Three-year grants for all the Protected Area Authorities in the Wider Prespa Area in North Macedonia and Albania were recently launched after the approval by the PONT Supervisory Board during its meeting held on 16 December 2020. The PONT grants co-finance the essential conservation actions derived from the updated 10-year management plans with detailed five-year operational plans and realistic budgets (Pelister National Park (NP); Lake Prespa Monument of Nature; Galicica NP), the existing management plan for Ezerani Nature Park, and the mid-term review of the management plan for Prespa NP in Albania. The newly developed 10-year management plan for Pelister NP, supported by PONT, has recently been approved by the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning of North Macedonia which is a great step forward.
The new management plan (2021-2030) for Pelister NP is based on the findings and recommendations set out in the Study for Revalorization of the park. In coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, the park administration and key stakeholders, a new management zoning has been developed to cover the area added in the 2007 extension of the park, and adjusting the existing zoning. The new management zoning ensures that the primary management objectives of the park, that is, “to protect natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes, and to promote education and recreation” will apply to at least three-quarters of the park (the “75 per cent” rule), as defined by the IUCN Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories – the most influential international standard for Protected Area management. This is the first time a national park (IUCN Category II) in North Macedonia formally adheres to this standard.
Other highlights in the submitted grant proposals by the Protected Area Authorities are:
- Natura 2000 aspects related to the management of important species and habitats, although legally not yet required, have already been integrated in the updated 10-year management plans supported by PONT;
- Pelister NP starts with gradually reducing the amount of commercial logging (also as “the nature zone” in the new 10-year management plan has been enlarged and less area can be used for logging);
- Despite a difficult tourism season, Galicica NP will not resume commercial logging for income generation but will continue on the path of more sustainable funding (with the help of PONT);
- Resen Municipality has employed a biologist and chemist to conduct regular monitoring work of flora/fauna and water in Lake Prespa Monument of Nature and Ezerani Nature Park with the assistance and in partnership with the Macedonian Ecological Society and the Public Scientific Institution Hydrobiological Institute Ohrid);
- Prespa NP in Albania will continue to work with the staff they employed with the help of PONT. Due to the local office there is now an improved cooperation between the park administration and the NGO Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA). In cooperation with the KfW financed project “Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Prespa” the successful performance-based model making use of local temporary workers (hiking trails; fire management) will be increased.