VNR: NATURA 2000: Safeguarding Europe's biodiversity
Natura 2000 is the EU's flagship tool for safeguarding biodiversity and halting its loss by 2010. Across Europe, some 25,000 sites have been made part of the Natura 2000 network in order to protect and manage wild species and the rarest and most endangered habitats in the EU. Doing what it takes to protect biodiversity for the benefit of future generations is the main focus of Green Week 2006, being held in Brussels from 30 May until 2 June.
Hungary's Hortobagy National Park is one of Europe's most beautiful natural sites: over 80,000 hectares of grasslands, steppes and wetlands offering an exceptional mosaic of flora and fauna. Its natural habitat had been destroyed in the past but has been restored thanks to European funding, and the park is now part of Natura 2000. It is home to the biggest number of cranes in Europe, up to 80,000, and more than 330 species of birds, some of which are particularly endangered in Europe. This rich biodiversity is fully accessible to visitors, since the Natura 2000 sites aim to combine balanced and sustainable habitat management with the development of tourism or the exploitation of the land or its natural resources.
Another Natura 2000 site, the Saint-Hubert plateau in Belgium, combines nature conservation with hunting. The project to bring back the original fauna and flora of this beautiful site in the heart of the Walloon Region was initiated and is managed by hunters with the support of local landowners.