McGregor & Partners assists Fauna & Flora International to acquire 115 hectares of land in Transylvania to provide a key corridor for large carnivores as part of the EU’s Life Connect Carphatians

Bucharest, 9 October 2018: Romania is home to a wide range of plant and animal life and supports key populations of large carnivores, including around 40% of Europe’s brown bears. The Zarand landscape corridor plays a vital role in the conservation of these charismatic animals, located at the heart of a landscape corridor that runs between the Apuseni Natural Park (the Western Carpathians) and the Retezat National Park (Southern Carpathians) in the south-western corner of Transylvania. This corridor is the only remaining intact route through which bears and other large carnivores can move between the Central and Southern Carpathians. The maintenance of its integrity is vital for the conservation of the Apuseni bear population, which may be at risk of genetic isolation.

Although people have lived in the area for centuries, the Zarand corridor retains an element of wilderness thanks to the traditional, low-impact practices of local communities. In recent years, however, this important ecological corridor has come under increasing threat from large-scale infrastructure development, intensified forestry practices, loss of traditional agricultural practices, as well as more intensive small-scale farming, and the threat is exacerbated by socio-economic decline of rural communities.

The Zarand landscape is a key focal site for the work in Romania of Fauna & Flora International (“FFI”), the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organisation. FFI works with the Zarand Association to protect the Zarand region’s diverse and distinctive landscape by improving connectivity between the two National Parks, promoting land management that support biodiversity, restoring habitats and landscape features, addressing human-wildlife conflict, informing policy and raising awareness. FFI also works to improve local livelihoods by supporting small-scale sustainable agriculture and other rural business enterprises. To achieve these aims, FFI needs to control a large area of suitably-located land in the Zarand corridor. FFI has been assisted by funding from the EU’s LIFE+ programme, but the task of acquiring suitable land is complicated by the multitude of individual ownerships of plots of land in the area, shortcomings in the title documents to land, much of which is not registered, and by the restrictions imposed by the EU to prevent speculation in land.

FFI needed a cost-effective solution to safely acquire large quantities of land, split into numerous individual titles, but not affected by the development of transport infrastructure in the area. In May 2016 FFI instructed McGregor & Partners to deal with this task. The work was led by Neil McGregor, who has extensive experience of acting for UK registered charities such as FFI, and Elena Abdulgani who is a specialist in rural real estate.

The work has now resulted in the identification and successful acquisition of approximately 115 hectares of land, split into more than 436 individual titles, providing FFI with control over a viable ecological corridor through the area.

Iain Trewby, country manager of FFI for Romania, said: “Land purchases for community conservation projects, such as the Zarand Initiative, are part of a long-term solution, to ensure that local communities continue to benefit from the services provided by land managed for conservation. McGregor and Partners were able to provide specialist advice and understanding that ensured the requirements of using EU LIFE+ funds were met within the challenges of land acquisition in Romania. Furthermore, the breadth of knowledge and experience and the international perspective enabled McGregor and Partners to bridge the gaps between conservation, land acquisition, Romanian and EU legislation, and NGO’s and corporations providing advice at every stage of the land purchase. Without their support, professionalism and diligence, I very much expect we would still be in the depths of checking hundreds of title deeds.”

Elena Abdulgani, partner in McGregor & Partners, said: “This was an extremely challenging project given the constraints imposed by the EU’s funding rules and the history of fragmented land ownership in the area. We were very pleased to work with Iain and his team in delivering a cost-effective solution to FFI’s requirements and to have helped to conserve a beautiful part of Romania and the ecology for which Transylvania is justly famous.”

About Fauna & Flora International

As the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organisation, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has built a reputation for its pioneering work and science-based approach to conservation. A registered charity in the UK, it is active throughout the world and is a leader in achieving sustainable co-existence of wildlife and human populations.

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About McGregor & Partners

McGregor & Partners S.C.A. is an independent boutique commercial law and consultancy firm in south-central/ south-eastern Europe, with offices in Bucharest, Romania (since 1992) and in Sofia, Bulgaria (since 2006). The firm is managed by experienced Bulgarian and Romanian lawyers, headed by a British solicitor with more than twenty years’ experience of living and practicing in the region. The firm maintains links with its former parent international law firm, Stephenson Harwood, and also with other international law firms in the City of London and elsewhere.

Our long-term presence in this region allows us to offer clients detailed and current local knowledge, an extensive network of contacts and a thorough understanding of the business, cultural and political environment in the countries in which we operate, as well as Serbia and the surrounding region.