Now there is not any doubt that the number of plant and animal species used in determining the zones of Natura 2000 in Bulgaria was overstated. The mapping was performed during the period 2005 – 2007 and cost 9 million BGN paid to green non-governmental organizations participating in the coalition For Nature in Bulgaria.
Experts and scientists have been alerting about the falsified data for years. But no one listened to them, although they were positive that we cannot conserve something that does not exist. This warning proved to be true.
On August 28 Bulgaria reported to the European Commission that the status of the plant and animal species and their habitats has deteriorated. We remind the reader that every 6 years the Member States of the EU are required to inform Brussels in accordance with Art. 17 of the Habitat Directive on the status of the protected species, subject to conservation as laid out in the Biodiversity Act. The report however does not reflect the real situation in Bulgaria.
The reason is that the methodology and criteria used in 2005 to determine whether a particular zone contains threatened plant and animal species and to identify the measures for their protection were inadequate. Additionally, the boundaries of these zones were plotted using small-scale maps, 1:100 000, which contributes to the inaccuracy of the data. Since then these errors have been multiplying.
The situation is such because, in contrast to the other European Member States, where Natura 2000 is implemented by specialists from scientific institutes, in Bulgaria the project is entrusted to green non-governmental organization. The zones were determined by the simplest, easiest and cheapest method, using mainly the Red Data Book on the threatened plant and animal species written by Academician Mako Dakov – a partisan, forester, member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, deputy chair of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences from 1978 to 1990, i.e. the mapping is based on work published in 1986. “The ecologists” also use the map of plant species of Prof. Ivan Bondev from 1973.
While implementing Natura 2000 that now covers 34.8% of the territory of the country “the Greens” did not conduct the compulsory field surveys. They do not have scientifically verified information that certain species and habitats can be found on a particular territory. They have not used GPS coordinates, exact locations, trackers (tracing instruments), camera traps and evidence published in recognized scientific journals. For these reasons the Bulgarian Natura 2000 includes areas for protection encompassing industrial plants, factories, mines, quarries, cemeteries, industrial areas and dumps. This shows that the data for Natura 2000 are unreliable and there are substantiated suspicions that they have been falsified. The purpose of all this was to include as much territory as possible in the European network. By doing so the Greens are securing their business for decades to come. This business is connected to the preparation of reports for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Compatibility Assessments over which they have a monopoly.
Meanwhile the large areas included in Natura 2000 force the EC to finance activities connected to their protection. The well-planned scenario of “the ecologists” for gaining profits was successful. Only for the two previous programming periods the European Commission released almost 700 million BGN. Thus, the Greens guarantee the appropriation of the funding and gain substantial resources by taking advantage of the cause for environmental protection. The constant suggestions of “the ecologists” that the biodiversity in Bulgaria is threatened by human activity are far from the truth. There is now way for our flora and fauna to have degraded, because Bulgaria suffers the most serious demographic crisis in the framework of the EU. For the past 30 years the population has decreased by 2 million. Whole regions are depopulated, hundreds of villages have disappeared. This means that vast territories remain without any economic activity and there is nothing to stop biodiversity from developing. Meanwhile, due to the large percentage of Natura 2000 and the deliberate mistakes in it, non-existing plant and animal species and their habitats are protected for a lot of money. Additionally, due to the eco-racketeering to allegedly protect these species, dozens of investment projects worth hundreds of millions of levs are stopped or delayed.
For the purposes of eco-racketeering some protected zones are deliberately set in places where investment proposals have been made. During the last decades the EU has spent billions on different projects in Bulgaria. If, regardless of these huge amounts of money, the biodiversity is deteriorating, then the conclusion is that either the financing is absolutely pointless or the money has gone elsewhere. The latter is probably the truth.
Here are some striking examples of what is protected in Bulgaria and where:
– The lynx is protected in 11 zones and distributed in 21 zones. According to the 2019 report to the EU the lynx has been found in 4 zones. In 3 of these zones it has been identified by footprints, while the data from the fourth zone have been collected before 2008. Meanwhile it is a publicly known fact that no one has seen a lynx in Bulgaria since decades. There are no definitive scientific data obtained by examination of hair, feces or pictures from camera traps. The lynx is still protected, no matter that it’s not here.
– The wolf is protected in 124 zones and has been found in 112 zones. According to the 2019 report to the EU there are data for its detection only in 40 zones, but it continues to be protected in the other 84.
– The steppe polecat is subject to conservation in 26 protected zones and has been mapped in 28 zones. According to the 2019 report to the EC it has not been established in any of them. So, this species is not found in Bulgaria, but it remains protected for solid European funding.
– The marbled polecat is subject to conservation in 191 protected zones and has been mapped in 172. According to the 2019 report to the EC it has been established only in 31 of them. So, the species is absent from 150 of the zones, but it is still protected by them.
– The European fire-bellied toad is subject to conservation in 115 protected zones and has been mapped in 122 protected zones. According to the 2019 report to the EC it has been found only in 69 zones.
– The Romanian hamster is subject to conservation in 88 protected zones, mapped in 77. According to the 2019 report to the EC it has been established in 1 zone, but it is still subject to conservation in the remaining 87 zones.
– Roach’s mouse-tailed dormouse us subject to conservation in 21 protected zones. According to the 2019 report to the EC it has been registered in 1 protected zone.
The situation is similar for dozens of other animal and plant species. They are subject to conservation on paper, but in reality, they are missing. Large amounts of money from the Bulgarian and European budget are allocated to their protection in the zones where they are not actually distributed. These species have not disappeared from the zones, they were never there in the first place. The big question that must now be answered is what needs to be done to correct the “mistakes” of The Greens in Natura 2000.
The Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW) and everyone working in this field are aware of the practice of “the ecologists”, adopted in 2005. The suspicion that the “conservationists” have not carried out any field work and do not have solid scientific data on the investigated habitats and species is confirmed. They have never provided any information or evidence to MEW on their field investigations for Natura 2000. They have refused to provide data under the false pretense that this is their intellectual property, even though they have received 9 million BGN to collect these data. The truth is that “the conservationists” are not providing data, simply because they do not have any.
This is probably the reason for the mass opposition of the “eco” organizations against the proposal for amendment of the Biodiversity Act (BA). The amendments include a clause for compulsory provision of primary scientific data. The draft amendment of the BA was published in January 2019, but has not been voted yet because of the pressure of the Greens. The only possibility to resolve this stalemate situation and protect Bulgaria from tough penal procedures is to admit the mistakes. The country must ask Brussels for a grace period in which to revise the whole Natura 2000, this time based on reliable field investigations. Then a new report with the real data and scientific evidence must be prepared.