Tetovo, 29 May 2020 (MIA) – “Shar Mountain Valorization Study” is the key, almost 700 pages-long document finalized in March 2020, after which the proceeding for declaring the mountain range a national park took it to the next level with the May 5 government decision to accept the initiative.
After a public debate is organized, Parliament should pass a law declaring Shar Mountain a national park.
A big step up in the creation of this study is the “Achieving of preservation of biodiversity through the creation and effective management of protected areas and integrating biodiversity in the planning of land usage” project, funded by the Global Environment Fund, implemented through the UN Environment Program (UNEP). Its main user beneficiary is the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning and its first component includes an expansion of the network of protected areas in the country.
“This component defined the need for a valorization study of Shar Mountain, as well as submitting the initiative to declare Shar Mountain a national park. A consortium of partners was brought on for the aforementioned project, such as the Environment and Technology Institute of the Tetovo State University, the head partner and main coordinator, as well as the Biology Institute at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
The study encompasses a section about valorization of the natural heritage, the socio-economical values and threat analysis, as well as a number of analyses, strategies and information,” UNEP, the Ministry of Environment and the team of experts point out, as the study’s leading authors.
They point out that the suggested category for national park protection fits the Shar Mountain terrain characteristics.
“A great number of diverse values of geodiversity and biodiversity have been identified in this area. Shar Mountain’s biodiversity is unique. It could be said that it stands out from all other natural areas in the Republic of North Macedonia. It’s these exceptional natural values that make Shar Mountain stand out as one of the most important nature-preserving areas on a national, regional and European level.
Part of Shar Mountain is included in the National Emerald Network, which stems from the country’s obligations to implement the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Shar Mountain represents a potential future “Natura 2000” area, which possesses high natural values, but scientific research that will take several years is necessary in order to confirm this.
On a national level, Shar Mountain is identified as a significant ornithological spot, plant range, and a butterfly spot. Most of the plants, fungi, and animals seen on Shar Mountain have an international protection regime in accordance to the ratified international treaties from North Macedonia, and in accordance to the EU directives for habitats and birds,” the authors of the study say.
In accordance with the Law on Nature Protection, the valorization study aims to divide the protected area into three zones: a zone for strict protection, a zone for active management, and a zone for sustainable usage. Each zone projects an appropriate protection regime. In addition, a protected belt area will be set up wherever necessary.
Overall, the future national park’s economic development will happen in the sustainable usage zone, but activities will occur in a sustainable way, in accordance to the future protected area’s Management Plan, as well as its Spatial Plan. These are papers that have yet to be prepared, which will be the basis of work for the future managerial body of the area.
The active management zone will allow traditional practices and eco-tourism, and the strict protection area aims to keep the natural state of the habitats, having the least bit of interest in economic activities.
Popova Shapka Ski Center is in the sustainable development area, which allows tourism to be further developed.
“In order to preserve nature and incorporate tourist offers in the future tourism development program as an integral part of the management of Shar Mountain National Park, tourist object functionality should be sustainable. In terms of rural tourism, in the framework of area research, the rural areas of Shar Mountain are valued because of their high indexes of visual quality and preserved rural appearance, which provides a high potential for the development of rural tourism. The villages of Vejce, Bozovce, Veshala and Brodec represent this aesthetic. The villages of Gjermo, Jelovjane, Novo Selo, Lomnica, Kalishte and Duf are honorable mentions.
The study has a special section for recommendations for local residents’ usage of natural resources.
“In terms of agriculture, which include plant production and animal husbandry, sustainable agriculture will be recommended in sustainable usage zones, although classic agriculture will not be off limits. The active management zone will have certain recommendations in terms of the sizes of the parcels for plant production, as well as their separation with lines of natural vegetation at each acre. Classic agriculture will be allowed as well.
Traditional husbandry is a characteristic of Shar Mountain, and it’s extremely important for maintaining secondary anthropogenic habitats, because of which grazing is considered a desirable activity. It’s worth to mention that all activities will be controlled by the manager, the future Shar Mountain National Park.
Continuation of using the forests and gathering wild plants will be made possible in the zone for sustainable usage, in a controlled and sustainable way. All activities in the active management zone should be focused towards the revitalization of nature, and therefore, practices should be in accordance with nature preservation goals, the study points out.
The total surface of the suggested protected area of the Shar Mountain National Park is 54,214.08 hectares.
Translated by Dragana Knežević