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Białowieża Forest (Belarus,Poland) (N 33ter)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1979
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
March 2004: Joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; October 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; June 2016: IUCN Advisory mission; September/October 2018: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Forestry/wood production (logging in the partially protected zones and removal of deadwood)
- Alterations of the hydrological regime
- Border fence impeding mammal movements
- Ambiguity regarding the boundaries of the property (issue resolved)
- Management systems/management plan (Need for a new Management Plan for Białowieża National Park (Poland) (issue resolved); Lack of an integrated planning and management of the property and of a Transboundary Steering Committee with adequate human and financial resources)
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 29 November 2018, the States Parties of Belarus and Poland submitted a joint report on the state of conservation of the property (available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/documents/), providing the following information:
- In the Polish part of the property, a total of 123,952 m3of wood were harvested in 2017 within the partial protection zone II, and 37,263 m3 within the active protection zone. In 2018, the volume diminished to 691 m3 on the partial protection zone II and 2,170 m3 in the active protection zone. However, it is reported that since July 2017, no commercial logging has been carried out in the Polish part of the property, and logging is limited to ensuring public safety, with some of the removed wood being sold in line with the relevant legal provisions. These safety cuttings have also been carried out in partial protection zone II as a result of the spruce dieback caused by the bark beetle outbreak. The total volume of infested spruce trees is estimated at 1,75 million m3 within the property;
- Since 20 November 2017, no wood has been harvested in the Polish part of the property under the amended Forest Management Plans (FMPs) but assessments are underway to determine the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property of proposed new amendments, to allow for more safety cuttings. Decision 51 of the Director General of State Forests (Poland), which imposed the obligation to remove all trees infested by bark beetle, and the logging in all age classes of trees posing a danger to the public or a fire risk, was repealed on 17 May 2018;
- Work is underway to prepare the overall Management Plan (MP) for the Polish part of the property. An expert team was appointed by the Minister of the Environment in May 2018 to prepare recommendations concerning the plan;
- The Transboundary Integrated Management Plan (TIMP) for the property will be prepared by the joint working group of Belarus and Poland. Preliminary results will be presented in 2019 and it is expected that the plan can be completed by 2022;
- A project to upgrade the Narewkowska road is underway and was subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) according to the national legislation. There is no plan to widen the road itself or to build road shoulders. So far, a section of 6.3 km has been completed. More road rehabilitation projects have been planned and financially supported by the State Forests;
- In the Belarus component, important works to restore some of the wetland areas are underway including the Dzikoje fen mire, part of the Ramsar site.
A joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property from 24 September to 2 October 2018, whose report is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/documents/.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The Reactive Monitoring mission noted that important differences exist in the forest management regime in the Belarusian and Polish components of the property. Forest management in the majority of the Belarusian component of the property privileges a strict non-intervention policy, in line with the objective of maintaining unimpeded natural ecological processes forming an essential part of the property’s OUV.
However, the mission observed that in the Polish part, widespread logging activities occurred between 2016 and 2018, including the large-scale removal of deadwood. These activities were also undertaken in the partially protected zone II, which includes old-growth forest of more than 100 years old and where no active forest management is allowed. The mission concluded that these activities have disrupted the ecological and natural processes in the property, resulting in negative impacts on its OUV. Given that in 2018, the State Party of Poland suspended these logging activities, as confirmed by the mission, an inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger is currently not recommended. However, should the State Party of Poland not comply with the management commitments foreseen in the 2014 Nomination file, the World Heritage Committee should consider inscribing the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines.
In this regard, it is noted with concern that new amendments to the FMPs in the Polish part of the property that would further increase allowed wood extraction are being considered. It is strongly recommended that the Committee request the State Party of Poland to revoke the amendment of FMP for the Bialowieza Forest District and to ensure that any new FMP for areas within the property are based on the new overall Management Plan. The existing FMPs should not be amended, or only in a very restrictive way, to allow for strictly necessary safety measures as recommended by the 2018 mission and on the basis of a clear risk evaluation plan. Any amendment to the existing FMPs should be sent to the World Heritage Centre with a clear justification, for review by IUCN, before approval.
While the efforts to develop a TIMP for the property are noted, this should be based on the Statement of OUV. The submitted “Draft assumptions for the TIMP” are clearly not in line with the Statement of OUV.
The State Party of Poland should initiate without further delay the development of an overall MP for its part of the property, which places the protection of OUV as its central objective and which clearly prescribes joint governance between the Bialowieza National Park, the State Forests and the Ministry of Environment. While a MP for the Belarusian part of the property exists, there is a need to ensure that the forest management plan and wildlife management plan are consistent with this plan.
The continuation of the moratorium on wolf hunting in Belarus is welcome and it is important that this moratorium be made permanent by legally forbidding wolf hunting in the entire Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, in order for the population to continue its recovery to its historical size, as recommended by the mission.
The upgrading of the Narewkowska road by the State Party of Poland could potentially affect the ecological connectivity in the property, as it crosses between forest reserves and areas included in the partially protected zone II. The mission considered that the EIA for the road did not adequately assess the potential impacts on the OUV and on the attributes defining it. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request that the works remain suspended until an EIA is prepared and submitted, which assesses the potential impacts of the road improvement on the OUV of the property, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines and with the IUCN Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.14
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.1, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Taking note of the conclusions of the 2018 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission, commends the State Party of Belarus for successfully focusing the management of its part of the property on maintaining natural ecological processes, and on the restoration of wetlands, including Ramsar-designated areas;
- Expresses its utmost concern about the widespread logging activities in the Polish part of the property between 2016 and 2018, including in the partially protected zone II comprising old-growth forest, and regrets the impacts that such practices have had on the ecological and natural processes in the property, resulting in negative impacts on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
- Welcomes the decision by the State Party of Poland to suspend these logging activities since the beginning of 2018, and urges the State Party of Poland to ensure that all forest operations in the property comply with the following management prescriptions in line with the 2014 Nomination and as recommended by the 2018 mission:
- In the strictly protection zone as well as in the partial protection zone I and II, ensure that no forest management interventions are undertaken, including removal of deadwood, sanitary cuttings or any active regeneration activities (including soil preparation and tree planting),
- In the active protection zone, limit forest management activities exclusively to interventions directly aiming at speeding up the process of tree stand replacement to a more natural broadleaved oak – hornbeam forest or at preserving certain associated non-forest habitats, including wet meadows, river valleys and other wetlands and habitats of endangered plants, animals and fungi. The necessary active protection measures should be detailed in the Integrated Management Plan,
- In the entire property, restrict safety cuttings only to areas along specific roads and paths (at a 50 m-distance from each side) on the basis of a clear risk evaluation plan,
- For the entire property, develop and implement a comprehensive Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression Plan based on a rigorous risk assessment, to be included in the Integrated Management Plan;
- Considers that non-compliance of the forestry operations in the property with the above would constitute a clear case of ascertained danger to the property, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and warrant inscribing the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Requests the State Party of Poland to revoke the amendment of the Forest Management Plan (FMP) for the Bialowieza Forest District and ensure that any new FMP for areas within the property are based on the new overall Management Plan of the Polish part of the property;
- Also considers that the existing FMPs should not be amended, or only in a very restrictive way allow for strictly necessary safety measures and on the basis of a clear risk evaluation plan and that any amendment should be sent to the World Heritage Centre with a clear justification, for review by IUCN, before approval;
- Reiterates its request to the State Party of Poland to develop, as a matter of priority, an overall Management Plan (MP) for its part of the property, which places the protection of the property’s OUV as its central objective, also taking into account the recommendations of the 2018 mission and to submit a draft of the overall MP to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN before its final approval;
- Also requests the States Parties of Belarus and Poland to expedite the preparation of a Transboundary Integrated Management Plan, defining the overall management vision for the property based on the Statement of OUV, and setting out the transboundary governance system, as recommended by the 2018 mission;
- Further requests the State Party of Belarus to strengthen the legal status and precedence of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park MP, making it obligatory for all other relevant MPs, such as the forest MP and the wildlife MP, to be aligned with it;
- Also welcomes the moratorium on wolf hunting in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (Belarus), and requests furthermore the State Party of Belarus to legally prohibit wolf hunting in the national park, in order to allow the population to continue its recovery;
- Notes with concern that the upgrading of the Narewkowska road by the State Party of Poland could potentially affect the ecological connectivity in the property, and requests moreover the State Party of Poland to suspend any upgrading works on the road pending completion and submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which specifically assesses the impacts of the road improvement on the OUV of the property, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Finally requests the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, an updated joint report on the state of conservation of the property, on the implementation of the above and of the recommendations by the 2018 mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.