Designation of new Protected Areas is the major approach to long-term and successful preservation of nature in areas of high conservation significance. This approach provides institutional protection of valuable species and habitats and creates preconditions for sustainable development.
Green Balkans has made a considerable contribution to the expansion of the Bulgarian network of Protected Areas. For the past 20 years, the Organization proposed the designation of 26 Protected Areas, covering more than 650,000 ha. Most of these areas have been adopted by the Government, while the others are in process of designation.
Most important achievements:
• Habitats of colonially breeding birds in the Maritsa river basin. For more than 20 years the Organization has been implementing an inventory and monitoring of the mixed colonies of Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, and Pygmy Cormorant. As a result, four protected areas have been proposed and adopted.
• Wintering habitats of Pygmy Cormorant. Experts of the Organization implemented a detailed 20-year study of the Pygmy Cormorant wintering status. The Bulgarian part of the Maritza river harbors significant part of the species’ global population (35%). The important outcomes of these studies include identification and development of proposals for the designation of five protected natural areas – wintering roosting sites of the Pygmy Cormorant. Two of these areas (the Pygmy Cormorant roosting sites near Plovdiv and Dimitrovgrad) have been designated as Protected Areas.
• Wintering habitats of the globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican. Green Balkans identified one of the most significant wintering habitats of this species in Europe – the dams of Ovcharitsa and Studen Kladenets. Two protected areas have been proposed.
• Wetlands in the Danube river valley. Site of primary significance for the Organization’s work. Eight protected areas have been identified and proposed to be designated, two of which are of European conservation significance:
- “Persina” Nature Park with an area of 22,000 ha, harboring wetlands, floodplain forests, and habitats of European conservation significance.
- “Kalimok-Brushlen” Protected Area, covering 5952,349 ha.
Breeding habitats of the globally threatened Imperial Eagle – the Organization, together with the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, has proposed two protected areas in the Southern Sakar Mountains.
Western Rhodope Nature Park
Unique complex of bio-geographical, historical, and political factors was the reason for the Western Rhodope massif, with an area of 800,000 ha, to preserve its high conservation and landscape significance. For more than 20 years, the Bulgarian nature conservation community tried unsuccessfully to secure proper protection of the Western Rhodopes. The latest campaign seeking protection of the Rhodopes, implemented by Green Balkans and the Bulgarian Union for the Protection of the Rhodope Mountains, involving long studies and assessments, was finally crowned with success. Legal procedure has been launched for the designation of one of the biggest protected areas in Europe – Western Rhodope Nature Park. Huge information campaign about the designation of the park was also implemented, covering more than 20 municipalities and 100 settlements in the Western Rhodopes.
Green Balkans is one of the initiators of a campaign to protect the Protected Areas from the numerous encroachments, such as uncontrolled construction works, destruction of habitats and species of high value, destruction of picturesque sites and landscapes, etc. This campaign united the efforts of more than 20 Bulgarian nature conservation organizations and received great public support to protect “Pirin” and “Rila” National Parks, “Strandja” Nature Park, etc