Engaging the Public in the Fight against Illegal Logging | WWF

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Engaging the Public in the Fight against Illegal Logging

WWF-Bulgaria employing innovative tech to engage public to fight illegal logging.

By increasing public control over the activities taking place in Bulgaria’s forests via high-tech tools, we can significantly contribute to the fight against illegal logging in the Green Heart of Europe. According to WWF-Bulgaria, a staggering 2.5 million m3 of timber, or roughly a third of total annual production, is lost annually to illegal logging in Bulgaria alone.
 
Mobile Application for Reporting Illegal Logging in Bulgarian Forests
Imagine walking in a forest, the sun’s rays peeking through the trees to create a green and peaceful atmosphere. You hear the rustling of leaves, birds singing, and water flowing gently down a nearby river. However, the sounds of the forest are interrupted by the blaring noise of a chainsaw– you have stumbled upon a logging site. Naturally, you would question the legality of such activity occurring there.
 
A third of Bulgaria is covered by forests, and Bulgarian society has high expectations of WWF-Bulgaria to address the issue and combat illegal logging in the country. Dozens of messages are received every month by the organisation concerning this issue. However, the defence of the forests is in everyone’s interest, and is everyone’s responsibility. WWF encourages the public to engage in the fight to protect our forests.
 
WWF-Bulgaria is developing a tool to help with this: a mobile application for reporting illegal logging in Bulgarian forests. Aware of society’s growing intolerance to forest felling and the increasingly high number of illegal logging activities that are occurring, WWF-Bulgaria is developing a user-friendly product in which a logging site can quickly be verified without any preliminary training or specialised knowledge. The mobile application will come with several features – the ability to localise oneself, the ability to identify a specific forest compartment, and the ability to access other relevant information. The application will guide the user step-by-step, making it possible to contact and notify a relevant authority if the user wishes to report illegal logging activities they have witnessed. Moreover, action can be taken in real-time – the app will allow fast and easy recording of observations during fieldwork, and will have the option to send photos, videos, audio recordings, text data, and share the location of illegal logging with the appropriate authorities. The application may even be used off-line to collect the data and afterwards send it once there is Internet access.
 
Forest GIS Platform
WWF-Bulgaria has also developed a Forest GIS Platform with multiple layers of information, including old-growth forests, high conservation value forests, protected areas, and logging permits. Both WWF tools – the Forest GIS Platform and the mobile application are meant to be used in the field by the general public and forest authorities and complement each other. So far, Bulgaria maintains the only publicly accessible platform with detailed and extensive information about its forests.    
 
Our goal is to conserve and protect all old growth, virgin and high conservation value forests across our region by promoting sustainable forest management, and concentrating on the restoration potential of sensitive or degraded forest ecosystems.” Sorin Ionut Banciu, Regional Forest Lead, WWF-CEE.
 
Our region is home to many of Europe’s most substantial remaining primeval and old growth forests. The remaining stands are particularly threatened by logging – both legal and illegal – as well as infrastructure development. Fragmentation caused by infrastructure development also plays a major role in forest, and consequently habitat degradation and destruction. For more information on WWF-CEE’s Forest conservation and protection work, please see here.
 
Forest Guide Mobile Application for Foresters
WWF-Bulgaria has developed a Forest Guide Mobile Application aimed to help Bulgarian foresters in determining, monitoring, and applying measures to High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF). HCVF is a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management designation defined as natural forests with environmental and social values – such as wildlife habitat, watershed protection, or archaeological sites – of outstanding significance or critical importance. Specifically, HCVF are those that possess one or more of the following attributes:
 
  1. Forest areas containing globally, regionally or nationally significant: concentrations of biodiversity values (e.g. endemism, endangered species, refugia); and/or large landscape-level forests, contained within, or containing the management unit, where viable populations of most if not all naturally occurring species exist in natural patterns of distribution and abundance;
  2. Forest areas that are in or contain rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems;
  3. Forest areas that provide basic services of nature in critical situations (e.g. watershed protection, erosion control);
  4. Forest areas fundamental to meeting basic needs of local communities (e.g. subsistence, health) and/or critical to local communities' traditional cultural identity (areas of cultural, ecological, economic or religious significance identified in cooperation with such local communities).
Such innovative tools, combined with the actions of committed citizens and other stakeholders will make it together possible to reach our New Deal for Nature and People goals of:
  • halting habitat loss;
  • stopping biodiversity loss; and
  • halving humanity’s ecological footprint by 2030.

For more information:
Neli Doncheva
Chief Expert Forests,
WWF-Bulgaria
Email: ndoncheva@wwf.bg
Tel: +359 2 9505040
Mobile Application for Reporting Illegal Logging in Bulgarian Forests (in development)