The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has called on the Slovak government to take urgent steps to protect the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”. Continuing inappropriate management, extensive logging and hunting in the Slovak part of the site is threatening the outstanding universal value of the whole UNESCO site, which includes areas located in Ukraine and Germany.
The resolution, which was passed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting in Krakow, states: „unless urgent measures are taken to address the lack of an adequate protection regime (….), their protection from logging and other potential threats cannot be guaranteed in the long-term, which would clearly constitute a potential danger to the outstanding universal value of this serial transnational property as a whole”. Following the UNESCO decision, the government has to submit a report about the improvement of management of the site before February 2018, which brings significant pressure on Slovakia.
With their 200-year-old beech trees, grey wolves, European bison, brown bears and lynx, the Ancient Beech Forests of the Carpathians represent outstanding natural values not only in Slovakia but also globally. The UNESCO site of exceptional natural heritage was designated 10 years ago, however the existing level of protection does not adequately secure its natural values. The Slovak part of the site is under significant threats from logging and hunting. If urgent measures are not taken, the integrity of the area can be harmed and valuable old-growth forests and many rare and protected species inhabiting the area will be lost forever.
The core problem lies in the incoherence between national legislation regarding nature conservation and forestry, and a lack of political will to address management problems in protected areas. The result has been long lasting conflicts, uncertainties and no sustainable solution to the problems. WWF emphasises that the role of the Ministry of Environment must be strengthened as nature conservation goals need to have priority in areas designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. In order to preserve the area for future generations, development must respect UNESCO guidelines for such areas, with better-structured management plans, additional financial investment in natural areas and sustainable tourism.
“The Government needs to take the warning of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee seriously and take urgent and concrete measures to safeguard the Primeval Beech Forests World Heritage Site. WWF appreciates the recently announced initiative of the Ministry of Environment to start an effective dialogue with the Ministry of Agriculture by developing a National Forest Agreement. WWF believes that non-intervention zones and responsible forest management based on sustainability principles should be at the core of the agreement,“ said Miroslava Plassmann, Director of WWFDCP Slovakia.
WWF is deeply concerned about the fate of primeval forests in Central and Eastern Europe that are protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Polish government continues to promote largescale logging in the ancient Białowieża Forest and the Bulgarian Pirin National Park is threatened by massive new illegal infrastructure and industrial-scale logging.
“The Primeval Beech Forest in Slovakia, Białowieża Forest in Poland and Pirin National Park in Bulgaria are among the most important and diverse habitats on our planet – a valuable natural heritage that we need to protect both for present and future generations,” said Andreas Beckmann, Managing Director of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.