European Commission refers Bulgaria to Court!

The European Commission announced at 22.07.2016 that is taking Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU over its failure to protect unique habitats and important bird species in the Rila Mountains. The Bulgarian authorities have failed to widen the zone classified as a special protection area outside Rila National Park in order to provide adequate protection to Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), Tengmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus) and the Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), as well as the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), the three-toed woodpecker (Picoudes tridactilus), the hazel grouse (Bonasa bonasia) and the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius).

The more details can really here:

European Commission refers Bulgaria to Court over failure to protect bird habitats and started an EU pilot for the failure to protect Brown Bear and European Bullhead around Rila National park


Rila, the highest mountain range of Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula, is among the most valuable areas in Bulgaria and in the EU for the conservation of 20 vulnerable bird species. Bulgaria has so far properly classified 72% of the important bird area in Rila mountain as a special protection area. However, this does not cover significant parts of the habitats of 17 endangered bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive.

The trial is the last step in the discussions between EC and Bulgaria which started in 2007 when Bulgaria failed to declare the whole Important Bird Area Rila as Natura 2000 site. Only the part which was inside Rila National park was declared as Natura 2000 site. Bulgaria failed to declare some other SPAs and EC started a procedure 4850/2007 against the country. Step by step Bulgaria declared all requested IBAs as SPAs except the missing area of Rila mountain.

European Commission also started EU pilot procedure (EU Pilot 8342/16/ENVI) against Bulgaria for the failure to protect Brown Bear and European Bullhead habitats in the same mountain. Natura 2000 in Rila protects only the part of the mountain which is inside the National park. The habitats outside the park were not included in Natura 2000. After the biogeographical seminar in 2012 Bulgaria promised to include in Natura 2000 the habitats of these two species outside the park. The state did not initiate anything to implement this promise till now. Bulgarian Academy of Science submitted in March 2015 a proposal for a new Natura 2000 site which stayed without any attention of the Ministry of Environment. Just after the EU pilot Bulgaria answered that will consider this proposal on the next meeting of the Biodiversity Council at the Ministry without to mention when will it be.

Rila mountain is a spiritual mountain for the Bulgarian society. More than 170 000 people signed the petition to the European Parliament for its protection in 2007. The case was discussed in the European Parliament and Bulgarian state a few times promised to solve it without to implement it. The case was discussed also in Bulgarian Parliament this year and the Minister of Environment promised to protect the nature of Rila mountain but without to mention any deadlines for this.

It is difficult to understand why the state delays and risk a penalty from the European court. The most reliable explanation is that some of the forests and lands in Rila mountain were part of the famous land swaps deals in Bulgaria which happened in the period 2007 – 2009. At this period, some private firms and persons, usually connected with the former State Security Services and the ruling party succeed to exchange on non-market prices significant areas along Black Sea coast and the mountain resorts. This way solving the Rila case is not only a question to save European Nature, it will be also a sign for the restored rule of law in Bulgaria.

The European Wilderness Society fully supports effort of 170 000 people signed the petition to the European Parliament for protection already in 2007.  Rila National Park it’s not only spiritual mountain for the Bulgarian society and a hotspot for European biodiversity it is simultaneously also the important part of European Wilderness Network.  The very first Wilderness of this park was audited and add to this Europe wide network already in 2005.

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Sign the Petition for resilient forests


90 signatures

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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