The State Party of Belarus submitted a short report on 1 February 2006. The report indicated that the Belarusian part of the World Heritage property covers 5,000 hectares and is part of a strict protection zone covering 30,000 ha in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, which covers 163,500 ha. The State Party report further stated that, apart from scientific research, no other human activities are allowed and/or underway in the strict protection zone including the World Heritage property. The 2000-2004 mass drying of middle-aged and old-aged Norway spruce forests in the national park and World Heritage property ceased due to favourable climate conditions in 2005. Aggravated by severe bark beetle infestation, the 2000-2004 mass drying destroyed a third of the Norway spruce population. A yet unexplained mass drying of ash trees, aggravated by a mushroom infestation, was observed in 2005. Sanitary felling, logging and limited artificial afforestation occur only outside the strict protection zone. The State Party reported that logging has increased more than twofold from 2001 to 2002, following the mass drying, and has remained fairly stable since then.
The State Party of Poland submitted a report on 28 February 2006, indicating the anticipated transboundary Coordination Council for both national parks had not been constituted yet, but common meetings of the Scientific Councils of both national parks are held at least twice a year. The State Party further reported on transboundary cooperation activities in the fields of conservation and environmental education such as the “Forest of Hope” project, and that participatory processes are in place. The State Party further stated that, apart from non-intrusive scientific research and education, no other human activities are allowed and/or underway in the Polish part of the World Heritage property, which is part of a strict protection zone in the Białowieża National Park. Sanitary felling occurs only outside the strict protection zone at a very low level (500-1500 m3 in 2004-2005). According to the State Party, the situation of cross-border tourist movement is gradually improving. In April 2005, the previously closed border pass for pedestrians and cyclists in Grudki-Piererow was reopened. There is no border fence on the Polish side, but a high border fence is still located on the Belarusian side. Within the framework of the “Forest of Hope” project, the creation of effective migration corridors is discussed, which would allow for cross-border movements of large mammals.
The State Party of Belarus has submitted an international assistance request to address the issue of large mammal movements by developing a project on the creation of effective migration corridors. This is a direct follow up on Decision 28 COM 15B.20, and it is hoped that the proposed work will improve significantly the situation of the European bison population, other herbivores as well as carnivores. IUCN’s European Bison Action Plan strongly supports establishing migration corridors between the two currently separated subpopulations in the World Heritage property. In close cooperation with the “Forest of Hope” project, the proposed work should seek to identify priority areas for the creation of effective migration corridors.
Various sources stress that the implementation of the recommendations of the joint 2004 UNESCO/IUCN mission is progressing only very slowly. Furthermore, several NGOs report continued commercial logging and hunting and diverse infrastructure developments outside the strict protection zones on both the Belarusian and Polish sides, which could potentially impact on the property and its integrity, especially where they occur within the direct vicinity of the property or affect wildlife populations moving in and out the property. The very slow progress made in implementing the important recommendations of the joint 2004 UNESCO/IUCN mission is of great concern, especially with regard to transboundary cooperation, and that a number of the reported activities do not relate specifically to the conservation and management of the World Heritage property. The delay in the preparation and implementation of a common management body and plan for the transboundary World Heritage property is especially alarming. So far, the implications of the World Heritage status are not given adequate consideration in any of the existing management plans. Thus, both States Parties should be urged to ensure that in future activities adequate consideration is given to the implications of the World Heritage status for conservation and management.
IUCN noted that the introduction of a system of paid licences for tourism services offered on the Polish side has further obstructed the opportunity of local people to benefit from tourism revenues generated by the park and urges the State Party of Poland to work in close cooperation with the local people in order to identify and implement improved ways of benefit sharing.
Finally, the still unclear delimitation of the World Heritage property on both the Belarusian and Polish side is of great concern. Both States Parties claim at present that only parts of the strict protection zones are part of the World Heritage property. However, IUCN and the World Heritage Centre are of the understanding that 87,607 ha of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park are inscribed as part of the World Heritage property, not only 5,000 ha as mentioned in the State Party report. This requires urgent clarification. Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park was also extended to at least 152,200 ha by a presidential decree in 2004, and if the State Party wishes the Committee to consider extending the World Heritage property to coincide with the revised park boundaries, it is necessary to formally submit a nomination for such an extension.