100,000+ people from around the world have so far urged Bulgarian Prime Minister to protect Pirin World Heritage Site

Posted on 15 June 2017

This National Park is under threat of deforestation and infrastructure construction
Sofia – The first 100,000 signatures of people from around the world who share their concern for the future of Pirin National Park have been symbolically delivered to the office of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov by WWF and the other NGOs, part of the For the Nature coalition. Pirin National Park in Bulgaria, which shelters possibly the oldest tree in the Balkan peninsula, could be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. WWF has been urging for immediate action to be taken against multiple threats to the mountain and launched an international petition in November 2016.
A new draft management plan of Pirin National Park has been designed recently that allows construction on an area that is 12.5-times larger than currently and could lead to commercial logging affecting nearly 60 per cent of the park. The plan would jeopardize the pristine nature and ecosystem values of the northern park territories as well as its status as a UNESCO site. Government has to take actions.
Pirin has an exceptional beauty of mountain scenery, glacial lakes, continuing evolution of flora, and is an example of healthy, functioning Balkan uplands ecosystems. The natural coniferous forests shelter the 1,300 year-old endemic Bosnian Pine tree called Baykusheva mura – believed to be the oldest on the Balkan peninsula. Pirin is home to brown bears, grey wolves, chamoix and 159 bird species, including the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, the rarest woodpecker in Europe.
“We cannot allow any further destruction to put Pirin at risk with the communities depending on it. We thank the 100,000+ people who have urged the Bulgarian government to take immediate actions to save the Pirin World Heritage and EU Natura 2000 site by halting any proposed construction and commercial logging and ensuring the future of its outstanding universal value. We have few months to halt the approval of the proposed management plan. After that, construction and deforestation in Pirin will be very difficult to stop. That’s why the campaign continues”, said Vesselina Kavrakova, WWF-Bulgaria Country Head.
In 2010, UNESCO excluded the existing ski areas above the towns of Bansko and Dobrinishte from the World Heritage site. For the construction of these facilities, more than 160 ha of forests, including old-growth, were cleared, with trees up to 300-years old.
“National laws, European nature directives and international treaties should ensure that Pirin is protected. Unfortunately, the proposed management plan envisages the construction of two new ski zones in Pirin and the expansion of an existing one. This would be a breach of World Heritage regulations to which the Bulgarian government has agreed”, Kavrakova added.

About Pirin National Park and the new management plan

Located in south-west Bulgaria and covering a territory of ca. 40,000 ha, Pirin is one of the three national parks in Bulgaria that all together cover just 1.5% of the country’s territory. It overlaps also with two EU Natura 2000 sites, and is one of the two Bulgarian Natural Heritage Sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
The dominant part of the park is high mountain territory over 2,000 m above sea level. The diverse limestone mountain landscapes include over 70 glacial lakes, and a range of glacial landforms, with many waterfalls, rocky screes and caves. The high mountain peaks and crags contrast with meadows, rivers, waterfalls and provide the opportunity to experience the aesthetics of a Balkan mountain landscape. The National Park includes a range of endemic and relict species that are representative of the Balkan Pleistocene flora.
The economical value of the park has been decreasing, which underlines the current path to be unsustainable. Bansko tourism operators registered a loss of 5.7 mln BGN (2.85 mln EUR) in 2013. In comparison, in 2008, they made a profit of 2.7 mln BGN (1.35 mln EUR). According to the Job Agency, the unemployment rate went up by 5.4% between 2008 and 2013. (Data is from the Development Models of the Mountain Regions in Bulgaria report from 2015: http://blog.prozrachniplanini.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Mountain_development_models_FINAL_20151208.pdf)
The procedure to approve the new draft management for Pirin National Park goes on. Currently Supreme Administrative Court is expected to rule out whether the plan should have or not an Environmental Impact Assessment after a controversial decision by previous Minister of the Environment Irina Kostova. Current Minister of the Environment Neno Dimov could require any time amendments to the plan that could save the outstanding value of Pirin. The final decision on the approval of the management plan lies with the Government led by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
The first batch of 100K letters to save Pirin National Park was delivered to Bulgarian Prime Minister.
© WWF / NikolaY Stoykov
“National laws, European nature directives and international treaties should ensure that Pirin is protected," said Vesselina Kavrakova, WWF-Bulgaria Country Head
© WWF / Anastas Tarpanov
People from more than 60 countries support the protection of Pirin National Park.
© WWF / Nikolay Stoykov
People from more than 60 countries support the protection of Pirin National Park.
© WWF / Nikolay Stoykov