A pearl in the Green Belt
The Jablanica and Shebenik mountain ranges lie to the north of Lake Ohrid in the borderland between Albania and Macedonia. The Jablanica range which runs along a North to South line between the two countries forms the border between the two countries and the Shebenik range runs parallel to it inside Albania. Before 1990 the mountains were part of a restricted Yugoslavian-Albanian military zone and today they are part of the Balkan Green Belt.
The Jablanica-Shebenik Mountains are among the most outstanding natural treasures in the Green Belt. This ravishing mountain landscape with relatively well-preserved beech woods and extensive alpine mats offers a home not only to endemic plants such as the Balkan Viola gracilis, Dianthus jablanicensis and Albanian Lily but also to Brown Bear, Wolf and the Balkan Lynx which is now in great danger of extinction.
Pressure is growing on the last remaining resources
These treasuries of natural diversity are however threatened. Now that the original woods - particularly in Albania - have largely fallen victim to overfelling – the remaining forest resources are at a premium. A further problem is widespread goat grazing which is preventing any fresh growth of shrubs and trees.
Goal: the establishment of a cross-border National Park
EuroNatur has been working for years on long-term conservation of the large, connected areas of forest in the Jablanica-Shebenik Mountains. Together with local nature conservation organizations and with the support of national authorities in Macedonia and Albania, EuroNatur has set itself the goal of establishing a large-scale cross-border conservation area. Apart from the lynx, wolves, bears and the entire ecosystem, of which the predators form the apex, stand to gain from the protection measures.
What actions are EuroNatur and its partner organisations taking?
- Creating a data base of knowledge: Data on both the Albanian and Macedonian sides have been collected to document flora, fauna and peculiarities of the landscape. These have formed the basis of reports which are needed for the declaration of protected areas.
- Developing effective concepts for protection: Together with our partners we have developed mutually compatible zoning concepts for the national protected areas and have submitted them to the ministries responsible.
- Securing long-term protection: Together with our local partners we are continuing to lobby local government institutions to promote the establishment of an effective administration in the protected areas.
- Creating acceptance: We are engaged in educational and public relations work to win the people living in the area for nature conservation. To read more about this turn to EuroNatur “Capacity Building” Project.
- Creating perspectives: Together with the local population we are developing ideas on how they can secure their material existence in harmony with nature, namely without overusing natural resources. One practical example is the cross-border trail which EuroNatur is creating with its local partners. To read more about this turn to EuroNatur “Capacity Building” Project.
What we have so far been able to achieve – a selection of important successes
- On 21st May 2008 the Albanian government officially designated 340 square kilometers of the mountain range Shebenik-Jablanica National Park. The Albanian designation of the area as Shebenik-Jablanica National Park is the important first step on a long path.
- From Macedonia too there are positive signals for the establishment of a major protection area of more than 150 square kilometres directly adjoining the Albanian National Park. Taken together with the Albanian part this would result in a major protection area of roughly 500 square kilometres in the Balkan Green Belt.
- Implementation of a network of walkers' trails in the Jablanica-Shebenik Mountains is making great progress. The Albanian part of the network was officially opened at the end of July 2010.
- The population of the Albanian-Macedonian border area of Jablanica-Shebenik is in sympathy with the plans for a protection area on both sides of the border. Most people accept the protection of their countryside and what this means in terms of restrictions on utilisation.
Partners: PPNEA (Preservation and Protection of Natural Environment in Albania), MES (Macedonian Ecological Society), KORA (Carnivore Ecology and Wildlife Management)
Sponsors: MAVA Foundation, German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), EuroNatur sponsors