EU Natura 2000 Award: Call opens for top conservation initiatives

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EU Natura 2000 Award: Call opens for top conservation initiativesThe European Commission has today launched the 2018 edition of the EU Natura 2000 Award, on the occasion of the establishment of the European Natura 2000 day.

The Award, which is now in its fourth year, honours leading nature conservation achievements connected to Europe’s Natura 2000 Network of protected areas.

Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella, said, “following the launch of our Nature Action Plan to improve the protection of nature and biodiversity in the EU, the focus is on engaging EU citizens, stakeholders and communities in promoting, protecting and sustainably managing our natural heritage.”

He added, “we look forward very much to an exciting range of applications, demonstrating how organisations and individuals work together to support our precious protected areas network. I encourage all of you with a positive Natura 2000 story to tell, to apply now!”

The Natura 2000 Award has received 339 applications in its first three years, with 69 finalists and 17 proud winners. Previous winners of the Natura 2000 Award have reported an enthusiastic response from the public and partners that has further energised their work.

Naturefriends from Bodanrück and Westlicher Bodensee in Germany, who won an Award in 2015 commented on the increased recognition they received after winning an Award.

It commented, “the organisation is asked more frequently for lectures, articles and reports. The number of our members, who are interested in the Natura 2000 has greatly increased. We are given a higher profile by government agencies, other NGO, stakeholders. In general, the recognition our organisation receives has increased greatly.”

The Award is open to any organisation or person involved in Natura 2000, including public and local authorities, businesses, NGOs, land owners, educational institutions and individuals. The application period runs from May to September 2017 and the Award Ceremony will take place on Natura 2000 Day – May 21 2018.

It comprises five categories: Conservation; Socio-Economic Benefits; Communication; Reconciling Interests/Perceptions and Cross-Border Cooperation and Networking as well as a European Citizens’ Award.

The Citizens’ Award, was introduced for the first time in 2015, and provides the general public with an opportunity to vote for their favourite project. The Commission said that this initiative has received an enthusiastic response so far with over 62,000 votes cast in 2015 and 2016.

Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of the EU’s nature and biodiversity policy. Established under the EU’s Birds Directive and Habitats Directive, it is an EU-wide network of over 27,000 terrestrial and marine sites, covering more than 18% of land area and 6% of sea in the EU.

These areas which are protected by the network, contribute not only to biodiversity but also between 1.7 and 2.5% to EU GDP through the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water purification, pollination and tourism.

A new Action Plan was recently adopted by the European Commission in order to step up the implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives. The Action Plan, which consists of 15 actions to be carried out by 2019, is about improving the management of these areas, connecting nature protection and socio-economic activities more broadly, and engaging with national authorities, stakeholders and young people.

For more information on how to apply, please see the website here.

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