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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 2021
On 30 January 2020, 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/, and which presents the following:
- Logging in the Polish part of the property has remained limited and mainly motivated by safety measures, including fire safety. A total of 567.31 m3 of wood was harvested in the active management zone from July 2018 to September 2019. Forest regeneration activities have been restricted to the active management zone;
- Spruce dieback caused by the bark beetle outbreak in the Polish part is continuing. In 2019, another 109,400 infested trees were identified, and an estimated area of 10,714 ha is affected;
- A “Forest Fire Protection and Forest Fire Extinguishing Plan” is being prepared. 18 wildfires occurred in the Polish part in 2018 and 11 in 2019 (until September), affecting less than 5 ha. In Belarus, one wildfire occurred in 2019, affecting an area of 15.2 ha;
- New annexes to the Forest Management Plans (FMP) were proposed, which would allow for an additional 42,683 m3 of wood to be harvested inside the property by the end of 2021. On 7 November 2019, the State Party submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed annexes, which concluded that the planned additional logging activities will not impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
- Work is underway to prepare the Management Plan (MP) for the Polish part of the property and an updated MP for the Belarusian part. Once both MPs are available, work on the Transboundary Integrated Management Plan (TIMP) will commence. Transboundary cooperation was strengthened through two international workshops on tourism, education, and promotion of the property. In Belarus, new legislation now requires that the MP of protected areas is strictly implemented, hence strengthening its legal status;
- The updated EIA for the Narewkowska road was submitted to the World Heritage Centre on 2 August 2019 and concludes that there would be no impact on the OUV of the property. The upgrade works have now been finalized;
- No wolf hunting will be carried out in the Belarus part of the property, in accordance with national legislation;
- In order to restore the hydrological regime of the property, 350 ha of the Dzikoje fen mire and the meandering of 3.5 km riverbed of the Solomionka river in Belarus were restored and further restoration works are planned. In Poland, the water reservoir of Gnilec was rehabilitated.
On 7 August 2020, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party of Belarus requesting clarification regarding third party information about reported drainage works inside the property. To date no reply was received from the State Party.
On 30 March 2021, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party of Poland, requesting further information on the announcement on the website of the Ministry of Climate and Environment on the approval of new annexes to the FMPs of Bialowieza and Browsk Forest Districts. A reply was received on 15 April 2021.
On 13 April 2021, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party of Poland transmitting third-party information regarding a planned bicycle path along the road Hajnowka – Bialowieza, a planned photovoltaic farm in the village of Bialowieza and the potential extension of the railway Hajnowka – Bialowieza. At time of drafting this report, no reply was received from the State Party.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
It is noted that forest management activities, including logging, have remained at a very low scale, and are limited to the active management zone, as recommended by the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission. The substantial increase in logging quota until the end of 2021, which was proposed in the new annexes to the FMP raised renewed concerns. It is recalled that, in its Decision 43 COM 7B.14, the Committee considered that the existing FMPs should either not be amended, or be amended only in a very restrictive way to allow for strictly necessary safety measures, on the basis of a clear risk evaluation plan. This risk evaluation plan and fire management plan were not submitted and their current status is unclear. The review by IUCN of the submitted EIA of the proposed annexes to the FMP concluded that it does not provide a sufficient basis to be reassured that the measures proposed in the draft annexes will not impact the OUV of the property.
In its recent letter of 15 April 2021, the State Party clarified that only the new annexes for the Bialowieza and Browsk Forest Districts were approved foreseeing no logging in the protection zones and only very limited additional logging in the active protection zone of the Polish part of the property in order to ensure compliance with safety requirements and forest management activities related to Natura 2000 requirements. The amended FMP for the Bialowieza district also repeals the previous annex as had been requested by the Committee, thereby reducing the authorized additional logging volume from 188.000 m3 to 108.814 m3. The proposed new annex for the Hajnowka Forest District, which foresaw a significant increase in logging volume linked to windfall clean-up has not been approved. The confirmation by the State Party that the approved amendments respond to the Decisions of the Committee is noted.
It is concerning that little progress has been made on the development of the MP for the Polish part of the property, which should define its overarching management objectives centered on the protection of its OUV and should guide the development of other management documents, such as forest management plans, in a more coherent manner. It is therefore recommended that the Committee urge the State Party of Poland to accelerate this process and ensure that the development of the MP involves all relevant experts and stakeholders and to seek further advice from IUCN to support this process if needed. The new MP is crucial to guide the preparation of the new 2022-2031 FMPs to ensure that these are in line with the protection of the OUV of the property and with the forest management prescriptions of the 2014 Nomination file as well as the recommendations of the 2018 mission. It is recommended that the State Party seeks further advice from IUCN on the proposed new FMP to ensure that these requirements are met, before approving them.
The work on updating the MP of the Belarusian part, and strengthening of its legal status, is noted and should be finalized. It is recommended that the States Parties agree on the formulation of a common goal and objectives for the TIMP based on the OUV, which then can be integrated in the MP of both parts of the property. Furthermore, it is recommended that the States Parties seek to engage technical expertise from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to support the process through appropriate mechanisms, such as an Advisory mission. The draft MPs and TIMP should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN before approval.
With regards to the upgrade of the Narewkowska road, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party of Poland to ensure that the necessary follow-up measures are put in place, including monitoring of the number of vehicles using the road, and, if any negative impacts from the increased use of the road are observed, that further consideration is given to establishing the necessary restrictions to minimize the impacts.
The assurances provided by Belarus that no wolf hunting will be carried out in its part of the property is welcome. While the on-going efforts to restore the hydrological regime of the property are encouraging, third party reports about drainage works inside the property are of high concern and the State Party of Belarus should be requested to provide further information on this matter.
Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.100
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.14, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
- Notes with satisfaction that forest management activities in the property, including logging, have remained at a very low scale, and only limited to the active management zone, as recommended by the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission;
- Notes the confirmation by the State Party of Poland that the recently approved amendments to the Forest Management Plans (FMPs) for the Bialowieza and Browsk Forest Districts are in line with the recommendation of the 2018 mission and only allow for limited forest management activities in the active management zone for strictly necessary safety measures and for measures necessary to implement Natura 2000 requirements;
- Urges the State Party of Poland to accelerate the development of an overall Management Plan for its part of the property, which places the protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) as its central objective, taking into account the recommendations of the 2018 mission, and stresses that this Management Plan should guide the development of other management documents, including the new 2022-2031 FMPs, to ensure that they are in line with the protection of the OUV of the property;
- Also urges the State Party of Poland to ensure that any forest operations in the property, including those that might be envisaged in the new 2022-2031 FMPs, comply with the management prescriptions included in Decision 43 COM 7B.14, in line with the 2014 Nomination file and the recommendations of the 2018 mission, and encourages the State Party of Poland to seek further advice from IUCN on the development of the new FMP to ensure that these requirements are met, before approving them;
- Requests the State Party of Belarus to finalize the updating of the Managemnet Plan for its part of the property, to submit a draft to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN before its final approval and, noting with satisfaction the strengthening of its legal status, to ensure that the relevant wildlife and forest management plans are updated, based on the updated MP;
- Also requests the States Parties of Belarus and Poland, to define a common goal and objectives for the entire property based on the protection of the property’s OUV as part of the preparation of a Transboundary Integrated Management Plan (TIMP), which should be subsequently integrated in the Management Plans of both parts of the property;
- Also encourages the States Parties to engage technical expertise from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to support the development of the TIMP and the Management Plans for the Polish and Belarusian parts of the property through appropriate mechanisms, such as an Advisory mission;
- Welcomes the assurances provided by the State Party of Belarus that no wolf hunting will be carried out in its component of the property, as well as the on-going efforts to restore the hydrological regime of the property but expresses concern about reported new drainage works inside the property and further requests the State Party of Belarus to provide updated information on this matter;
- Requests furthermore the State Party of Poland to ensure that the necessary follow-up measures are put in place for the Narewkowska road, including monitoring of the number of vehicles using the road, and, if any negative impacts from the increased use of the road are observed, that further consideration is given to establishing the necessary restrictions to minimize the impacts;
- Finally requests the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, an updated joint report on the state of conservation of the property, on the implementation of the above and the recommendations by the 2018 mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session.