A mosaic of many shades of green in the Western Rhodopes

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The forests of Smolyan are in need of protection.

© Boris Mittermeier

The region known as Smolyan lies far down in the south-eastern part of the European Green Belt in the Western Rhodopes mountains on the Bulgarian-Greek border. Its distinctive appeal lies in the ecologically precious woodland communities and rare types of grassland that form a mosaic landscape here. The diversity of habitats offers a home to a broad range of rare plants and animal species.  Balkan chamois and wolves roam this country and Smolyan plays a key role for the survival of the Bulgarian-Greek brown bear population. Reason enough for several areas in the region to have been designated as part of EU-wide network of nature protection areas known as Natura 2000. 

Is Natura 2000 a mere paper tiger?

In Bulgaria large stretches of the national conservation areas, which are therefore also Natura 2000 areas, are wooded. The use of these forests is regulated in ten-year forestry plans of which many disregard the aims of Natura 2000. Rare and endangered habitats are severely impacted in this way. So here, too, in the forest areas of Western Rhodopes support for the practical implementation of the European standards is needed.

Getting the foresters on board

We need to take urgent action to protect the Natura 2000 areas in the Smolyan region and preserve them as a precious part of the  Balkan Green Belt. The forestry sector is an important source of income in the region. Our goal is to bring economic interests into harmony with the needs of ecology.

What steps are EuroNatur and its partners undertaking?

  • Creating plans to be models:  EuroNatur and its Bulgarian partner organisation Green Balkans are demonstrating ways of using the Natura 200 forests sustainably for the benefit of both human and natural life. In close cooperation with the representatives of all local and regional interest groups we are working on setting up forest management plans that observe Natura 2000 specifications for two of the Natura 2000 areas in Smolyan.
  • Facilitating dialogue: We are getting together people in forestry, nature conservation, tourism, business and hunting etc. to meet and discuss their views and interests. Among other things a citizens' group has been established to be actively involved in the management of a selected Natura 2000 area.
  • Capacity building: we are training the decision makers and staff of the regional forestry authorities in “ Sustainable forest management in Natura 2000 areas”
  • Hands-on education in sustainable forest management: exchanging experience with German institutions is a central part of the project. A group of  foresters from the Smolyan region came on a study trip to nature parks in the Black Forest to see how forestry can work successfully hand in hand with nature conservation.


Partner: Green Balkans

Sponsoring: German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funding from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and EuroNatur donors

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Press release 8. October 2012 "Bulgarian Forest Rangers Visit the Black Forest"

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