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New biodiversity conservation project is launched

The Natural Heritage Protection Fund is starting a new project Enhancing biodiversity conservation and speeding up the local social and economic development through effective use of the UNESCO World Heritage status. The Virgin Komi Forests, which is the first Russian natural property obtained World Heritage status, is chosen as a model site to realize the project. The site consists of two federal specially protected areas (SPA): the Pechero-Ilychsky State Nature Reserve and the Ugyd Va National Park. The project is supported by Matra/KNIP program (Small Nature Management Projects) and is meant for the term of 1 year.

The project is aimed to demonstrate that World Heritage status is not an "international prohibitive mechanism" as it is regarded now in Russia, but an alternative way of development. In the framework of the project it is planned to hold a working meeting with the participation of all agencies interested in cooperation with the Reserve and the National Park, i.e. the Government of the Komi Republic, local government, scientific organizations, local people keeping traditional nature-use activities, agencies managing the site, travel industry, public organizations, etc., in order to develop workable, mutually beneficial forms of collaboration, taking into account a high international status of the site. In the course of the project a booklet about the first Russian World Natural Heritage site and the guidelines for the application of World Heritage status for nature conservation and effective local social and economic development are to be published.

The project provides for consalting and significant technical assistance in the development of 2009-2013 management plans for the Reserve and the National Park. The management plans shall be prepared by the end of 2008 in accordance with a decree No 491 dated 03.12.2007 of Rosprirodnadzor (Federal Service for Oversight in the Sphere of Nature Use).

Komi Forests is not a random choice. Besides being the first natural site in Russia that received World Heritage status, it has many features typical for the Russian World Natural Heritage sites. Thus, for example, it consists of a few SPAs with different conservation status. Like many of Russian World Natural Heritage properties, it faces numerous problems with regard to the management of the site, it serves as a territory of traditional nature use, and it has great potential for the development of environmental tourism.

The results of the project are to be further adjusted and applied to other Russian World Natural Heritage sites, and so the Virgin Komi Forests can be regarded as a model World Natural Heritage area.