Court rules in favour of protecting the iconic Pirin National Park in Bulgaria | WWF
Court rules in favour of protecting the iconic Pirin National Park in Bulgaria

Posted on 05 May 2020

​Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court has suspended the execution of Pirin National Park's new management plan, which would have allowed construction in 66% and logging in 48% of the national park and World Heritage Site. In a time of crisis, this is a victory for nature and the rule of law in Bulgaria.
WWF-Bulgaria has been fighting to prohibit new logging and construction in Pirin National Park[1] since November 2016, activities that would not only endanger many species that depend on the area’s old-growth forests, but also be in breach of the EU Nature Directives. After nothing else proved effective, in March 2017 WWF-Bulgaria and the Association of Parks in Bulgaria (APB) filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment and Water’s decision not to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the expansion plan.

On 29 April 2020, the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court definitively ruled that the new management plan’s omission of environmental and Natura 2000 impact assessments is illegal. The court saga, running for three years now, has finally been won by the NGOs and the citizens that have been supporting them in Bulgaria and around the globe.
 
Pirin has exceptionally beautiful mountain scenery and glacial lakes, and is an example of a healthy, functioning Balkan uplands ecosystem that is home to EU wide protected species such as brown bears, grey wolves, chamois and the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, the rarest woodpecker in Europe. The natural coniferous forests shelter a 1,300 year-old endemic Bosnian pine tree (Baykusheva mura) – believed to be the oldest one on the Balkan peninsula.
 
“The final decision of the Supreme Administrative Court marks a milestone for nature conservation and the rule of law in Bulgaria  - not only because of the outcome, but also by setting new standards and a new court practice in the field, which will positively impact protected areas and Natura 2000 sites in the country in the future,” says Vesselina Kavrakova, CEO of WWF-Bulgaria.
 
“The Bulgarian Court ruling sends a far-reaching message across Europe - the EU Nature Directives must be respected!’ said Sabien Leemans, Senior Policy Officer for Biodiversity at WWF European Policy Office.
‘With the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy[2] due in the coming weeks, this ruling serves as a timely reminder that implementation and enforcement of the EU Nature Directives is one of the key tools in the fight to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.” 

ENDS

[1] Pirin National Park: UNESCO and Natura 2000
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 1.5% of the country’s territory. It also overlaps 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 diverse limestone mountain landscape 2,000 m above sea level. The territory includes over 70 glacial lakes and a broad range of glacial landforms including many waterfalls, rocky screes and caves. The high mountain peaks and crags contrast with meadows and rivers. The National Park includes a range of endemic and relict species that are representative of Balkan Pleistocene flora. Pirin was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. However, in 2010, UNESCO excluded the ski areas above the towns of Bansko and Dobrinishte from the World Heritage Site, identifying them as “buffer zones” to the heritage site due to the damage and destruction already caused by construction around the Bansko ski zone. The installation of those facilities led to the clearance of more than 160 ha of forests, including 120- 300 year-old old-growth trees.

[2] The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy
Originally due on 25 March, the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy has been delayed twice by the European Commission and is now due by the end of May. This stratey must be strong, ambitious and announce new legislation to finally bend the curve of biodiversity loss by 2030. An overview of our main asks for the strategy can be found here.

Contacts
On European policy:
Edel Shanahan 
Communications Officer, Biodiversity & Agriculture
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 484 49 35 15

On the Bulgarian ruling:
Vladimir Ivanov
Communications Manager,
WWF-Bulgaria
Tel: +359 884 72 41 46
WWF-Bulgaria has been fighting to prohibit new logging and construction in Pirin National Park since November 2016.
© Alexander Ivanov
Pirin
© Димитър Граматиков
Pirin's natural coniferous forests shelter a 1,300 year-old endemic Bosnian pine tree (Baykusheva mura) – believed to be the oldest one on the Balkan peninsula
© Alexander Ivanov
Pirin is home to brown bears, grey wolves, chamois and 159 bird species among which is the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, the rarest woodpecker in Europe.
© Kostadin Valchev