Draft resolution on the renewal of the European Diploma awarded to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (Belarus)

(The Group of Specialists on the European Diploma for Protected Areas met in Strasbourg on 28 and 29 January 2002.)

Having regard to Resolution (97) 23 awarding the European Diploma to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (Belarus);

Taking into consideration the expert's report presented at the meeting of the Group of Specialists - European Diploma for protected areas on 28 and 29 January 2002;

Renews the European Diploma awarded to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (Belarus) until 30 September 2007;

Attaches the following recommendations to the renewal:

1. implement, before the end of the European Diploma renewal period and by 1 January 2005 at the latest, a ten-year national park management plan drawn up in line with the directives for the Plan for biodiversity conservation and planning for the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park proposed by the GEF project;

2. maintain and increase the contribution allotted by the administration to the Park's budget to enable the Park to achieve the objectives set for it;

3. guarantee stability concerning the Directorate of the Park in order to ensure the monitoring of the site's management;

4. gain more in-depth knowledge of the primeval forest, inter alia by coordinating the study of primeval forest plots in the total protection zone with constant monitoring of the ancient woods of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park;

5. review the silvicultural techniques applied in the Park's other zones with a view to more flexible management and to wood-cutting geared to the forest's diversity and development;

6. draw up a rescue plan for the Tisovka giant fir stand, which must be constantly monitored by a forestry institute;

7. pursue the policy of purchasing ecologically sensitive land with a view to enlarging the National Park, particularly drained farmland enclaved between the Dikoe marshes and the Shereshevo forest hunting reserve;

8 create ecological corridors between the central areas of the Park providing total protection;

9. continue joint studies in the two national parks in Belarus and Poland to ensure proper conservation and efficient management of the bison populations of the entire Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest;

10. remove the fence at the Belarusian-Polish border or, failing this, create passages at suitable points allowing the migration of large mammals;

11. apart from the culling of sick animals, prohibit all hunting within the territory of the National Park and ensure that the wolf has total protection therein;

12. set up a plan for the conservation of the capercaillie and the restoration of its habitats, in particular its breeding sites;

13. make a start on necessary research into the effects of fishing and of the restocking of the Park's watercourses and lakes on the indigenous aquatic populations, so as to determine criteria for the management of these resources;

14. pursue studies of invertebrate fauna and determine their state of conservation and their interest within the Park's biocenoses;

15. draw up and introduce a plan for the re-establishment of Cypripedium calceolus and Astrantia major, and continue the research begun into the state of conservation of plants;

16. increase the number of park guides and provide them with the necessary training. Strengthen the Park's scientific team and step up relations with Belarusian and Polish scientific institutes with a view to developing the research programme necessary to the Park's management;

17. give the visitors' centre educational and recreational roles consistent with the objectives of conserving biological and landscape diversity;

18. conclude, at the level of the relevant ministries, a bilateral agreement ensuring cooperation between the departments of the Bialowieza and Belovezhskaya Pushcha national parks and laying down terms for coordinated management, particularly in the areas of conservation of ecosystems and their components, silviculture applied to forest stands, tourism activities and educational work.

d. Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Belarus [PE-S-DE (2002) 15]

Expert Mr Charles Zimmer explained that the visit had been too short because of difficulties encountered at the border. There was no doubt in his mind as to the European interest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, were it only for the fact that it formed half the primeval forest of which the Polish Bialowieza forest formed the other half.

However, it was clear that the problems raised in the decision to award the European Diploma still largely featured among the issues faced by the park today.

The problems of the park authorities reflected the difficult socio-economic situation in the country. In the first five years following the award of the European Diploma, the park had had four different managers in succession. The different departments appeared to be hampered in implementing their annual plans by the lack of funding and the need for the park to finance its management by its own means.

Yet despite this difficult situation, the park had succeeded in partly meeting its objectives. It had acquired numerous sites particularly important for the conservation of its ecosystems. The park authorities were pursuing relations with those of the Bialowieza National Park and were developing this collaboration within the DANCEE programme framework, which should help to harmonise the management of the two national parks covering the primeval forest. The expert thought that renewal of the diploma should be considered in connection with the prospect of coherency of scientific programmes and implementation work throughout the whole forest area, with a number of recommendations attached.

Mr Valery Ramashka, Representative of Belarus at the Council of Europe, informed the Group that his authorities attached great importance to this area, which was Europe's green lung. The co-operation work would continue and projects would be implemented with the World Bank.

The Group supported the renewal, stressing the complementary nature of the two parks and the need to co-ordinate the management of the forest on either side of the border and to eliminate obstacles to the free circulation of large mammals.

It asked the Secretariat to consider the possibility of having an intermediate expert appraisal carried out, as suggested by the expert and in agreement with the Government of Belarus, to look more closely at certain questions and assess the progress made in implementing the recommendations.