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21/04/24

March 16, 1936: Bulgaria Adopts Its First Nature Protection Law

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On March 16, 1936, a Statutory Ordinance on Nature Conservation was published in the State Gazette of Bulgaria. It provided the foundations for Bulgaria’s environmental protection legislation.
The 1936 Statutory Ordinance formulated categories of protected areas for the first time and set in place various levels of protection. Destroying rare plant species, walking outside designated tourist routes, pollution of the environment, private construction sites were all prohibited in protected territories.
The 1936 law came as a follow-up of earlier acts and initiatives. Public pressure came from the Bulgarian Nature Conservation Society, established in 1928 and uniting several organized groups of sportsmen, botanists, tourists and the Bulgarian Caving Society, among others. The personal interests of the monarch, King Boris III, who was known for his passion for in natural sciences, played some role too.
In 1931 the Upper Eleshnitsa-Silkosiya reserve was established by a government decision. The small piece (only 102.6 ha) of low-laying land in Strandzha mountain (now Strandza Nature Park in southeastern Bulgaria), encompassed part of the Veleka river catchment area. The idea was to protect the evergreen bushes unique for Europe.
In 1933, Parangalitsa was declared a nature reserve by a government decree. Located on the southwestern slope of the Rila mountain. It is home to one of the oldest spruce forests in Europe. In 1977 the Parangalitsa Reserve was added to the list of biospheres recognized by UNESCO under the auspices of its People and Biospheres program.
On October 27, 1934 Mt. Vitosha just outside the capital Sofia was declared a National Park.
The public impact of such a decision helped to change traditional views on natural resources, formed in a rural society during centuries of uncontrolled usage of land and forests. This was a serious and a pioneering effort to create the first national park in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula, as well as one of the first parks of this type in Europe.
The effort was in fact a legal challenge, bearing in mind that no special provisions existed for establishing national parks. But MP Petko Staynov (1890-1972), a diplomat and politician, Sofia University professor of administrative law for four decades, found a way to do it. He put forward a motion in Parliament for creating the Vitosha National Park under the then Forests Act. 
Prof. Staynov was a rare environmentalist indeed: at the age of 80, he published his book, Environmental Protection (1970).
The above-mentioned events indicated that there was a need for special regulation of protected areas.
The 1936 Statutory Ordinance aimed at providing such rules and procedures. It established several types of protected territories: reserves, national parks, natural landmarks, and natural-historical places. Those provided  for different regimes for protection, although it did not affect their ownership status. For the first time fines were introduced for offenders.
An NGO, Bulgarian Tourist Union, was involved in the enforcement of the Statutory Ordinance on Nature Conservation.
As a legislative effort, the Statutory Ordinance was a success, indeed. Under the new rules, several more reserves and small national parks were created in the 1930s and early 1940s, including Bistrischko Branishte and Torfeno Branishte in Mt. Vitosha.
The Statutory Ordinance on Nature Conservation survived even the large-scale legal changes introduced by the Communist regime. It was in force up to 1960.

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