The Balkan lynx often crosses the road between Gostivar and Kichevo that passes through his natural habitat. The recordings made by the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) show that this critically endangered animal is under risk on a daily basis to end up under the wheels of vehicles in an attempt to move or provide food. The cutting of the habitats of the lynx, but also of other wild animals with fast roads, is a reality for which we are having a hard time finding a solution. Most of the roads were built several decades ago, and some of them have neither viaducts nor tunnels that would provide a natural passage for animals. In the country, there is not a single green bridge built on an existing road, although this is already a regular practice not only in European countries, but also in the Balkan countries.
“The preservation of critically endangered species such as the Balkan lynx must be a priority and whenever a road is planned, special attention must be paid to ensuring their safe movement”, appeals Dime Melovski from the Macedonian Ecological Society, and he points to the the section Gostivar-Kicevo which passes through the national park “Mavrovo” right in its territory.
In recent years, the South-Eastern part of Europe has invested heavily in road infrastructure, thus catching up with the developed part of the continent, but at the same time this brings in the negative aspects of this type of development and investment. These negative aspects are the fragmentation of habitats of wild animals, which means both wildlife deaths on the roads, as well as the separation of animal populations, which are prevented from communicating, and as a result of this, there is disruption of their genetic variability. In our country, there are already projects for two pilot corridors, in the development of which the MES participates, through which the specific measures taken in case of habitat fragmentation and the need for green bridges are tested.
“Large mammals are the ones who need the green passages the most. These are animals that move through vast territories and need free passage, and most of them are among the most endangered species because their numbers are very small. Because of that, every accident on the road is a big risk for their populations and affects their numbers,” says Melovski.
However, smaller wild animals such as foxes, martens or wild cats suffer in a very large number as victims on regional roads, where vehicles drive fast and there are no protective fences like on highways. Extremely rare animals for these areas also suffer, such as the spotted skunk, a steppe animal from Central Asia, which was found to live in our areas through the two cases of killed animals documented this year.
In 2011, the Macedonian Ecological Society prepared the National environmental network – MAK – NEN, which defines the elements of the environmental network, such as the core areas, the protective belts, the line corridors, corridors with passes and similar elements. The network determined the locations where the state roads cross with the line corridors from the environmental network and where, even since the phase of designing the roads and implementation of the procedure for evaluation of the influence on the living environment, the special measures should be planned for lowering the influence of the infrastructure on the environmental corridors.
From the Public Enterprise for State Roads they say that at this moment no project for planning a new road direction has a dedicated green bridge as a crossing for wild animals, but they do not rule out that the idea might be used in the future.
“The critical sections where there are corridors of the ecological network and where other objects on the road that perform that function, such as tunnels, i.e. the natural passage over the tunnels, viaducts, bridges, crossings, underpasses etc. are placed, have been analyzed. In the future, the possibility of installing a dedicated green bridge on a road section for which a need will be determined by the experts is not excluded,” said from the Public Enterprise.
The Public Enterprise confirms that this year two pilot corridors for green infrastructure have been identified by the Macedonian Ecological Society, the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning and the consulting company DECONS-EMA within the framework of a project financed by GEF and UNEP, in which two locations are marked where there is a necessity to establish green bridges due to habitat fragmentation.
One of the locations is the area of Kozhuf – Mariovo – Yakupica, which intersects with the road pass “Pletvar” on the section Gradsko – Prilep, and the second is the section Yakupica – National Park “Mavrovo”, where the road pass “Straza”, i.e. the new route of the planned highway Gostivar – Kichevo separates the dwellings. Here, the Public Enterprise point out, the effect of a green bridge can also be achieved with a tunnel solution.
“In the future, financial means should be provided for the realization of these pilot projects for green bridges within the framework of the projects for the construction of road sections”, inform from the Public Enterprise.
The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning says that they do not have statistics on how many wild animals die on roads across the country, but that they are working on their protection and ensuring safe movement. In the new EU-IPA program, they point out, activities are planned for the improvement of ecological corridors as well as the construction of the first green bridge in our country.
“Two national reports and a handbook on ecological corridors have been prepared as part of the MAK-NEN proposal-national ecological network for the corridors Buković – Sretkovo and Buković – Kolari and Dren – Vitolishte and Kozjak (Pletvar) and Selecka Planina, and two videos on ecological corridors are recorded,” said the Ministry.