For almost two decades, the U.S. Forest Service has worked with U.S. and international partners to carry out regional level technical cooperation activities in the Balkans on topics such as watershed management, combating illegal logging, recreation and protected area management, payment for ecosystem services, fire management and emergency response, development of forest law and policy, non-timber forest products, timber management, and others. Lakes, rivers, forests, grasslands, and animals cross international borders, as do fire, floods and other natural disasters. Regional collaboration provides these former conflict-oriented countries with an opportunity to refocus on working together to solve common problems in the protection and managed-use of their natural resources. Current regional cooperation focuses on illegal logging and wildlife trafficking; economic development through forest commercialization; private forestry and sustainable development; and wildland fire and emergency response.
The U.S. Forest Service has also worked bilaterally with a number of countries in the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Macedonia. In Albania, collaboration has focused on sustainable development of the herbs and spices industry, nature-based tourism, and watershed management. In Bosnia and Herzegovina cooperation has focused primarily on sustainable forest use and timber management. Cooperative efforts with Bulgaria have sought to improve forest management through capacity building to the woods products sector, forest policy development, and wildland fire management. And, targeted cooperation with the Republic of Kosovo was initiated in 2014 with Kosovar participation in the U.S. Forest Service’s International Watershed Management Seminar and onsite consultation to several private forest owners associations leading up to a regional training. Cooperation in Macedonia has primarily focused on fire management and U.S. Forest Service participation in a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe country-level environmental performance review. The U.S. Forest Service continues to explore options for bilateral cooperation in this region.