European nature convention bureau criticises Swiss government for ignoring complaint about damage to protected nature site

European Nature Convention Bureau criticises Swiss government for ignoring complaint about serious damage to protected nature site

14th May 2024 – The Bureau of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats has expressed its disappointment that the Swiss government has failed to respond to a complaint about destructive logging inside a protected nature site which Biofuelwatch had submitted in July 2023.

Biofuelwatch’s complaint followed lengthy investigations by a Swiss volunteer member into logging activities and their impacts on wildlife in the Belpau Emerald Network site, Canton Bern. Emerald Network sites are strictly protected under the Bern Convention. Contrary to Bern Convention requirements, no management plan for the site could be found and the federal government had replied to a first-stage complaint that all responsibility for the site lay with the Canton. The Bern Convention Bureau strongly disagrees with this view, saying in its (interim) decision: “the fact that the management of the Emerald Network site was transferred to the Canton is…not a satisfactory argument”.

Lucie Wüthrich, who undertook the research that led to Biofuelwatch’s complaint says: “The Belpau Emerald Network site contains important aquatic and forest habitats, which are being degraded by intensive logging, much of it for biomass energy. These habitats are home to 56 protected species which are highly vulnerable to the scale and nature of the logging activities. Sadly, the logging has continued unabated since we submitted our complaint.”

Almuth Ernsting, Co-Director of Biofuelwatch, adds: “When we submitted the complaint, we did not expect for a moment that it would simply be ignored by the Swiss government, contrary to their obligations under the Bern Convention. This is a convention that has been ratified by every European country other than Russia. Will they finally respond and act after being criticised by the Bern Convention Bureau? We can only hope so, for the sake of the many animal and plant species at serious risk in the Belpau alone.

Claudia Zenhäusern, Founder of says: “In our opinion, the federal government, some cantons and the forestry sector are interpreting the Forest Act in favour of their particular interests and are disregarding binding guidelines for protected areas and protection forests. Misinformation, for example about climate-friendly forest development, legitimises large-scale clear-cutting. The facts that three quarters of the deciduous trees cut down are burned and that this releases no less CO2 and pollutants than burning fossil fuels is concealed – with devastating consequences for people and nature.

Biologist and Founder of the environmental organisation ppp-movement, Christine Bürki, adds: “I find it shocking how the federal government and the cantons are allowing the destruction of forest ecosystems, which are already fragile after decades of bad management. This is happening under the pretence that intensive logging is making forests “climate-resilient”. The regional forest management plans, for example by the Canton of Bern, no longer respect the ecosystem functions of forests, but instead focus exclusively on benefits to humans, including wood production. Numerous habitats are being lost.”

Links to the complaint and to the Bern Convention Bureau’s interim decision: