In a major environmental move aimed at protecting the country’s ecosystem, the government signed an agreement yesterday that will transform 76,000 hectares of forest and wetlands in northern Greece into two national parks. The joint ministerial decision signed by the Environment and Public Works Ministry allows, first, for the creation of a two-zone, 43,000-hectare park in the Evros region. No development whatsoever will be allowed in the first zone, while ecotourism activities will be permitted in the second zone. This park is home to 229 bird species and a number of mammals and amphibians under the threat of extinction. The second national park will encompass a 33,000-hectare area, including wetlands, and reach into the prefectures of Thessaloniki, Imathia and Pieria. About 268 bird species – 83 of which are protected – inhabit this park. The area, now off limits to hunters, will be divided into three zones to regulate housing and farming development.