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Grasslands, scrubland & bogs: LIFEnews features 2011

LIFE on the front line of nature conservation in military areas

(Photo: LIFE05 NAT/B/00088) (Photo: LIFE05 NAT/B/00088)

Military training grounds cover vast tracts of land in the EU. These areas support an array of priority habitats and species which receive de facto protection from the military’s presence. LIFE acknowledges the nature conservation role played by European armed forces and many examples of good practice have been supported by the Programme that help strengthen partnerships between Natura 2000 managers and EU defence bodies.

Military organisations are often large land owners in Member States. Much of this military land is isolated, endures relatively limited amounts of human activity and exists in natural or semi-natural states. Such a significant landmass represents and an important ecological resource and the Natura 2000 network has established a strong track record for successful working with EU military bodies. Results from this activity continue to help safeguard the long-term conservation status of protected EU species and habitats.

LIFE’s military roles reflect the Programme’s guiding principles of supporting EU added value actions with strong demonstration value and transferability. Contributions to the Birds and Habitat Directives also remain intrinsic elements of LIFE’s interventions in military grounds.

Military conservation tools developed through LIFE projects include initiatives supporting the preparation and implementation of wildlife management plans for training areas. Increasingly these types of plans are focused on improving the functionality of green infrastructure within military areas. Works are co-financed under this heading to help increase coverage and quality of habitats for fauna and flora, as well as strengthen linkages and protect connectivity between habitat features.

In addition, LIFE has also been able to provide valuable inputs that are necessary for negotiating agreements and facilitating networking between military decision makers and local nature conservation stakeholders. Conclusions from this activity have created better working relations among key players. Direct benefits emerging from such essential dialogue has led to positive outcomes for wildlife, like reducing disturbance risks for priority species during sensitive periods and improved monitoring of military impacts.

Conservation capacity building

(Photo: LIFE05 NAT/B/00088) (Photo: LIFE05 NAT/B/00088)

All of these types of LIFE support have helped to build the military’s capacity for effective nature conservation operations and LIFE projects’ outcomes continue to be mainstreamed into manuals for military training manoeuvres. Such actions have good multiplier effects in terms of improving long-term awareness among armed forces personnel about how to reduce their environmental footprints.

A LIFE Focus brochure, titled LIFE and the military, was produced on this topic in 2005, and since then other new LIFE projects have taken up positions on the front line of nature conservation in military grounds. These include:

  • Hungary’s LIFE08 NAT/H/000289 seeking a sustainable balance between the needs of military activity and the status of priority-listed Pannonic sand land habitats;
  • Belgium’s LIFE05 NAT/B/000088 involving information for army staff on training methods that limit unintentional damage to rare habitats and species in Wallonia;
  • Slovakia’s LIFE06 NAT/SK/000115 addressing forest and scrubland succession in sand dunes habitats at the Zahorie military training base; and         
  • Latvia’s LIFE06 NAT/LV/000110 enhancing biological diversity in the Adazi Natura 2000 site’s armed forces area;   

Visit our thematic page for a more comprehensive list of LIFE's work with the EU armed forces.

For yet more examples of projects funded by the programme, visit the LIFE project database.

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