Serbian nature is characterized by a high diversity of flora and fauna, and is an important part of the wealth and diversity of European natural heritage. The most representative and the best preserved parts of Serbian nature are protected by the law.
The origins of the legal protection of nature in Serbia date back far into the past, and the first regulations regarding nature and natural resources protection are from the fourteenth century. Obedska bara was the first area protected in Serbian in 1874. The first protected natural resources in Serbia were forest reserves Oštrozub, Mustafa and Felješana near Majdanpek, and waterfall "Velika i mala Ripaljka" near Sokobanja, which was protected in 1949. The National Park Fruška gora was the first national park in Serbia, designated in 1960.
Based on the applied measures of institutional protection of nature in the period of more than six decades, the surface of protected areas in Serbia at the moment is 575 310 ha, or 6.51 % of Serbian territory.
461 natural resources are protected (november 2015.):
• 5 national parks
• 17 nature parks
• 20 landscapes of outstanding features
• 68 nature reserves
• 3 protected habitats
• 310 natural monuments
• 38 areas of cultural and historical significance that are protected according to former Law on Environmental Protection and the Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage.
The commencement of an area (natural resource) protection process is implemented on the basis of the Institute’s annual and mid-term Program on nature protection, which is later approved by the Government of the Republic of Serbia.
The Law on Nature Conservation ("Official Gazette of RS", No. 36/2009 and 91/2010- correction, and Articles 55-59) stipulates that the protection of an area, or a natural resource, may be proposed and initiated by legal entities and individuals. If an area, tree, geological site, natural history collection, that is, all the categories of natural resources determined by the Law, meet the criteria of representation, preservation, authenticity and other determined criteria, it may be referred to the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia with the proposal to establish the grounds for initiating the legal protection procedure.
Besides protected natural resources, 1760 strictly protected and 868 protected wild species of plants, animals and fungi are also protected by the Law. These species are protected in accordance with the Law on Nature Conservation and with the Book of Regulations on the designation and protection of strictly protected and protected wild species of plants, animals and fungi ("Official Gazette of RS", No. 5/ 2010 and 47/2011), which contains lists of strictly protected and protected wild species and protection measures. Under certain protection are also species that may be threatened by overharvesting and uncontrolled gathering from nature.
Internationally important areas also have some kind of protection, based on the international conventions and programs.
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