Plans for new skiing areas in the region around the Carpathian Mountains and the Balkans threaten to harm major protected areas that house some of Europe's last remaining untouched wilderness, according to WWF. New developments and expansion plans for existing facilities for downhill skiing are in the works across many parts of the region, particularly in Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Ukraine. In theory, potential conflicts between nature conservation and development � including for ski tourism � should be mediated by procedures such as Environmental Impact Assessments and the European Union's Article 6 of the Habitats Directive, which provide a system for evaluating potential impacts on nature and identifying solutions and measures to mitigate negative impacts. In practice, however, these safeguards are of limited effect, and in the face of intense pressure from economic and political forces, nature conservation is often given short shrift. The Carpathian Mountains are Europe's last great wilderness area � a bastion for large carnivores, with some two-thirds of the continent's populations of brown bears, wolves and lynx. They are also home to the greatest remaining reserves of old growth forests outside of Russia. Meanwhile, the Balkan Mountains and the Rila-Rodope Mountain Range in Bulgaria contain outstanding natural features that are of global importance, including the Rila and Pirin National Parks, which have been recognised, respectively, as a certified PAN Parks wilderness area and a UNESCO World Heritage Park. "It is striking how little climate change and sustainability appear to be entering calculations for many of the new ski areas," said Andreas Beckman, Director of WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme. "Already, rising temperatures and decreased precipitation and snow cover is causing problems for many facilities, with some poor recent ski seasons."


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