On June 27, 2019 – National Eagle’s Day, the final meeting of the project “Conservation of the Lesser Spotted Eagle’s Key Habitats in Bulgaria” of the Executive Forest Agency (EFA) and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), funded by the LIFE+ programme of the European Union, was held. The project has been implemented for the last six years on the territory of 16 key special protection areas – part of the Natura 2000 network in South-eastern Bulgaria.

The meeting was opened by Dr. Ilian Tochev, Secretary General of the Executive Forestry Agency, who thanked the expert staff of the project, who implemented activities important for the conservation of the “forest eagle” and the Bulgarian forests.

“The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds works with various agencies and institutions, but this is the first project we have implemented together with such a big agency. This partnership is extremely important, both for the implementation of the activities under the project “Eagle’s forests” and for the sustainability of the results achieved”, emphasized Mr. Stoycho Stoychev – Nature Conservation Director at BSPB.

The main achievements of the project were presented by eng. Vanya Ratarova and eng. Nikolay Vassilev. As a result of the activities, analyses, studies and research carried out for the period 2013 – 2019, 77 active Lesser Spotted Eagle nests and 190 territories occupied by pairs were found; the two most important sites for the species during migration were located; two documents have been developed – Method for measurement of the quantity and characteristics of the deadwood and biotope trees in the forest ecosystems as an annex to the Regulation on Inventory and Planning in Forest Areas, as well as a National Action Plan for the Lesser Spotted Eagle (Clanga pomarina) in Bulgaria for the period 2019 – 2028. The sustainable management of over 133,000 ha of breeding habitats of the species has been ensured through pilot testing and implementation of a forest inventory and planning model in four state forest and hunting enterprises – Svilengrad, Tsarevo, Gramatikovo and Krumovgrad; a proposal for forest-ecology measure has been developed, providing for payments to forest managers as compensation for potential losses and income foregone from the conservation of the species; 430 ha of the species’ foraging habitat have been protected; 17 “forest-ecological services” have been established throughout the country, where forest owners have free access to advice and information; more than 30 training courses have been held, with more than 500 participants, to increase the capacity of staff responsible for forest protection and management; an extended lecture course for students of the University of Forestry on innovative forestry practices that protect biodiversity has been introduced; six “I protect the forests and the eagles of Bulgaria” campaigns have been held, in which a total of 56 participants have been awarded; opportunities for diversification of income from forests were presented. A notable achievement of the project is the support for the expansion of the activities of the Forest Enterprise Kosti with the production of honeydew and bee products. Numerous meetings, international conferences and cooperations, information materials, etc. took place within the project.

The results of the project were also presented at the last, twelfth meeting, of the Supervisory Board of the project “Conservation of Key Habitats of the Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) in Bulgaria” under the LIFE+ Programme of the European Union (28.06.2019), with the participation of the Executive Director of EFA eng. Miroslav Marinov, Deputy Executive Director eng. Rosen Popsavov, Dr. Ilian Tochev – Secretary General of the EFA, representatives of the BSPB, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, NESC and SESC.

The successful cooperation between the state institution in the face of EFA, and a non-governmental organization – BSPB, proved the benefits of joint work for achieving the project objectives for the long-term conservation of the globally threatened species of the Lesser Spotted Eagle and its key forest habitats. Participants in the meetings agreed on further cooperation strengthening, including through the implementation of projects for sustainable management and conservation of Bulgarian forests and their rich biodiversity.