Good practice examples


Maintaining extensive cereal production in the steppes, Portugal

On the vast steppic plains of Castro Verde in southern Portugal the traditional farming system is based on non irrigated extensive cereal production, laid fallow every 2–3 years. The resulting semi-NATURA steppic habitats are of immense nature conservation value, particularly for birds. However, increasing competition from intensive cereal production has forced many farmers to abandon their land in search of jobs elsewhere, with serious consequences for both the local economy and the bird populations. With the inclusion of Castro Verde in NATURA 2000, conservation groups and farmers decided to join forces and lobby the government for an EU funded agri-environmental support scheme that would enable farmers to continue to manage their land as before. The scheme has proven to be very popular, over 350 km² of steppic farmland is now being managed extensively again and the birds are returning in large numbers.

Developing management plans for forest, Finland

Central Finland is at the heart of the country’s timber industry. Here most of the forest is in private hands and any restriction on its use due to NATURA 2000 designation is unlikely to be well received. The Regional Environment Board decided that the best way to persuade private foresters to accept NATURA 2000 was to offer them the option of having a management plan drawn up for their forest. This would assess the forest’s economic potential over the next 10–20 years and clarify what could be done from a conservation perspective. Such a practical tool not only helped the owner manage his resource more efficiently and profitably but also helped to dissipate the myth that NATURA 2000 meant taking all the forest out of production. Here was proof to the contrary.

Managing conflicts between people and large carnivores in NATURA 2000, Greece

Fearing for their livelihood, many farmers in Greece are intolerant of wolves and bears in their region and occasionally shoot the animals illegally. This remains the single largest threat to both species in Greece and accounts for the loss of 25 % of all wolf deaths every year. An EU funded project was launched to get to the root of the problem by analysing past incidents within a number of NATURA 2000 sites. One-to-one discussions with the farmers concerned were also held. As a result, the project was able to lobby for a significant improvement in the national compensation schemes for livestock loss.

However, all agreed that the most effective solution would be to prevent any damage in the first place. Different measures were tried out with farmers. They included erecting electric fences around crops and beehives, providing alternative sources of food such as wild fruit trees planted in abandoned orchards, and supplying the farmers with indigenous sheepdogs to protect their flocks. All three measures proved to be effective deterrents and very popular with local farmers. As a result, the Ministry of Agriculture decided to include these measures in the Rural Development Plan for Greece (2000–2006) which meant that farmers could receive extra financial support for implementing these protective measures on their land. A drop in the number of killed wolves and bears has already been noticed in the project area.

Soft water engineering solutions benefit people and nature, Netherlands

The Dutch have a long tradition of ‘fighting water’ but, after several major floods hit the country in the 1990s, attitudes changed in favour of ‘working with the river’ instead. The Keent restoration project is an example of how this is being applied to flood alleviation schemes. Situated along the River Meuse, the project is re-diverting a part of the canalised river into its original meanders in order to help retain excess water during periods of peak flooding. At the same time, it will recreate a valuable nature area of over 400 ha. In this way, the water authorities are able to address two key national priorities in one single project – one related to flood protection, the other to restoring ecological corridors. The process works because both issues are given equal footing at the very early design stage which encourages ‘win-win’ situations and softer engineering solutions. The project is also likely to be cheaper to implement than the more classic flood retention schemes since it is getting nature to do most of the work of absorbing excess flood water.

Electricity companies work to help save endangered birds of prey, Spain

The Aragon region produces much of Spain’s electricity. Unfortunately, the extensive network of power lines and cables are a major cause of mortality for highly threatened birds such as the bearded vulture. Many end up being electrocuted after colliding with the high voltage lines. To address this problem, the regional government is working closely with electricity companies to adjust over 350 km of powerlines in NATURA 2000 sites so that they are rendered safe for birds. Since the start of this cooperation, there has been a dramatic decline in the death toll of birds. Some have even taken to nesting on the high electricity towers. The electricity companies have agreed to run all new cables underground from now on.

The Canary Islands: a magnet for eco-tourists, Spain

Over 11 million tourists visit the Canaries every year. Although most come for the sunshine, there has been a steady rise in nature based tourism away from the busy coastline. As people are becoming more discerning in their choice of holiday destination, an increasing number are looking for quality based holiday experiences away from the coast. And in the Canaries there is plenty to see, apart from offering dramatic landscapes, the islands are also a world biodiversity hotspot for plants and the surrounding seas are teaming with dolphins, sea turtles and other colourful marine creatures.

Over 30 % of the Canaries have been designated as NATURA 2000 as a result of this rich biodiversity. This international recognition has done a lot to boost local eco-tourism businesses further. It has also created some interesting partnerships where tourism revenues are helping to funding conservation projects for rare animals such as the Hierro Giant Lizard (at 70 cm Europe’s largest lizard). Little wonder that this gentle giant is now the island’s mascot.

Wild River Landscape Visitors Programme of the Tyrolean Lech, Austria

A broad range of attractive, interesting, unique and specialised activities in and around nature for diverse target groups will help a region to distinguish itself and to attract additional visitors, even in areas where tourism is well-developed and competition from “normal”, not specifically eco-friendly tourism is strong.
The Lech valley of Tyrol is a NATURA 2000 area of 41.4 km². The river, which up to now has maintained a fairly natural character, dominates the valley’s appearance which boasts wide-ranging floodplain forests and habitats of major ecological interest. The diversity of species is amazing.
In order to give the visitors and the local community the opportunity to experience such a special landscape to the maximum a LIFE project offers an extremely broad range of activities related to nature. A core activity is the excursions with some of the topics being: "Lady’s Slipper – and what’s behind it?" and "So fast and clever – the European otter". They are accompanied by a series of evening lectures. Various brochures with information on the characteristics of the landscape and the species and tips for hiking tours encourage the visitor to explore the valley individually without missing out on its beauties. Furthermore observation platforms and adventure paths have been set up to encourage a positive drive for environmentally sustainable tourism. Separate programmes for children and for school classes have been established in order to cover even more target groups.
The big amount of information made available for the visitors and the communities of the region allow them to understand experience and appreciate nature. Such an emphasis on education is especially important for natural treasures which are not obvious to the average tourist in the first place. While most people might be aware of the need to protect species like e.g. the brown bear, they might need and appreciate more information on less "famous" species.

Eco-Tourism, Romania

The Association of Ecotourism in Romania (AER) combines in a new way the private and public sector in a partnership for nature conservation and sustainable tourism development. Among the partners are protected area administrations, tourism associations, governmental and non-governmental organisations and nature conservation projects. The cooperation shall assure a high quality of offers, establishing environmentally friendly travelling in NATURA 2000 sites and solicit Romanian ecotourism in Europe.
Certified tourism providers can be found in most regions of Romania and many of the tours are in NATURA 2000 sites. The variety of activities and attractions offered is huge. It is possible to climb the lofty peaks of the Carpathian Mountains rising to over 2500 metres or to explore dense pine and beech forests still inhabited by the Carpathian brown bear, wolves, deer, wild boar, and the rare lynx. The immense gorges of Zarnesti, Bicaz and Dâmbovicioara can be visited as well as the lush, green valleys of Bucovina, Suhard and Apuseni. Visitors can experience traditional rural crafts and trace secret passages in rambling Transylvanian castles, or just enjoy a tranquil picnic amid a patchwork of wild flowers.
The huge advantage of the AER for travellers, nature and ecotourism providers is the certification. The label guarantees travellers a high quality experience and a minimal impact on the visited habitats as a result of their travelling. The ecotourism providers benefit from the advisory services of the AER and can improve their offers and their overall quality.
And last but not least nature benefits, because in this ecotourism system much of the money is earned by locals. This helps the local population to understand that nature conservation brings income to the region. For the NATURA 2000 network this is the best way to guarantee its acceptance and existence also for future generations.
Further information:

Wetlands just a stone's throw from the city, Spain

The NATURA 2000 site Salburua Wetland is situated near the City of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Every year, 270.000 visitors come to this NATURA 2000 site, most of them from the near City of Vitoria Gasteiz. The site contains two wetlands, wet oak patches, prairies, some polar groves and other associated environments.
In the area, several stakeholders are very active, e. g. the local government, private individuals, Schools and education groups.
At the site, several environmental education programmes were implemented, with the collaboration and the financial support of a local bank, the central and regional government financially supported the building of public facilities, as wetland interpretation and a visitor centre.
Schools, NGOs, hobby groups and the general public were involved in all the leisure and educational activities in the area, which made the environmental awareness and the control and surveillance of the areas much easier.
A lease contract with public landowner made it possible, to include a big extension of land into the NATURA 2000 site, and to protect it.
The events situated in the NATURA 2000 site include Workshops, Green Days, Exhibitions, Excursions and guided Tours, at least once a week such an event happens. This is made possible by the use of seasonal workers or volunteers, their kind of work are guided tours to the site and also bird ringing. Visitors of the site are informed with posters, leaflets, books, maps and scientific papers.
Some impressing results of the activities are the increase of biodiversity and the integration in the NATURA 2000 network, the improvement of urban quality and 2000 schoolchildren taking part in educational programmes.
Further information:

Dwejra Heritage Park, Malta

Dwejra is located on the Western coast of the island of Gozo and characterised by a range of landscapes, whereas the sheer limestone cliffs and a series of large subsidence structures are the most dominant. Other impressive sceneries are numerous coastal features of erosion, dry river valleys and a small inland body of seawater. Dwejra is the largest protected land and sea area in Malta, as its uniqueness lies in its complex features of geological, geomorphologic, ecological, historical and aesthetic interest, which attracts thousands of visitors every year. The human activities on the site are tourism and recreation, fishing, diving, quarrying, hunting and trapping, and also some agriculture.
Several groups of stakeholders are very active in the management planning process for the NATURA 2000 site, for example the local government, private landowners, NGO`s, private sector and individuals, farmers, anglers and hunters.
As illegal tipping was a problem at the site, residents of the local community joined on a Clean-up event and collected two truckloads of rubbish, after that the problem seems to have decreased, later an underwater Clean-up was organised.
The promotion Dwejra Heritage Park has been especially successful in the strengthening collaboration with the public in connection with reporting of illegal activities, which is especially within the fishing community as they are keen on the marine protected area in order to curb the abuse of marine resources.
One of the central aims of the sites is the promoting of environmental education, particularly as the area offers a lot to learn for students of various ages. Another important aspect for the site is eco-tourism.
Further information:

Schools, farmers, social cooperative and wine producers: Parco Naturale di Rocchetta Tanaro, Italy

The site spreads on a hill zone, which scopes down towards Tanaro River. At the area, many fossils can be found, especially shells. The richness of nature is related to the woodland with its coppices of chestnut-trees and different types of oaks, in the under wood wild orchids, wood geraniums, brooms, lilies and asphodels can be found. The avifauna at the NATURA 2000 site is represented by at least 40 nest-building species. The hills in the area were and are used for cultivating wine and fruits.
In the NATURA 2000 area many stakeholder groups are very active, especially schools, scientists, NGO´s, universities, recreational groups, social cooperatives and local wine producers.
Every year two special events are organised, together with the local wine producers, the first event contains a walk around the vineyards and every year 300 people walk together with the Park`s staff. The walk involves the listening to night raptor birds, and astronomic studies. Special local food is offered, schools exhibit their works of the environmental educational projects, for example posters of the wood stratification, subsoil, humus, herbaceous and shrubby level, climate research and much more.
The second event involves culture and nature, as national writers host a literary trip in the NATURA 2000 site.
As private farmers, local wine producers and schools are targeted as a par t of the management action, the work carried out was corrected information, explanation of the correct resources management, meetings in the park, walks and scientific explanations to conserve the landscape. The results of these activities were the stopping of some incorrect interventions and the organisation of an exhibition of posters against a biomass incinerator.
Further information:

Working together on a management scheme, Northern Ireland

The Strangford Lough’s extensive mudflats and eelgrass beds provide rich food for over wintering waterfowls. The proximity of the NATURA 2000 site to Belfast provides an access for a large population to the attractive coastal environment, and to several recreational opportunities such as sailing, windsurfing and diving. Many people come to the site to walk, cycle or horse riding, or to visit the historic properties.
The wide range of interests and activities had a share into the establishment of the Strangford Lough Management Committee, partly in response to pressure from the local community. The Committee brings the main stakeholder groups together, it helps to clarify and communicate important management issues. The Committee works closely with Governments Environment and Heritage Service and with the local councils. It has achieved much in its existence, as it collaborated with local recreational interests to produce codes of good conduct, and published information on public access around the Lough to provide an insight into the Lough without disturbing wildlife.
The Committee contains a wealth of local knowledge and experience, it`s staff plays a key role in collecting data, organising workshops and draft the management scheme document and accompanying public information booklet. By working closely with local user groups, community organisations and supporters of specialist interests, it was possible to demonstrate that many activities can proceed alongside nature conservation.