Bulgarian MPs Drop Most Controversial Forestry Act Text

Domestic | July 12, 2012, Thursday // 15:11|  views

Sofia recently became the center of mass rallies of opponents to a set of amendments to the Forestry Act facilitating construction works. Photo by BGNES

The Bulgarian Parliament passed at first reading two drafts for amendments to the Forestry Act, submitted by MPs from the ruling GERB party.

The move came after thousands of Bulgarian eco activists and other citizens opposing the Forestry Act staged week-long protest rallies in the area of Orlov Most after the Parliament passed the amendments to the Act on June 13.

The following Saturday the President issued a veto on all of the texts, which was passed by the Parliament on June 27.

The most controversial text that allowed the building of ski tracks and other ski facilities without changing the statute of the land was eliminated from the Bill.

The reading happened after the eco activists and the ruling officials reached consensus on the new Bill.

The new amendments now provide for part of the already existing ski lifts to be granted a 20-year construction permit, without including the terrains in the forestry fund. The ski equipment on the Vitosha mountain near the capital Sofia was built before 1987, which is why the above amendment was proposed by the environmentalists. It aims at resolving the issue with the replacement of ski lifts since many of them are obsolete. According to the legislation, without a construction permit they could not be replaced, but only repaired and refurbished.

The amendments passed Thursday also give the State-owned forestry estates a possibility to yield timber up to 25% from the annual use of the respective territory.

The opposition, left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, declared they would file a claim with the Constitutional Court over suspicions of lobbyism in the yield of timber.

The BSP Member of the Parliament, Dimcho Mihalevski, stated that particular companies will profit from the authority given to State forestry estates to cut the best timber at the best locations. He stressed that this amendment will lead to the liquidation of the private sector in the wood processing industry.

At the beginning of December 2011 the concessionaire Vitosha Ski refused to turn on lifts and other ski facilities on Vitosha, on the grounds texts from the Forestry Act are making the activity illegal.

The law mandated owners of such equipment and facilities to have an established "servitude" (a status for full-rights on the use of real estate) in order to clean and secure the lifts paths. Vitosha Ski was prevented from applying for it over them lacking an approved comprehensive development plan (PUB).

The company proposed a PUB for a new ski zone, but it was rejected because it included protected territories and because the environmental impact assessment was not done according to the rules. Vitosha Ski then attacked the decision of the Ministry of Environment and Waters in Court, but left their PUB unchanged.

During the public debates on the controversial amendments to the Forestry Act, the owner of Vitosha Ski, banker Tseko Minev that the ski lifts on Vitosha will remain closed during the next season as they did last winter, which outraged yet another time citizens, eco activists, and winter sports lovers.

On July 5, they staged a mass protest rally with demands to the City Hall to reexamine Vitosha Ski's concession contract and annul it.

The Mayor later announced that the ski lifts will be turned over as early as the summer.

The municipal company "Ski Lifts" was privatized by Vitosha Ski in 2007 when current Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov, was Mayor of Sofia. Three lifts in Vitosha were sold to Minev's business then.

The concessionaire issued a declaration insisting that the participants are not environmentalists, but people representing "certain business

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Tags: BSP, tracks, lifts, winter sports, skiers, snowboarders, rally, protest, march, GERRN, Yulen, protected areas, environmentalists, Vitosha Ski, ski, Vitosha, lifts, tourism, parliament, Forestry Act, NGO, For Keeping Nature in Bulgaria, Constitutional Court, Rosen Plevneliev, president, veto, FIB, tseko minev, wildfire, mayor, Yordanka Fandakova, timber


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