1.         Białowieża Forest (Belarus,Poland) (N 33ter)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

World Heritage Centre / IUCN missions 1999 and 2004

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Illegal logging;

b) Excess commercial logging;

c) Bark beetle infestation of forest;

d) Alterations of the hydrological regime;

e) Border fence impeding mammal movements;

f) Lack of transboundary cooperation.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

The State Party of Poland submitted a report on 1 February 2007 in response to the Committee’s request. It indicates that Poland is undertaking a number of activities in the areas surrounding the World Heritage property to reduce the adverse impacts of human activities on the natural values of the property. In 2006, the President of Poland appointed an expert team to develop a draft Act Regulating the Status of the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Bialowieza Forest, to ensure the best possible natural and social solutions for the benefit of the forest and local communities. It also reported that a management and protection plan with provisions for the protection of the natural values of the property, as well as principles for the transboundary management of the property (to be agreed with Belarus), is currently being developed. In 2006, Poland has also submitted an updated Tentative List including the proposal to extend the property, and with the planned re-nomination the State Party plans to clarify the boundaries and buffer zone of the property.

In relation to the recommendations of the 2004 mission, Poland notes that their implementation would take time, especially due to the socio-economic dimensions involved. The State Party reports however that the above mentioned initiative by the President of Poland places the property in a broader context, as it aims to establish an integrated management structure for the whole territory. Transboundary cooperation has been improved through the biannual meetings of the Scientific Councils of the two national parks in Poland and Belarus as well as joint actions, visits and regular exchange of experiences between the staff of both national parks. In 2006, these included a meeting of the “Forest of Hope” project experts, which resulted in a list of priority actions for maintaining and upgrading the natural environment on both sides of the border, as well as a scientific conference with researchers from both national parks to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Bialowieza National Park. Furthermore, a bilateral agreement was concluded between both national parks concerning transboundary cooperation in research, education, exhibition, tourism, management and protection. Within the framework of the “Forest of Hope” project, a concept for the gradual removal of the fence on the Polish / Belarusian border has been developed, to create effective migration corridors allowing for cross-border movements of large mammals.

Concerning the international assistance request submitted by the State Party of Belarus to address the issue of large mammal movements by developing a project on the creation of effective migration corridors, some clarifications and additional information were sought by the World Heritage Centre, which have so far not been received.

The State Party of Belarus has not submitted an updated report in time as requested by the Committee’s Decision 30 COM 7B.20 (Vilnius, 2006). By e-mail dated 20 March 2007 the Director General of the National Park "Belovezhskaya pushcha" submitted a brief report, which does not address the transboundary cooperation issues. The report states that there is no human activity (such as forest cutting and creation of forest plantation, melioration, hunting and others), in the strictly protected area (including within the World Heritage property), except scientific research and special measures to protect populations of rare species. Due to unfavorable climatic conditions in 2000‑2002, and a huge number of bark beetles mass drying of middle-aged and old-aged spruce forests was observed. More favorable climatic conditions in 2005-2006 stopped this process. Overall the National Park forest has reportedly lost about 1.3 millions cubic metres of spruce trees over the 2001‑2004 period, which constitutes about one third of the spruce population. A new forest inventory detected that between 1993 and 2005 the spruce forest decreased two times. Furthermore, mass drying of ash trees was noted aggravated by mushrooms infestation of weakened trees. One of the reasons for this process appears to be the fluctuation of ground water level.

The report submitted by Poland indicates that the implementation of the recommendations of the joint 2004 mission is progressing slowly. IUCN notes however that the anticipated transboundary Coordination Council for both national parks has not been constituted yet and that a number of the reported activities, for example in relation to the development of the Natural and Cultural Heritage Act, management and protection plan and migration corridors, are still at the concept stage. IUCN reminds the States Parties of the need to urgently clarify the exact boundaries and buffer zones of the property.

The World Heritage Centre through its collaboration with the Council of Europe has received a report concerning the property prepared as a part of the appraisal process for renewal of the site for the European Diploma carried out in summer 2006. The report urges the Polish government to halt further logging of old growth forest and conversion of relict stands to commercial plantations in the Bialowieza Forest. It notes that a strong decline in species that are dependent on old growth and standing dead wood has already been documented. It also underlines that both the EU and European governments are challenged to help provide the means for the Bialowieza Forest to become a model for the successful implementation of nature conservation and the development of local communities. The report questions the renewal of the European Diploma for both National Parks of this transboundary World Heritage property. A decision is expected to be taken by the end of 2007. It finally urges the ratification, before the end of 2008, of a bilateral conservation agreement between the responsible Ministries in Poland and Belarus confirming the principles and budgets needed for transboundary co-operation between the Bialowieza and the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Parks, related to priorities for research, management, tourism and education, based on sustainable forestry and taking into account the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7B.30

The World Heritage Committee,

1.       Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2.      Recalling Decisions 28 COM 15B.20, 29 COM 7B.15 and 30 COM 7B.20, adopted at its 28th (Suzhou, 2004), 29th (Durban, 2005) and 30th (Vilnius, 2006) sessions respectively,

3.       Notes with concern the slow progress made in implementing the recommendations of the joint 2004 World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission as confirmed by the findings of the 2006 mission of the Council of Europe for the renewal of the European Diploma;

4.       Reiterates its request to both States Parties of Belarus and Poland to ensure that the management of the areas surrounding the World Heritage property does not adversely impact on the values and integrity of the property and to include in the management plans of both national parks jointly agreed sections dedicated to the management of the transboundary property;

5.       Urges the State Party of Belarus to clarify in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN the exact extent of the Belarusian part of the transboundary World Heritage property and its buffer zones;

6.       Encourages both States Parties of Belarus and Poland to continue their efforts to improve transboundary cooperation; and requests that a copy of the bilateral agreement concluded on 15 November 2006, as well as details on its implementation be submitted to the World Heritage Centre;

7.       Also requests both States Parties of Belarus and Poland to provide the World Heritage Centre with updated reports by 1 February 2008 on the state of conservation of the property, in particular in relation to the points mentioned above, and on further progress made in implementing the recommendations of the joint 2004 mission for examination by the Committee at its 32nd session in 2008.