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Brussels, 08 July 2002

Commission approves Euro 72m funding for 70 new conservation projects

Seventy nature conservation projects in the European Union and five candidate countries have been approved for grant funding by the European Commission under the LIFE-nature scheme. The projects represent a total investment of €130 million in nature conservation, to which the European Union will contribute up to €72 million. Thirteen of the projects are within EU candidate countries Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia. The LIFE-Nature projects are aimed at protecting and restoring habitats and conserving flora and fauna throughout the European Union.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "The LIFE-Nature programme is an essential and far-reaching tool for putting European nature policy into practice".

This year's LIFE-Nature projects will further contribute to the establishment of the Natura 2000 network through the restoration of protected areas, the establishment of sustainable management structures and the strengthening of awareness amongst the general public. To date LIFE-Nature projects have been in action in about 8% of the EU's Natura 2000 protected areas, with links to many more.

LIFE-Nature is one of the three components of the LIFE instrument. LIFE gives financial support to projects which promote better environmental practice and nature conservation throughout the European Union. A budget of €640 million is available for the current LIFE III programme, which runs until 2004. Just under half of the total LIFE budget is available for LIFE-Nature projects(1).

LIFE-Nature was first set up in 1992 to assist the creation of Natura 2000, a pan-EU network of protected areas established under the Birds and Habitats Directives. The 15, 000, sites of the network, covering 15% of the land area of the EU, are due to be designated by 2004. Many LIFE-Nature projects target Natura 2000 sites; others aim to protect species listed in the Birds and Habitats Directives. The actions proposed by applicants from the restoration and management of specific natural habitats to the improvement of conditions for a particular species must be in complete accordance with the EU Directives.

New applications in 2002

In the 2002 selection round, the Commission received 188 applications of which 154 (82%) were considered eligible. After evaluation and approval by the EU Habitats Committee, seventy projects (37% of applications) from 19 countries were selected for financing on the basis of quality of proposals. Fifty-six are situated in the EU and 13 in the participating candidate countries. The successful projects comply with one of the three basic criteria of the LIFE-Nature project selection. These are:

  • Conserving sites proposed by Member States under the Habitats Directive (56%)

  • Conserving sites classified as Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive (24%)

  • Conserving species of flora and fauna considered important in the EU (20%)

The extension of LIFE to candidate countries allows these countries to prepare for practical implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives through LIFE-Nature projects.

Both the available funding and number of projects decreased in 2002 compared to the 2000-01 selection. This was expected, as the 2000-2001 round covered two years due to the absence of a selection round in 2000. However, the average size of the projects retained in 2002, in terms of total budget, has increased by 15%. Since the start of LIFE-Nature, the total investment in projects has steadily increased from €70 million in 1992 to an average €97 million for the years 1999-2001. The proposed investment of €130 million this year follows this trend.

EU funding of €72m will cover approximately 55% of project costs for 2002. The remaining €58m will come from beneficiaries, partners and co-financiers.

A variety of habitats and strong partnership amongst project actors

Over half of this year's projects (38) target sites and species that are covered by the Habitats Directives and a further 18 projects cover bird species listed in the Birds Directive. The remaining 14 projects target listed species not linked to particular sites. For those projects targeting Natura 2000 sites, the whole range of habitats is covered. Rivers and wetlands are particularly well represented. Almost half of the projects cover more than one habitat type. The most common actions proposed in the projects are the drawing up and implementation of management plans, management of watercourses, land purchase (especially in northern Europe), grazing management, protection of exotic species and site restoration and improvement. However, the range of actions is very wide, from the controlled feeding of vultures to the insulation of power lines.

Nature conservation actions often involve public institutions and therefore LIFE-Nature beneficiaries are predominantly regional or local authorities (70%). A further 25% are non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Almost three-quarters of beneficiaries work in partnerships, most often between a public body and a NGO active in nature conservation. In this way professional expertise is combined with administrative planning, the best recipe for success in ensuring the viability of protected areas. Just over half of LIFE-Nature beneficiaries (51%) in 2002 are new selections. This is clear evidence that the programme continues to break new ground.

The sustainability of LIFE-Nature actions is an important criterion in selecting projects. Particular attention is also given to the involvement of citizens and local communities. Beneficiaries are obliged to undertake public awareness schemes in their projects and preference is given to projects which provide long-term assurance of the management of sites.

Integration of nature conservation with day to day economic activity

Nature often has to coexist with everyday activities of modern life, and several LIFE- Nature projects aim to facilitate this. In Austria the natural value of the Danube flood plain will be protected within a general scheme of engineering works, in order to assure the viability of the river as a major international waterway. In the north of England a project in a disadvantaged upland area aims to convert pastoral agriculture to a system compatible with nature conservation. At the same time it will bring economic returns to the rural community. A similar project will be launched in Hungary. In Greece protection of a rare turtle will operate alongside small-scale commercial fishing.

For summaries of the projects in each country, see Annex. For more detailed information on each of the 70 new projects, listed by country, is available on Explanatory texts are given in the national languages (EU countries), English and French. More information on the Natura 2000 network can be found at

Annex - Overview of LIFE-Nature 2002 projects by country


Number of projects funded: 2

One project targets the conservation of the small brown bear population in the Austrian Alps, currently estimated at only 25 to 30 animals. The project will continue previous LIFE-Nature work to find out more about the distribution of the current population and the factors limiting its size.

The second project sets out to restore the natural environment of a three kilometre length of the Danube, in the floodplains east of Vienna, within the Donauauen national park. The project is a pilot action within an integrated river engineering plan, which aims to combine the function of the Danube as an international shipping waterway with nature conservation.


Number of projects funded : 4

This year there are two projects in Wallonia and two in Flanders. The project sites are evenly distributed over the country from the coast to the Ardennes.

One project will restore three river habitats in the Ardennes for the pearl mussel, a threatened species.

The other three projects target very rare and threatened vegetation. One project will restore grass dunes in the Ijzer estuary on the Flemish coast. North of Brussels, another project will restore a large area of wet grassland and fen that is rich in plant species. For the last project 180 hectares of calcareous grassland on the slopes of the middle Meuse and its tributaries will be restored.


Number of projects funded : 3

Two projects deal with the long-term effects of pollution caused by agricultural run-off and household waste on a saline lagoon and naturally eutrophic lake. In both cases the sources of pollution have left the area but their effects have to be 'flushed out'. This is necessary to remove the accumulations of nutrients that prevent the lakes from regaining their original natural state. A range of practical innovative techniques will be used which could serve as best practice guidance for similar initiatives elsewhere.

A long stretch of coastal dunes on the west coast of Jutland is the subject of the third project. The principle threats to the 24,000 hectares of dunes will be addressed through a programme of large-scale removal of exotic conifers and the re-establishment of natural mosaic vegetation through burning, grazing and cutting.


Number of projects funded : 2

One project will focus on the rich forestry resources of Estonia which harbour a significant proportion of the country's Priority Habitats, as they are classed under the Habitats Directive. Conservation measures will be taken across 20 sites covering over 500 square kilometres. Actions relate to land purchase, management planning, visitor facilities and raising awareness amongst the local population and visitors. The second project, in the Karula National Park, will work towards maintaining traditional farming practices that are compatible with nature conservation. This is in anticipation of agri-environmental measures to be introduced in Estonia under the EU Rural Development Regulation.


Number of projects funded : 6

This year's projects cover all regions of Finland except Lapland, and target 92, 000 hectares of Natura 2000 sites.

One project targets Natura 2000 sites in the suburban area of Finland's third largest city, Turku (on the Gulf of Bothnia). Another is a pilot project for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive in Natura 2000 areas, on the Simojoki river in North Bothnia.

The other projects deal with typically Finnish habitats - forests and mires - in sparsely populated areas. The aim is to restore over 1,300 hectares of degraded mires, all classed as priority habitats. Leaving dead wood in situ and carrying out controlled burning procedures will be applied to about 500 hectares of forest. Twenty-one kilometres of natural rivers and 1,300 hectares of lakes which are important habitats for birds will be restored.

The projects include several novel measures: a nature restoration computer game and the development of a GIS-based nature map, which can be downloaded onto mobile phones.


Number of projects funded : 1

This project will target the lower Ain valley in the Rhône-Alpes region. It aims to restore the river's ecosystem and to protect the diversity of associated habitats and species.


Number of projects funded : 5

The rare aquatic plant Elbe water dropwort (Oenanthe conioides) occurs nowhere else in the world but in a 65 km section of the Elbe river on either side of Hamburg, where the water ranges from brackish to fresh but has a strong tidal influence. As only 2000 plants remain, this project will increase their habitat by opening the Elbe dyke and re-flooding 90 hectares adjacent to Hamburg's outer suburbs. To ensure that this does not compromise public safety, various engineering works are included.

In Lower Saxony, a new project will extend the work of a previous LIFE-Nature project to purchase and restore 2,500 hectares of wetlands in the Dümmer lowlands. This will help make the Dümmer a 'five-star' resting and foraging area for migrating birds.

A third project will restore grassland among the vineyards and orchards of Rheinland-Pfalz. This area is a habitat for many rare plants. Their conservation will be assured by encouraging shepherds to graze flocks there and by discouraging inappropriate recreational use.

As in Belgium and Spain, pearl mussels are the subjects of a project on the Bavarian-Czech border. Direct action will be taken to rearrange sections of streams to create a viable habitat for the mussels and the fish on which they depend. The project will be co-ordinated with other EU funded projects to tackle general water pollution.

The fifth project will involve a series of conservation engineering works to improve the quality of a network of wetland habitats, some of them classed as Priority under the Habitats Directive, in the Alpine foothills of Baden-Württemberg.


Number of projects funded: 6

Three of the six projects cover "Ramsar" wetlands of international importance ("Ramsar" is a treaty covering wetlands throughout the world) situated in Lake Mikri Prespa, the Nestos delta and gorge and the Kotychi lagoon. Two further projects target birds of prey: the black vulture in the Dadia forest and the bearded vulture in the mountains of Crete. The last project targets the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the protection of the species from the dangers of local fishing.


Number of projects funded: 4

Two projects involve large-scale restoration schemes in the Hortobagy national park (east Hungarian steppe plains). The first will restore a 6,650 hectare section of the park through the removal of old dykes and irrigation channels, which had been constructed to create paddy fields. The second project will combine organic farming and nature conservation through managed grazing for traditional breeds of beef cattle, sheep and pigs on 2,000 hectares of steppe and wetlands.

The third Hungarian project targets the conservation of angelica (Angelica palustris), a threatened plant species found on continental floodplains. The project, covering 2,600 hectares, includes land purchase and habitat restoration to secure 11 good quality sites for the species.

The fourth project deals with the conservation of the Carpathian imperial eagle. This large Eastern European bird of prey is threatened by changes in use of agricultural land. The project includes measures to halt their decline in numbers. Designation of areas of importance for the species will be prepared and management guidelines will be developed for eagle sites. Immediate threats will be reduced, for instance through insulation of power lines.


Number of projects funded : 1

The sole Irish project provides a strategic approach to the conservation of blanket bogs through actions on 14 different sites. Over 1, 200 hectares of forestry owned blanket bog will be restored. Actions include fencing, ditch blocking and the removal of conifer plantations. These will help to create the right conditions for natural bog regeneration. A number of the sites will also serve as demonstration areas to raise public awareness of this habitat and of Natura 2000 in general.


Number of projects funded : 7

With one exception, all of the selected projects are within areas already protected by national legislation, i.e. national or regional parks or nature reserves.

The main aim of the Italian projects this year is to safeguard different types of wetlands: riverbanks, lakesides, marshlands, saltmarshes, bogs and ponds. Many of them are also of strategic importance due to their location on north-south bird migratory routes. Other projects are aimed at dune conservation in southern Sicily and restoration of grassland in the Piedmont Alps. In addition, one project aims to safeguard the endemic Abruzzi chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata), a priority subspecies listed in the Habitats Directive.

Five of the seven successful applicants are new to LIFE-Nature projects.


Number of projects funded: 2

Latvia hosts large areas of valuable habitats and numerous species that are limited to small and isolated areas in the EU. Both of the projects approved this year will help Latvia prepare for participation in Natura 2000. The first project involves the survey of the entire coast to determine its nature conservation value. This will include substantial management works on the dunes, to prevent damage from the rapidly increasing number of visitors. The second project aims to secure long-term conservation of the various priority habitats and species in the Kemeri National Park. It includes restoration of one of the largest raised bogs left in Europe.


No projects were submitted this year.


Number of projects funded: 1

The project targets the Ilperveld, 300 hectares of peat grassland within a 1,800 hectare site just north of Amsterdam. The area is traditionally an important breeding ground for waders and ducks. Changes in agricultural practice, such as the conversion from haymaking to sheep grazing, the cessation of farmyard manure spreading and the 'silting up' of the canals have caused a reduction in breeding populations of birds, in particular black-tailed godwit and snipe. The project aims to reverse this trend by reversing rush infestation through mowing and the application of "light" natural manure. It also includes the construction of a new eco-manure production unit which recycles rushes mown on the site.


Number of projects funded: 4

14 Natura 2000 sites are targeted by the new projects.

Two of the projects are aimed at the conservation of two bird species, the little bustard and lesser kestrel, and their habitats at seven locations in the Alentejo. Both are pilot projects to establish agreements with farmers for adoption of conservation management measures and to increase the area of habitats favourable to these species. The agreements will form the basis of area plans for protection of the species.

A third project is aimed at restoring degraded habitats and conserving existing ones, through adoption of traditional agricultural land-use practices in the Sierra da Estrela (north-east Portugal). The fourth project is intended to prevent the decrease in eight endangered species of flora by widening their distribution and increasing their populations.


Number of project funded: 3

For the first project, LIFE Nature will finance the conservation, management and re-establishment of viable populations of brown bear, wolf and European lynx in Vrancea County, through the preparation and implementation of a local management plan for these species.

The other two projects aim at restoring and managing two wetlands, Comana, the largest in southern Romania, and the Satchinez marshes. The latter is the continuation of a previous LIFE-Nature project. Both areas are very important for birds, hosting several endangered species such as ferruginous duck, corncrake and bittern.


Number of projects funded: 2

The first proposal accepted for funding is directed at the conservation of one of the largest brown bear populations in Europe. The beneficiary will work with the whole range of authorities' stakeholders in order to protect the bear over the entire national territory.

The second project, in the Karst region of south-west Slovenia, aims to safeguard four habitats, five amphibian species and seven butterfly species listed in the Habitats Directive and/or the Bern Convention. It is based on a similar Life-Nature project successfully implemented in Spain and includes the preparation of a management plan for each of the 50 project sites.

The Slovenian Ministry of the Environment will co-finance both projects.


Number of projects funded: 11

The Iberian lynx is the most endangered cat species in the world. As part of a national strategy for its conservation, two projects will be co-ordinated to promote suitable management practice for the last remaining host areas. Another project aims to prevent the extinction of the European mink in Spain, by setting up a captive breeding programme and increasing the current habitat of the species.

Another project on the south east coast will generate models to improve the management of marine reserves. The project focuses on the conservation of the bottlenose dolphin, the harbour porpoise and the loggerhead turtle, for which monitoring and awareness raising schemes will be implemented.

Life Nature funds will also help to guarantee the long-term conservation of the giant lizard of La Gomera (Canary Islands). The species was considered extinct on the island until 1999, when half a dozen of lizards were found in a small remote area.

Six of the selected projects target the conservation of four bird species. Several regional administrations will implement a series of co-ordinated actions to control threats to the Bonelli's eagle and the most important colony of Audouin's gull. One project is aimed at enlarging the habitat of the bearded vulture from the Pyrenees to north-west Spain. The fourth target species is the aquatic warbler, for which a migratory stopover area will be improved.


Number of projects funded: 2

The first project concerns the Söderåsen national park, which harbours one of the largest remaining tracts of broad-leaved deciduous forests left in Sweden. The second targets the 265m high plateau of Kinnekulle 'mountain,' which has been grazed and mowed extensively over the last thousand years. Both sites are amongst the richest areas in Sweden in biological terms. Actions include the purchase of the most precious forest areas to secure their future, the clearance of exotic trees and the restoration of abandoned meadows. The latter will be restored in such a way as to qualify for agri-environmental support.


Number of projects funded: 4

Two projects deal with the conservation of severely threatened bird species in the UK. The first will establish an extensive network of strategic autonomous sites for the bittern. Through actions on 19 sites across England, the ultimate objective is to double the population to 65 booming male bitterns within ten years. The second project focuses the Scottish capercaillie, whose numbers have plummeted to only 1,000 individuals in recent years. Through actions on a large number of foraging and breeding sites (45 in all), the project aims to safeguard the species. Major threats, such as predators and collisions with deer fences, will be addressed. The project includes extensive co-operation with more than thirty private landowners.

The other two projects apply to a single large site. The New Forest project in central southern England will build on the successes of its LIFE predecessor by addressing the conservation needs of three of its water basins. Another project, in a limestone area of the Yorkshire Dales, will provide support to 15 pilot farms in their conversion to mixed livestock production based on traditional hardy breeds. The adoption of more extensive grazing livestock systems will provide a better natural equilibrium to help secure the long-term conservation management of the area.

(1) Forty-seven per cent of the fund is available for each of the LIFE-Nature and LIFE-environment programs and 6% for the LIFE Third Countries program. An announcement concerning the other programs is in preparation.

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