New IUCN report shows "significant concern" for Pirin World Heritage Site in Bulgaria

Posted on November, 27 2017

Pirin National Park is one step before the "critical" stage
Gland – A new report of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that the conservation outlook of Pirin National Park in Bulgaria is of "significant concern", which is one step before the "critical" stage. The reasons outlined in the report are threats of disturbance and fragmentation of the site associated with the exclusion of the skiing areas incompatible with the World Heritage status of Pirin.

There are new concerns in this regard in connection with the expansion of tourism zones envisaged by the new draft management plan of Pirin National Park. They would affect the World Heritage property and its buffer zone, especially in the context of climate change and the planned increased logging in the park.

The draft management plan of Pirin National Park allows for construction on an area that is 12.5-times larger than currently permitted and could lead to commercial logging affecting nearly 60 per cent of the park (currently no commercial logging is permitted in the park). 

“The political and economic pressures for further development of skiing areas and logging inside Pirin National Park and the property have resulted in a draft management plan that – if approved – would lead to widespread degradation of the property,” states the IUCN report.

It also explains that the management of Pirin National Park is not in a position to confront the "strong external interests in tourism development and forest use". Poor legal enforcement strongly affects the protection and management of the site.  This, together with plans to approve a new management plan which would allow significant development of tourism infrastructure, results in the overall assessment of protection and management as one of “Significant Concern”.

Pirin is a UNESCO World Heritage and an EU Natura 2000 site, home to brown bear, wolf and many endangered species, some of them endemic or unique to Europe. National laws, European nature directives and international treaties are supposed to ensure that Pirin is protected. Its diverse area is an unusual ecological refuge for hundreds of rare species including flora and fauna typical only for the Balkan region. 

About the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2 Report

The IUCN World Heritage Outlook  assesses, for the first time, changes in the conservation prospects of all 241 natural World Heritage sites. 

“Natural World Heritage sites play a crucial role supporting local economies and livelihoods,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “Their destruction can thus have devastating consequences that go beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value.”

The quality and effectiveness of the management of natural World Heritage sites has dropped in since 2014, notably due to insufficient funding, according to the IUCN report. Fewer than half of the sites are currently being managed to good standards.

The full report is available online and its next edition is planned for 2020. All site assessments can be accessed at
Heavy machines working in Pirin National Park. Work of heavy machines is forbidden in national parks by law.
© Toma Belev