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IP/01/1037

Brussels, 19. July 2001

Go-ahead for 94 nature conservation projects worth euro 80 million

The European Commission has decided which nature conservation projects will receive funding under the LIFE-Nature programme in 2000-2001. 94 projects have been selected and a total of € 79.5 million has been committed to finance these projects. Five candidate countries (Estonia-Hungary-Latvia-Romania and Slovenia) have signed association agreements with the European Union for their participation in the LIFE Program. These countries will benefit from 14 projects in 2000-2001. This year the main beneficiaries are non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and public authorities, especially local and regional authorities. Most of the projects aim to conserve different kinds of natural habitats.

In 2000-2001 the Commission received 310 project proposals for nature conservation, of which 60 % were found to be eligible. Out of these, 94 have been granted financing based on the Commission's evaluation and the opinion of the Habitats Committee of Member States representatives. Each of the 94 projects selected meets at least one of the three criteria of LIFE-Nature:

    Conservation of sites proposed by the Member States under the Habitats Directive (67 %);

    Conservation of sites classified as Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive (25 %);

    Conservation of species of flora and fauna of Community importance (7 %).

The total investment cost for all the selected projects is € 152 million, of which €79.5 million is provided by LIFE while the rest is covered by the beneficiaries, their partners and co-financiers.

Since LIFE-Nature's main objective is to contribute to the establishment of the NATURA 2000 network (the European network of protected areas), access to LIFE-Nature financing may be more difficult for those Member States who have not yet proposed a comprehensive list of candidate sites under the Birds and Habitats Directives. In fact, the LIFE Regulation sets strict criteria for eligibility. The site targeted by the project must be classified as Special Protection Area under the terms of the Birds Directive or proposed as a Site of Community Importance under the terms of the Habitats Directive.

More than 65 % of the natural habitats listed in the Habitats Directive are affected by the projects selected this year. Among these habitats are alluvial valleys (Austria, Belgium, Italy), wetlands (Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain, etc.), grasslands (Germany, Sweden, UK, Slovenia, etc.), forests (Austria, Finland, Latvia, Greece, etc.). Several projects are targeting species (including birds, minks, lynxes are seals).

LIFE is the only EU program providing aid for the environment throughout the Union and in bordering regions. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the development and implementation of EU environmental policy, by financing specific environmental actions in three sectors: LIFE-Environment, LIFE-Nature, LIFE-Third Countries. The total budget for LIFE 2000-2004 is € 640 million.

Most of these funds are aimed at one-off expenses and recurring biotope management (like surveillance). Most LIFE-Nature projects also involve awareness raising and information actions.

The socio-cultural environment in which projects are undertaken always plays a major role in determining their success. It is therefore important to ensure the willingness of all relevant administrations and local associations to adhere to the objectives of the project.

More detailed information on the new projects are available on the LIFE-Nature Database (http://ec.europa.eu/life/nature/databas.htm). The projects are presented by country in the national languages, as well as in English and French, and the information includes title, aim, description and contact persons for each of the 94 selected LIFE «Nature» projects for 2000-2001. A brief out-line of the projects in each Member State is presented below.

Background

LIFE-Nature projects selected for 2000-2001

    Belgium

Number of projects submitted :  8

Number of projects funded  :  3

Total costs of all projects funded  : € 5.308.667

Total LIFE contribution :   € 2.362.046

Different habitats are covered (forests, calcareous grasslands and reedlands) but the projects focus primarily on land purchase, followed by habitat restoration in order to achieve larger managed areas. This is important since the fragmentation of natural areas, as a result of poor land-use planning in the past, was a major contributing factor to the decline of species and habitat types in Belgium. All three LIFE-Nature projects have been proposed by NGOs with long track records in nature conservation; two of the three already implemented LIFE-Nature projects in the past. A new trend, nevertheless, seems to be the closer partnership with the competent authorities in the implementation of these projects.

    Denmark

Number of projects submitted :  3

Number of projects funded  :  1

Total costs of all projects funded : € 7.357.210

Total LIFE contribution :    € 2.207.163

The Danish project which was approved this year aims at a large-scale restoration of the river-bed and surrounding wetlands of the Skjern River in western Jutland. The Skjern is the largest river in Denmark, in terms of water flow, with a catchment area of 250,000 ha. The floodplain area along its lower parts suffered badly from large land reclamation projects during the 1960s. Within the framework of a LIFE-Environment project, 1993-98, a restoration plan was developed. This was followed by a first phase restoration of parts of the riverbed, 1999-2000. This LIFE-Nature will focus on restoring 875 ha of wetlands and re-opening a further 1,600 ha for grazing in order to initiate the recovery of the once prolific and important wildlife of the Skern river catchment area.

    Germany

Number of projects submitted :  11

Number of projects funded  :  6

Total costs of all projects funded : € 17.008.671

Total LIFE contribution :   € 10.001.054

In the 2000/2001 application round for LIFE-Nature projects in Germany the lack or insufficiency of designation of sites under the Birds Directive or the proposal of sites under the Habitats Directive to implement the Natura 2000 network was still a problem. Several applications had to be ruled ineligible because the proposed project areas were still not notified.

Nevertheless 6 German projects out of 11 projects which had been submitted - were approved in 2001, situated in very different areas from the Baltic coast in the north to the Black Forest in the south.

Like in previous years the restoration of wetland areas is the prevailing objective of the German projects. Four projects are trying to make up for the 'sins' of large-scale drainage of wetlands in the past. Whereas the two western projects (Niedersachsen and Nordrhein-Westfalen) are focusing on degraded wet grassland and bog areas, the eastern projects are aiming at the restoration of lakes (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg). Two of the wetland projects are targeting primarily at bird species, such as breeding o or migrating waterfowl, and the two other wetland projects primarily at the protection of endangered habitats (i.e. in particular endangered wetland vegetation types).

The remaining two projects are either concentrating on dry calcareous grasslands or mountainous habitats in particular mountainous heathlands. In a trans-regional approach (quite unusual for the Federal Republic!) the project on dry calcareous grasslands is covering areas in Schleswig-Holstein as well as in Saarland. The mountain project in the Black Forest (Baden Württemberg) takes several local stakeholders on board in order to reduce habitat degradation caused by increasing tourism and alterations in land use and to initiate sustainable land use.

    GREECE

Number of projects submitted :  22

Number of projects funded :  3

Total cost of funded projects :  € 5.061.718

Total LIFE contribution :   € 3.037.031

In Greece, three projects were approved out of which two aim at the restoration of wetlands in northern Greece. In the Evros delta, the drained Drana lagoon, offering important habitat for many bird species, will be inundated again, while in the lakes Chimaditida and Zazari near Florina, seven natural habitats and five bird species will be protected and managed. The third project targets a flagship species, the Mediterranean Monk seal, for the conservation of which Greece has particular responsibilities, since it hosts the great majority its EU population.

    SPAIN

Number of projects submitted :  63

Number of projects funded :  17

Total cost of funded projects :  € 22.927.390

Total LIFE contribution :   € 13.326.246

Most of the projects are aimed at the conservation of habitats and species that are considered of priority importance in the European Union. Actions will be carried out in sites proposed for the Natura 2000 network.

A large variety of habitats will be tackled in several projects, which cover steppe areas, wetlands, riparian forests, dunes, lagoons, coastal and marine areas. A project will try to implement suitable management measures to avoid the degradation of marine habitats and species, mainly Posidonia beds, around the Balearic Islands. Typical conservation problems in islands, such as invasion by non-native species and habitat degradation, will also be tackled in the Menorca Island.

Several fauna and flora species will also benefit from Life of support. Four projects target bird species considered of priority interest in the EU and try to tackle the different reasons for their decline, as it is the case for the Bonelli´s eagle, the black vulture, the white headed duck and the lesser Kestrel. A coordinated action plan for the recovery of the European mink will bring together the efforts of three regions to stop the regression of one of the last viable populations of the species in the European Union. Also, a conservation plan for bats will be implemented on the whole region of Valencia. Life will also finance a project to combat one of the main threats for the brown bear populations in the Cantabrian Mountains, the illegal use of snares to combat the increase of wild boar populations, which is causing serious damage to bears.

A quite innovative project will aim to recover a highly endangered freshwater mollusc, Margaritifera auricularia, once abundant in the rivers of Europe and which was even considered extinct at the beginning of the XX century, until some small populations were rediscovered in the Ebro river during the 80s.

    FRANCE

Number of projects submitted :  8

Number of projects funded :   4

Total cost of funded projects :  € 12.569.335

Total LIFE contribution :   € 6.092.281

In France, among the 4 LIFE-Nature projects selected this year, 2 are targeting the conservation of threatened species. There is one project on salmon population (Salmo salar) in the Loire basin and one project on the Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), undertaken in 7 wetlands belonging to the Natura 2000 network. The 2 other projects concern the restoration of forest habitats: one on alluvial forests along the Rhine in Alsace and the other on black pine forests in the mountains of Corsica.

    Ireland

Number of projects submitted :  6

Number of projects funded :  2

Total costs of all projects funded : € 1.096.334

Total LIFE contribution :   € 23.188

One project involves the reintroduction of the golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos into the Glenveagh National Park and SCI in Donegal. This species was one of the last surviving large raptors in Ireland to have disappeared around the turn of the century. Its re-introduction will not only be a crucial starting point for the potential recolonisation of this species in Ireland but also provide a high profile opportunity for raising awareness over Ireland's natural heritage and for developing possible economic spin offs through eco-tourism.

The second project focuses on demonstrating the potential benefits of Natura 2000 designation for local farming communities. In close collaboration with the Farming authorities it will develop best practice techniques for creating ideal habitat conditions for Annex I birds such as the corncrake Crex crex within a series of core sites on the Mullet Peninsula in Western Ireland. By the end of the project it is expected that these prescriptions will be incorporated into the mid term review of the national agri-environment scheme (REPS).

    ITALY

Number of projects submitted :  94

Number of projects funded :  21

Total cost of funded projects :  € 22.894.763

Total LIFE contribution :   € 10.402.702

Once again Italy has presented a high number of proposals. Confirming past trends, a great part of the selected projects are located in northern Italy and in particular in the regions of Lombardy (32%), Emilia-Romagna (29%), Piemonte and Trentino (10%).

This year most of the projects are proposed by regional protected areas administrations. Over three quarters of the selected projects fall within protected areas: the remaining (24% of the total) are in areas where the only protection is related to their classification as Natura 2000 sites. Of the total selected projects, 71% are proposed Sites of Community Interest (pSCI) and 29% are Special Protection Areas (SPA). There is an even distribution among projects aiming at species and habitats: 38% are aimed at species, 29% at habitats and 33% at both habitats and species.

Among the projects directed at species, two aim at wolves and bears, two at bats, 3 at amphibians, 1 at fish species and one at the white clawed crayfish. A total of 8 projects include actions directed at bird species and their habitats. Only one project is aimed at a plant species, Abies nebrodensis, a Sicilian endemic fir species.

Among the projects directed at habitats the greatest part, 38%, concerns wetlands, 19% involve river ecosystems and 14% springs and connected habitats. Projects aimed at meadows and traditional agricultural areas amount to 10% of the total projects selected.

    Luxembourg

Number of projects submitted :   0

Number of projects funded :  0

Total costs of all projects funded : € 0

Total LIFE contribution:    € 0

There were no LIFE-Nature applications this year.

    The Netherlands

Number of projects submitted :  3

Number of projects funded  :  2

Total costs of all projects funded : € 4.054.252

Total LIFE contribution :   € 2.027.126

Over the centuries the Dutch have acquired a vast know-how and skill in mastering natural processes to increase farmed areas and urban surfaces by conversion of former natural landscapes. As in previous years, the Dutch LIFE-Nature projects use this skill to go the other way: reintroducing spontaneous processes in heavily modified landscapes. The two projects which were approved are both managed by the same beneficiary.

The latter has already formulated a long-term master plan to restore the natural value or increase the area of the habitats in the project sites: raised bogs, fens and species-rich grasslands with a particular importance for grassland bird species such as the corncrake. LIFE-Nature is being used to bring these already ongoing large-scale restoration projects to a successful end. The projects are characterised by large-scale site restoration measures; the bog restoration project in particular will test various new conservation engineering techniques, which could prove to be of interest for bog restoration projects elsewhere. Once the sites are restored, the recurring management and other on-going tasks are taken over by the beneficiary.

    AUSTRIA

Number of projects submitted :  6

Number of projects funded:  4

Total costs of all projects funded : € 12.327.988

Total LIFE contribution :   € 6.124.876

Three projects, located in the regions Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Carinthia, will be managed by municipal or regional authorities, whereas the fourth project, which actually will carry out all its measures in Hungary, will be managed by WWF-Austria.

The Vorarlberg project is restoring a stretch of shoreline along the Bodensee (Lake Constance), as a habitat for the rare plant Myosotis rehsteineri. The Tyrolean project (the first LIFE-Nature one ever to be funded in this region) will carry out large-scale restoration works on the Lech river. Within the Carinthian project, a "green bridge" will be constructed over a motorway, to facilitate the immigration of brown bears into the Austrian Alps - and hence to strengthen the small Alpine bear populations. The WWF project, which is focussing on floodplain forests and meadows in the Tisza river valley (Hungary), will carry out habitat restoration and promote traditional land use practices compatible with nature conservation.

    PORTUGAL

Number of projects submitted :  25

Number of projects funded :  4

Total cost of funded projects :  € 4.183.573

Total LIFE contribution :   € 2.431.136

All projects support the implementation of management plans in sites proposed for the Natura 2000 network.

Several fauna and flora species will benefit from the Life support. All projects target bird species of community interest and try to tackle the different reasons for their decline, as it is the case of the highly endangered Zino's Petrel in Madeira.

Three of the four selected proposals are aimed at the conservation of wetlands and will be carried out in sites of international importance Tejo, Sado and Arzila. In some cases, the strategy chosen implies the acquisition of private areas inside the Natura 2000 sites, in order to improve their management. In all cases, this will be followed by the restoration of wetland habitats and the implementation of a set of suitable management measures.

    Finland

Number of projects submitted :  10

Number of projects funded  :  5

Total costs of all projects funded : € 8.607.506

Total LIFE contribution :   € 4.420.407

The five approved projects are different from each other and they are distributed between three regions: either in the very north, in Karelia next to the Russian border or in SW Finland. In the north, in Lapland two projects are aiming at protecting and restoring habitats of the rare plants Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium calceolus) and Yellow Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus), as well as 'aapa' mires with rich avifauna. In Karelia the two projects concentrate on management of boreal forest and saving the best bird wetland in Finland through restoration measures. On the Baltic Sea coast and archipelago of Finland and Sweden and in the biggest island of Estonia (Saaremaa), the first NGO project ever in Finland (WWF) has an ambitious target to restore semi-natural grasslands and promote butterflies as indicators of conservation management success.

    Sweden

Number of projects submitted :  4

Number of projects funded :  2

Total costs of all projects funded : € 3.889.519

Total LIFE contribution :   € 1.924.587

The 2 Swedish LIFE-Nature projects concern the restoration of meadow habitats on islands in the Baltic Sea. One is a single-site project aiming at the clearance of invading scrub and exotic plants on about 200 ha of calcareous grasslands and alvar habitats on Stora Karlsö Island, located about 6 km from Gotland Island. The other project concerns a total of 16,250 ha spread over 18 sites on Öland Island, with the focus on the restoration of 2,000 ha of "key" areas of wet meadow, fen and lake habitats. Both projects intend to kick start the long-term management of the areas which are dependent on grazing by sheep or cattle, using wherever possible using agri-environment agreement.

    United Kingdom

Number of projects submitted :  10

Number of projects funded :  6

Total costs of all projects funded : € 19.938.885

Total LIFE contribution :    € 10.494.939

Four of the six projects are located in Scotland where they focus on the conservation of a range of priority habitat types such as active blanket and raised bogs, alluvial forests and other woodland habitats. In all cases the projects are designed to undertake large scale restoration actions on a whole suite of pSCI sites designated for these habitat types in order to pump prime their long term recovery and management. There is also a project for the eradication of the exotic species Mustela vison the American mink from the Western isles of Scotland where the species is beginning to decimate important bird populations within 5 SPAs covering approx 15.000 ha. Action is required now before the mink populations become too large and unmanageable.

Two further projects were approved for habitat conservation in southern England. The first establishes an innovative partnership between a conservation agency and the Ministry of Defence to restore large tracks of the Salisbury plain one of the largest unbroken expanses of chalk grassland in North West Europe. Central to this project is the development of a more flexible farming system which will increase the presently limited benefits for both farming tenants and wildlife through a process of active shepherding. The second project will attempt to save the remaining fragments of Dorset's urban heaths through a large scale educational and rescue programme. It is only by securing the good will and cooperation of the local population that these areas will stand a chance in the long run. That is why a large consortium of private and public organisations have come together to develop an innovative programme of initiatives ranging from additions to the school curriculum to a voluntary wardening service to a panoply of local awareness raising events.

    Estonia

Number of projects submitted :  4

Number of projects funded :  3

Total costs of all projects funded:  € 1.754.608

Total LIFE contribution :   € 1.222.593

The European mink (Mustela lutreola) is one of the most critically endangered mammal species in Europe, suffering from habitat decline and competition with the North American mink (Mustela vison). From its former range covering large parts of Europe in the 1950s, population fragments are now found only in Spain, France and some areas in Eastern Europe. One of the projects will focus on reinforcing the captive-breeding program at Tallinn Zoo, initiated in 1983, and starting a release programme on Saaremaa Island.

The two other projects both set out to restore and manage boreal Baltic coastal meadows, a priority habitat confined to the shores of the Baltic Sea and overall degraded and reduced in area due to lack of management (grazing, hay-making) and exploitation. One of the projects covers a total of 1,572 ha at 16 sites.This covers. 30 % of the remaining area of this habitat in Estonia. The restoration or creation of freshwater pools for the Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita) will be a special feature. The other project focuses on management of a complex of habitats, including coastal meadows, active raised bogs and sand dunes, at Häädemeste, south of Pärnu.

    Hungary

Number of projects submitted :  4

Number of projects funded  :  1

Total costs of all projects funded  : € 390.793

Total LIFE contribution :   € 254.015

The selected project, the first one ever for Hungary, is dealing with the conservation of wolf and lynx in the north-eastern part of the country. Its total LIFE contribution is 254.016 €, representing 65 % of the project budget of 390.793 €. Besides establishing the current distribution and status of large carnivores in Hungary, the main goals of this project are the establishment of management plans and the elaboration of a scheme for compensating damages to livestock.

    Latvia

Number of projects submitted :  4

Number of projects funded  :  3

Total costs of all projects funded : € 1.618.464

Total LIFE contribution :   € 1.213.849

In 2001, Latvia participated for the first time in the LIFE-Nature scheme. The Baltic countries still harbour large and intact areas of natural forest and wetland habitats which have suffered from serious decline in area and quality elsewhere in central and western Europe. Two of the projects are primarily aimed at managing and improving legal protection of such areas at Teici (45,400 ha), Katlesi (12,000 ha) and Zvarde (10,000 ha) in order to counteract threats from e.g. drainage and forestry. Habitats that will benefit include western taiga, bog woodland and active raised bogs. Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) for which Latvia holds around 25 % of the European population outside Russia, is the most important species to get benefit. The third project aims at improving management (via e.g. reed cutting, grazing) and conservation of a complex of 10,000 ha of meadows, fens, sand dunes, swamp woods and bogs in Lake Engure National Park It tackles problems with overgrowth and uncontrolled cutting.

    ROMANIA

Number of projects submitted :  19

Number of projects funded :  4

Total cost of funded projects :  € 1.745.416

Total LIFE contribution :   € 1.06. 647

LIFE will finance the conservation of habitats and species of community interest in the "Iron Gates" Natural Park, located in SW Romania, on the left side of the Danube river at the border with Yugoslavia.

A conservation programme for Bats and the caves that host the most important colonies of sixteen bat species in SW Carpathians will also benefit from the Life support. A National Action Plan for dolphins and the implementation of actions for the conservation of three dolphin species in the Romanian Black Sea waters will also be financed by Life-Nature.

Finally, the recovery of a network of wetlands and riparian habitats will be implemented on a river valley in the central Transylvania plain, in an important bird area that will improve its conservation status.

    SLOVENIA

Number of projects submitted :  6

Number of projects funded :  3

Total cost of funded projects :  € 1.327.069

Total LIFE contribution :   € 849.835

This is the first year that Slovenia has submitted applications for projects to be funded under LIFE Nature.

All 3 projects are directed at protected areas: a nature park, a regional park and a national park.

The project proposed by the Triglav National Park, for a total budget of € 470.200, is aimed at the protection of an extensive peat bogs area, on the Pokljuka plateau. The park will purchase 50 ha of peat bogs and build 3600 meters of fences. The main effort of the project will however be directed at informing local residents and visitors of the importance of the peat bogs area.

The objective of the project proposed by the Kozjanski Regional Park, for a total budget of 206.250 Euro, is the management of about 500 ha of meadows and dry grasslands, in the Veternik and Oslica mountains, combined with actions to protect one of the remaining populations of corncrake in the country.

The beneficiary that will manage the highest budget, of € 581.869, is a non governmental organization, DOPPS-Birdlife, manager of a nature reserve within the city of Koper, the first case in Slovenia of a NGO managing a protected area. The main actions of the project are directed at restoring a brackish wetland of great importance for the survival of bird species. The LIFE Nature project is part of a larger program aimed at the environmental restoration of the Koper lagoon.


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