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28 May 2013

Belovezhskaya Pushcha included into European Protected Areas Network

Belovezhskaya Pushcha included into European Protected Areas Network

BREST, 28 May (BelTA) - The Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park has become a partner of PAN Parks, the European wilderness protection organization, and has been awarded the Wilderness Diploma, BelTA learned from Vasily Arnolbik, deputy director general for science of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

PAN Parks (Protected Areas Network) is a European non-governmental organization which protects the most valuable wild territories by creating a network of wildlife parks for the development of sustainable tourism. It plans to unite into a single system up to 1 million hectares of pristine natural habitats and ecosystems in Europe by 2015. Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the first and so far the only specially protected natural area of Belarus included in this international network.

Belovezhskaya PushchaUnder the terms of PAN Parks, only the areas that protect at least 10,000 hectares of pristine wilderness can become its partner. Belovezhskaya Pushcha ensures the guaranteed protection of 57,000 hectares of primeval nature, with a high flow of visitors and focus on ecological education. "The certificate which we have recently received does not give us any additional bonuses. It only underlines the importance of the forest for the European heritage of wild nature," said Vasily Arnolbik.

“Together with Polish colleagues we have compiled a nomination file for the World Heritage List,” Vasily Arnolbik said. According to the document, the World Heritage zone on the Belarusian and Polish sides has been expanded to 140,000 hectares, including 80,000 hectares on the Belarusian side of the Pushcha and 60,000 hectares on the Polish one. It has been increased to include the old-growth forest trees and unique wetland complexes. The nomination file for the second nomination attempt has two new criteria: the importance of the forest for conservation of biodiversity of flora and fauna, and the importance of the territory from the perspective of the natural evolution of the wilderness. "The new criteria will further emphasize the value of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and will enhance its status in the international community," Vasily Arnolbik said.

Belovezhskaya PushchaIn June, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park will host a mission of experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which will inspect the two parts of the Pushcha (Belarus and Poland) to see if they meet the new criteria. It is expected that a decision on the new nomination file will be made in mid-2014.

At present, the area of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is 150,000 hectares. For better protection and management of its territory, it has been divided into four functional zones: 38% is the wilderness protection zone with the most strict protection regime; 26.1% is a regulated use zone; 30.7% - an economic activity zone and 5.2% - a recreation area designed for tourism.

In 1992 the UNESCO took a decision to include the best preserved area of old-growth plants of the National Park in the World Heritage list. A year later Belovezhskaya Pushcha got the status of a biosphere reserve. At the end of 1997, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe awarded the European Diploma of Protected Areas for the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park for special merits in the conservation of biological, geological and landscape diversity. The diploma has been recently extended until 2017.

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