and since then, more than 4,300 projects aiming to preserve the uniqueness of Europe’s nature have been co-funded by LIFE. Among the successfully financed projects are two by WWF and partners for the protection of Lower Danube sturgeons.