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Pranas Mierauskas

Department of Environmental Policy, Mykolas Romeris University, Ateities St. 20, LT-08303 Vilnius, Lithuania, e-mail: mierauskas@mruni.eu


Traditionally prescribed fire management in protected areas has not been applied in Lithuania. The need of fire use in habitat management emerges upon increasing of scientific knowledge of nature conservation specialists and protected area managers. Until now, Lithuanian legislation does not allowed prescribed fire use in landscape management. It is strictly forbidden, and anyone that provokes intentionally fire is accused of habitat and biodiversity destruction damages. Meanwhile, in the last year the first legal prescribed fire management took place in Dzukija National Park and it was a great step to reintroduce fire management in protected areas. The aim of this paper is to analyze and evaluate policy and legislative framework of prescribed fire management ant its perspectives in nearly future.

Keywords: protected area; fire management; conservation policy; environmental legislation

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Habitat management using prescribed fire as tool for biodiversity conservation has been used in several worldwidely protected areas around the world in the past decades (Kilgore, 2005; Pereira et al., 2012b). The importance of fire management to maintain ecological succession and biodiversity is recognized by several scientists and conservationists (Groom et al., 2005; Pausas and Keeley, 2009). The science findings shown that fire is an important element of the ecosystems, and some requirements for natural areas management and restoration with fire start to be relevant (e.g Pan parks) (Pan Parks, 2011) for conservation status of protected habitats and species. Some countries changed nature conservation policies and issued new or

amended existing legislation and adopted rules of using prescribed fire management. The positive impact on conservation of biodiversity became evident after several researches and monitoring (Pan Parks, 2011).


nature management plans. It was planned a meadow prescribed fire management prescribedin the first Rusne island management plan in 1996 and in a Cepkeliai raised bog management plan (2004-2006). Rusne island management plan has not been adopted since did not respect the current legislation.

Management actions became legal when they have been adopted by order of the Minister of Environment after 2004. In 2004 the Lithuanian Government issued Decree and the Minister of Environment issued order, and nature management plans became as a legal documents.

Despite of management plans became legal documents, habitat management with by prescribed fire was considered. As in previous period using of prescribed fire in habitat management was not carried out due to legal restrictions and lack of nature conservation policy, especially on active management measures, including fire management. Nature conservation policy, especially on habitat management, was very conservative in the period from 1990 to 2000. Active habitat management measures were not a priority, even not subject to wide discussions. Such position was due gaps in nature conservation policy and legislation, and Soviet period traditions.

In this paper it is presented some aspects of nature conservation policy in terms of using of prescribed fire in habitat management, analyzes of legal aspects concerning fire management and possibilities of applying of prescribed fire in habitat management in Lithuanian protected areas in the future.

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In Lithuania, the nature conservation policy has been developed in late 1990 since adopting the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (1997). This strategic document analyzed biodiversity status, trends and recommended to plan traditional conservation measures. Active

habitat management measures which were typical in many countries have not been analyzed and planned. Naturally, the strategy and action plan have not took into account fire management as a measure for habitat conservation.

Despite that the first management plan for Rusne island, Nemunas delta regional park was prepared in 1996 and active some habitat management measures had been implemented, active habitat management has not be subject of discussion among nature conservation policy makers and conservationists. For this reason, prescribed fire management also had not been taken into account. In Rusne island management plan was prepared by the NGO Lithuanian Fund for Nature and included different meadows management measures, among them fire management as grass and reed habitat conservation measures. But due to Lithuanian legislation, which prohibited using fire for any valid reasons, this measure has not been implemented.

Considerations on active habitat management principles started in earlier 2000, but not among nature conservation policy makers, but NGO’s conservationists, protected area managers and scientists. The discussions took quite long time and the main reason was that a lot of traditional activities, especially in agricultural areas, were prohibited upon establishing of protected area during Soviet period, including fire. The main principle was to protect areas without human intervention, event prohibiting traditional agricultural activities in nature reserves, which are active habitat management areas under International Union for Nature Conservation management categories requirements (IUCN, 1994).


(2004). These legal documents allow legally adopt active conservation measure in protected areas. Theoretically it could be adopted even fire management measures, but some legal acts prohibited using of fire in environment.

Active nature management measures were planned in the Programme of Conservation Biodiversity, Planning and Management of Protected Areas, using EU structural funds for conservation priorities in the period 2007 – 2013.

The programme was adopted by the Order of the Minister of Environment (04-10-2007, Nr.D1-509). It was a priority of preparation nature management plans which means and active habitat management measures. Prescribed fire management measures were not included as tool for management.

Attempts of fire management had been made during implementation of GEF Project „Conservation of biodiversity in Lithuanian wetlands LIT/03/G3. Proposals of applying of fire in management of raised bog in Cepkeliai strict nature reserve had appeared during the period of preparation of management plan (2004 – 2006). The proposal has been considered in the plan preparation working group but the fire management activity has not been adopted. The main reason was not only that legislation prohibits such activity, but also a lack political will in the Ministry of Environment and State Protected Areas Service. For this reason the activity has not been included in final version of the management plan.

Positive aspects of using prescribed fire in habitat management and conservation of biological diversity are not on the table for discussion among nature conservation and protected area management policy makers until now.

Recently the new Strategy on conservation biological diversity is under preparation and it seems that a new vision on nature conservation will take place in this strategic document.

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The first legal attempt to manage habitats by prescribed fire begun in Dzukija national park with a project untitled “Restoration of Black Grouse Habitats in Dzukija National Park” started in 2005 – 2006 (Pereira et al, 2012a). The project area was allocated in former Soviet military area, but recently established as Special Protected Area (SPA) according the Birds Directive and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) according the Habitats Directive. The project site is typical heathland area which was maintained by military activities during Soviet period. Heathland habitat started to overgrow, especially by bushes and trees when military activities were not in use. It was necessary to maintain area and to protect one of the key species the Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) included into Lithuanian Red Data List and the Birds Directive. The management of project site started by removing trees and bushes, but to ensure favorable conservation status it was necessary to use prescribed fire as management tool. It was a need to get formal permission to use prescribed fire from the Ministry of Environment. Legally it is prohibited use fire in forest areas and agricultural such as meadows, but Dzukija National Park authority get permission. Fire management was authorized by the Ministry of Environment not only that it was pilot project using prescribed fire, but due some gaps in legislation. Lithuanian legislation prohibits using of fire in forest and grassland habitats, but heath habitats are not classified as mentioned habitats. But one exemption from legislation was made – allowed activities which cause air contamination. Finally first pilot project using of prescribed fire as management tool started in 2011 (Pereira et al, 2012a).

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Despite that the first fire management pilot project took place in Lithuania, existing gaps in legislation do not allow use prescribed fire in habitat management and ensure favorable

conservation status of protected species and habitats. To use fire in natural environment is prohibited due to restrictions in the legislation. Generally, they are not specified to prohibit fire as a tool for habitat management. Environmental protection authorities are applying the article 20 of the Law on atmosphere air protection which prohibits air contamination. Fire management cause a small scale contamination but in comparison to industry pollution it does not have a negative impact in the environment. Positive impact of fire management was not considered until past a few years. The gaps in legislation can be eliminated by amending relevant law articles, which have restrictions to use fire in natural environment. It can be use prescribed fire management under requirements to prepare fire management plans which could be adopted by relevant authorities. This is not a legal problem, but conservation policy. Conservation authorities do not understand the need of prescribed fire in habitat management and that is why legislation is not amended. Each legal act related to fire management had been amended few times since originally issuing, but the Ministry of Environment did not suggest relevant amendments. It could be concluded that the Ministry of Environment does not has political willpower to introduce modern habitat management measures such as prescribed fire management and advocate traditional conservation measure.



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