Natura 2000 Award
With the evaluation process complete, a shortlist of 22 Natura 2000 projects was selected from the 163 applications received for the 2014 Natura 2000 Award. Five winners, one for each award category, were chosen by a high-level Jury and their names announced at a prestigious Award Ceremony in Brussels on 21 May 2014.
The Award recognises excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites, showcases the added value of the Natura 2000 network for local economies and increases public awareness about Europe’s valuable natural heritage.
A divine 'Special protection area' for the lesser kestrel – Spain
Colonias de Cernícalo Primilla de Almendralejo – ES0000331
This application covers the conservation efforts carried out by Defensa y Estudio del Medio Ambiente (DEMA), which were dedicated to the recovery of a lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) breeding colony in the ‘Special protection area’ (SPA) Colonias de Cernícalo Primilla de Almendralejo. This site is located in a church on the urban perimeter of Almendralejo, Spain. For 24 years, DEMA has dedicated its work to raising awareness and involving local people in the conservation of this lesser kestrel colony, which has made the Purification Church its home. Actions carried out have included the installation and maintenance of 179 artificial nests specifically designed for lesser kestrels, an annual census of the colony and the collection and recovery of lesser kestrel chicks that have fallen from nests.
Ornithological tourism has also been promoted through the creation of an observation point, a photography hide and the organisation of guided tours. The results have been very positive: in 1990 the colony had 18 to 20 breeding pairs, but since the installation of the nests, this has increased to 80 to 84 pairs. Some 99% of these birds now occupy artificial nests. This is the biggest Spanish colony located in only one building. Following DEMA's proposal, the site was declared the first urban SPA in Europe in 2004. The birds used to nest under the roof tiles of the church, causing damage to the building. The installation of artificial nests has shown that cultural and natural interests can be compatible.
Saving of the imperial eagle: insulating electricity grid to secure hunting and breeding grounds - Bulgaria
Sakar – BG0002021
This project managed to eliminate one of the most serious conservation problems facing the globally threatened imperial eagle: electrocution. This caused 67% of juvenile mortalities within the breeding territories of 30% of the Bulgarian eagle population, concentrated in Sakar ‘Special protection area’ (SPA), between 2009 and 2013. The project is of the highest importance, not only because Bulgaria harbours some 10% of the EU population, but also because this viable population is the only one within the EU that carry ‘Anatolian’ genes, which make them unique. The project managed to secure 595 hazardous electricity poles along 59 km, and as a result, no electrocuted eagles have been recorded recently.
This has contributed to an observed 25% increase in the number of breeding pairs. One notable achievement was to attract as partner the electricity supply company (EVN AG), which operates in south-eastern Bulgaria where 100% of the nests are located. Thus the effort was split between BSPB, which provided insulation caps, and EVN, which mounted them. Convinced of the mutual benefits, the company has developed a project to convert 46 km of overhead power lines into underground cables, to replace another 15 km of bare line with insulated cable and retrofit 2 740 pylons. As a result, the LIFE12 NAT/BG/000572 project will help to secure the future of over 80% of the Bulgarian imperial eagle population.
Montecristo, the largest Mediterranean island, got rid of the rats - Italy
Isola di Montecristo e Formica di Montecristo - Area terrestre e marina – IT5160014
Montecristo Island, the remotest Italian island, is a ‘Special protected area’ (SPA) which hosts a population of breeding yelkouan shearwaters (4-12% of the EU population). Rat predation had been identified as the main threat to this bird species. Black rats were also believed to be having a negative impact on plant communities, in particular the holm oak. Project Life08 NAT/IT/353 Montecristo 2010 included an extensive rat eradication campaign carried out in winter 2011/12. Activities started in 2010 with preliminary tests and protocols for the amount and delivery mode of poisonous baits.
For the latter, helicopters were used, except for a 25 ha area which was treated manually using special dispensers. Already in the following breeding season, 2-6 months after the baits were laid, positive results were observed. Some 95% of shearwater pairs reproduced, and improvements were noted in oak stands. Other benefits expected in the longer term are an increase of shearwater population size and re-colonisation of other endangered seabird species, such as the Mediterranean storm petrel.
New iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) population reintroduction strategies - Spain
Guadalmellato – ES6130006
By the early 21st century, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) was on the brink of extinction, with only 100 individuals living in two isolated locations: Doñana and Andújar-Cardeña. This situation led the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to categorise the Iberian lynx as ‘critically endangered’. In order to address this urgent situation, new populations needed to be reintroduced. Project LIFE06NAT/E/000209 took up this challenge. The selection and preparation of possible reintroduction areas was performed following IUCN guidelines.
Two areas of potential for holding long-term stable Iberian lynx populations were identified: Guadalmellato (Córdoba) and Guarrizas (Jaén). By 2009, the first releases began in Guadalmellato. One year later, they began in Guarrizas. The first releases were performed as soft releases (after a period of confinement, to help the animals adapt), which were gradually replaced by hard releases (directly into the wild). The reintroduced individuals came from both from the wild and from the captive breeding programme. Currently, the Guadalmellato population is 36, while the Guarrizas Iberian lynx population is 30. These results show that both the foundation and consolidation of two new stable populations in areas of former distribution can be achieved through reintroduction. These have become stable home ranges, with natural reproduction confirmed.
The comeback of burnt black pine forests on Mount Parnon, South Peloponnese - Greece
Oros Parnonas (Kai Periochi Malevis) – GR2520006
The black pine forests within the ‘Special area of conservation’ (SAC) Oros Parnonas (kai periochi Malevis), South Peloponnese, Greece had been severely damaged in August 2007 by a vast forest fire. Some 540 ha of the burnt area of this priority habitat type ‘Mediterranean pine forests with endemic black pine’ located on the SAC GR2520006 site have been restored. The undisturbed regeneration of a further 341 ha of black pine owes its success to the grazing ban and effective protective measures by the applicants.
Overall the re-establishment of the black pine forest has begun in approximately 46% of the burnt area of the priority habitat type on the site. Restoration of black pine forests was planned and carried out using an innovative structured approach. Restoration results and this structured approach were widely communicated during European and national meetings, as well as included in a special publication regarding the post-fire management and restoration of southern European forests, and the team’s work received several encouraging comments from European and Greek experts. Restoration interventions were successful not only in delivering results, but also in establishing close and smooth working relations among several partners. The continuation of conservation actions will greatly benefit from this achievement.
The daring Dutch: restoring the dynamic dunes - Netherlands
Kennemerland-Zuid – NL1000012
For centuries, the most important role of the Netherlands’ coastal dunes has been to protect the low-lying areas from the sea. And now, against all tradition, five gigantic 100-150 m wide holes have been dug to once again give the wind free rein and allow the dunes to drift. By also setting five dune complexes further inland free to drift with the wind, a large-scale, dynamic dune landscape has been created with characteristic habitats of white dunes, grey dunes and humid valleys. Through centuries of ‘containment’ and recent damage by nitrogen-rich precipitation, the calcareous dunes became overgrown and acidified. Types of Grey dunes disappeared and White dunes were also lost.
This nature preservation project is unique in the world. It was commenced by PWN and Natuurmonumenten and realised in 2012/2013, together with the Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland, responsible for protecting the coast. The plan was elaborated with scientists and fine-tuned in consultation with the concerned municipalities, nature groups, cultural historians and other interested parties. The project was financed by the European LIFE+ Regulation and the province of North-Holland. Some 220 000 m3 of sand was excavated and reused for the shoaling of a lake. The developments were monitored in detail, and after the storm season of 2013 it can be seen that the dynamics in the coastal dunes are superlative.
Tarnava Mare: promoting viability of agricultural communities to protect a Natura 2000 landscape - Romania
Sighișoara-Târnava Mare - ROSCI0227
The ‘Site of community importance’ (SCI) at Sighișoara-Târnava Mare SCI is an 85 000 ha lowland (400-800 m) area combining high natural value and extensive, mixed farming. This semi-natural landscape was designated an SCI in 2007, on the basis of aquatic life, wetlands, damp grassland, dry grassland and forest habitats listed in the Habitats Directive, as well as many associated fauna and flora species listed in the Birds and Habitats Directives. Successful management of the area calls for continued support for current farming practices, which are becoming less and less economically viable. Abandonment of the farms or intensification of the farming practices would destroy the habitats.
Socio-economic benefits are not ancillary to the good management of this site: they are the main means of its protection. Between 2009 and 2013, ADEPT carried out an integrated programme using Natura 2000 designation as a catalyst for reviving the area’s economic vitality; a central core for a range of supporting activities. ADEPT developed: habitat and species guides for schools, farmers, local government; nature lessons for 200 students per year; agri-environment payments for grassland management; innovative machinery; model micro-scale processing units; a logo and marketing for products and services; a network of farmers’ markets; a network of mountain bike trails; and training for farmers, producers, nature guides and guesthouse operators. The project has increased income by more than €2.5 million annually for over 2 300 farming families, and also has wider influence as a management model.
Island of Tiengemeten: welcome to unique nature near the city - Netherlands
Haringvliet - NL1000015
Tiengemeten is a small Island in the Haringvliet (a Natura 2000 site), a large water body located in the south-western part of the Netherlands. Between 2006 and 2012 this island has developed from an agricultural region into an internationally renowned area of nature, compromising almost 1 000 ha. To achieve this, landowner Natuurmonumenten worked with many stakeholders, including local and national governments on a development plan entitled ‘Weemoed, Weelde en Wildernis’.
The cultural heritage of the island has also been kept, with duck decoys, farms and dykes preserved. Aesthetic values, outdoor recreation and communication were included in the plans, in order to encourage people to fully experience and enjoy the island’s nature. Extensive hiking and cycling trails are available along with other visitor facilities such as a parking lot, ferry to the island, viewpoints and bird hides. There is also a natural playground and historical farm museums. Natuurmonumenten launched an intensive marketing campaign in 2013 to attract more people to visit the island, and to support Natura 2000 areas. Tiengemeten is now an important recreation area for the 2 million inhabitants of the Rijnmond region, located less than 25 km from Tiengemeten. Tiengemeten welcomed 50 000 visitors in 2013 and over 150 volunteers received these visitors.
Strážovské vrchy: a living and rich region - Slovakia
Strážovské Vrchy - SKUEV0256
The main aim of this project was to restore long-abandoned and degraded meadows and pastures in Strážovské-vrchy region. Their poor state was a consequence of an overall decline in farming over the past 20 years. To support farmers interested in nature-friendly practices, the project conducted an ‘ecological audit’ of the region and prepared and promoted an online map of nature-friendly farms, which includes contact details and their products on offer.
In this way, the project increased the economic viability of the region by restoring 65 ha of biodiversity-rich grassland habitats; most of which belong to the Natura 2000network. The grasslands will be used in the long-term by the local farmers. These positive examples also motivate their colleagues, as they can see that ecological farming can pay off. Thanks to the personal contributions from farmers in restoring and maintaining valuable grassland habitats, the activities were highly cost-effective. Moreover, the restored pastures and meadows create more farm produce, so traditional land use can return to the region.
Knowing and preserving the 12 bat species of Alviela’s cave - Portugal
Serras de Aire e Candeeiros - PTCON0015
Public opinion is a key element in the conservation of threatened species. For example, environmental awareness is crucial to bat conservation, by expanding knowledge and contributing to a change in attitude by dispelling myths and fears. Bat observatories can be a key tool in educating the public, because they allow people to observe these animals in their natural habitats.
The Centro Ciência Viva do Alviela Observatory contains four infra-red cameras located inside a cave in the Rede Natura 2000 site. This cave serves as a roost for a number of bat species, including Miniopterus schreibersii, Myotis myotis, M. emarginatus, M. blythii, M. escalerai , M. bechsteinii and Eptesicus serotinus, to name but a few. Images from the observatory are available to the public at an interactive exhibition at the Centro Ciência Viva do Alviela, which is totally dedicated to bats. Communication activities have also sought to increase public awareness of the bat’s importance. Between the months of April and September, for example, the ‘Noite dos Morcegos’ (Bats’ night) is held. This is an outdoor activity that allows visitors to observe these creatures up close in their natural habitat.
Rediscovered Steppes of the Louny region - Czech Republic
Raná-Hrádek - CZ0424033
This project focused on promoting and protecting dry grassland habitats in the Louny region of North Bohemia, most particularly SCI Raná-Hrádek and SCI Oblík-Srdov-Brník, both ‘Sites of community importance’. The initiative aimed to communicate the immense value of these Natura 2000 sites and their importance in various ways. For example, information boards have been installed on access paths, and materials (also available in English) distributed through local information centres, on trains and at public events. Field trips to these sites have been organised for the general public, schools, universities and experts, with special attention paid to school children.
In addition to participation in classes, the project also organises an annual art competition with a nature theme (in 2013, some 30 schools and clubs took part). Educational materials are then produced using the best pictures, which gives kids a sense of pride in their work. Good cooperation with local teachers has been established. The biggest event for the general public is the annual ‘Celebration of steppes’, which takes place in May in SCI Raná-Hrádek. Every year more than 1 000 people attend. The project has also had success with seminars such as the recent ‘Pasture as traditional management of steppes’, where practical issues to support farming were addressed.
A way of public relations: the contact office ‘Wolves in Saxony’ - Germany
Raklitza Und Teiche Bei Rietschen - DE4554301
After 150 years of absence in Germany, the first free living wolf pack was re-established in 2000 in Saxony. Since then wolves have been dispersed in Saxony and other parts of the country. The challenge now is to deal with prejudices, changes in herding methods and human fears. Public acceptance is a keystone to the coexistence of wolves and people. In order to dispel false information and to answer questions about wolves, the ‘Kontaktbu¨ro Wolfsregion Lausitz’ (‘Wolves in Saxony’ Contact Office) was established by the Saxon State Ministry of Environment and Agriculture in 2004 as the main wolf information centre for the public, the media and local authorities. It is in the responsibility of the regional county government of Görlitz.
The goal is to deliver information about wolf biology, behaviour, distribution and livestock protection methods in an objective, factual and straightforward way. More than 200 target-group oriented lectures and educational booths are organised yearly. The office is responsible for writing press releases, publishing newsletters and flyers as well as maintaining a wolf exhibition and a website with up-to-date information. The ‘Wolves in Saxony’ Contact Office is a unique facility unprecedented in Germany and Europe.
Natura 2000 goes to school - Austria
March-Thaya-Auen - AT1202000
Auring, a small society based in Hohenau/March in Lower Austria, offers a number of environmental education projects all year round. One particular project, entitled ‘Natura 2000 goes school’, sought to give both children and adults access to a fascinating Natura 2000 region. The Natura 2000 March-Thaya-Auen site was taken as an example to show how important and vulnerable these regions are. The project, which took place between 2009 and 2011, combined indoor and outdoor days for local primary schools to help increase their knowledge and awareness of this European network.
The project successfully increased enthusiasm for Natura 2000 among children and teachers alike, and kids were able to turn theoretical knowledge about ecology and nature, acquired in class, into tangible first-hand conservation experience. In addition, several times a year the entire population of the region is invited to join field trips and festivals to experience the Natura 2000 site in all its diversity. The project is easily transferable to other regions due to its clear concept; content may vary depending on location, as can the number of participating schools depending on financial resources.
A spatial optimisation tool to support implementation of conservation objectives in Flanders - Belgium
Kalmthoutse Heide – BE2100015
The Flemish government has set up a participatory process designed to formulate conservation targets for ‘Special areas of conservation’ (SACs). This includes the realisation of an extra 41 000 to 55 000 ha of habitats, in addition to areas currently present. In a densely populated, intensively farmed and highly industrialised region, spatial allocation of extra habitat is subject to complex negotiations and conflicts between different stakeholders. In order to allocate extra habitats in an ecologically and socio-economically sound way, the project approached the allocation as an optimisation problem.
Potential solutions with a spatial, high-resolution land use model were explored. All valid allocations had to comply to a range of boundary conditions, implemented to conform with the legal requirements of the Habitats Directive. This led to an optimal solution for the allocation of 46 000 ha of habitats over all SACs. This was warmly welcomed by all stakeholders, as it enabled the delivery of a globally optimal solution in a transparent and participatory manner. This approach, in which a participatory process is supported by custom-made, science-based decision-supporting tools, has proven to be highly innovative and effective, and unique within the Natura 2000 network in Flanders.
The first complex long-term contract in the Czech Republic concerning Natura 2000 management – Czech Republic
Podtrosecká údolí – CZ0514113
The Nature Conservation Agency (NCA) of the Czech Republic, together with the Association of Municipal and Private Forest Owners (SVOL) in the Czech Republic, the European Landowners’ Organisation (ELO), owners of the Kinský dal Borgo estate and relevant regional authorities established a working group with the objective of finding an ideal stakeholder consultation process. Eight ‘Special areas of conservation’ (SACs) were the subject of the process and conservation measures were agreed upon for all of them.
The areas where the NCA is the single nature conservation authority were subsequently covered by a complex long-term contract. It is an important milestone in nature conservation and landscape protection in the country: the document defines which activities shall be carried out voluntarily, which ones are obligatory and which will be avoided. The contract also specifies the conditions concerning the compensation for damages and loss of income caused by nature conservation provisions, with concrete formulas and figures. The stakeholder consultation and the resulting contract are considered a model process that is well worth replicating.
Management of Lake Lesser Prespa through a multi-stakeholder participation process - Greece
Ethnikos drymos prespon – GR1340001
This application concerns an ongoing multi-stakeholder wetland management process for Lesser Prespa Lake in Prespa National Park, Greece. The core of this process is a Wetland Management Committee (WMC) that has gradually led to local stakeholders taking full responsibility for management activities since 2012. The WMC was established by the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) as a means of sustaining the outcomes of a LIFE-Nature project, which initiated integrated wetland management in the area. Between 2009 and 2013, with the support and the initiatives of the SPP and the Prespa National Park Management Body (PNPMB), this committee has gradually evolved and expanded its membership.
Today it represents a unique multi-participatory wetland management process; the first of its kind in Greece and often cited as a successful model. In addition to its innovative character, another very important aspect is that local inhabitants undertake most of the management programme, implementing activities such as reedbed cutting and grazing, which are of benefit to both nature and the local economy. This approach ensures the long-term continuation of the process and consequently the sustainable management of Lesser Prespa Lake. The applicants have both played a leading role in this process: the SPP as the founding member and active member of the WMC and the PNPMB as the designated authority for wetland management in Prespa.
The Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve – United Kingdom
Lyme Bay and Torbay – UK0030372
Lyme Bay, a world heritage site and habitat for globally significant flora and fauna, is also home to an active fishing community and supports significant tourism. Despite implementation of the Lyme Bay & Torbay ‘Special area of conservation’ (SAC) in 2008, banning destructive mobile fishing gear in a 60 square mile zone, pot and line fishing increased to such a degree that it led to unsustainable fishing and damage to the protected reef. Not only did this threaten the habitat but also had dramatic implications for the future of the region’s fishing community and local economy. In an attempt to solve the problem, in 2011, the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) convened informal meetings with fishermen, regulators and conservationists.
This was a considerable achievement in itself as these meetings brought together traditionally “warring” parties around the same table and, as a result, they collectively formed a new body, the Lyme Bay Working Group. Since then BLUE has been working with local fishermen to enable them to create a sustainable and profitable future for their businesses. In the long-term, fishermen will be able to catch more with less effort and retain access to their traditional fishing ground. This revolutionary model of self-management will financially benefit and motivate fishing communities to fish in more sustainable ways. This project has been hailed as a “world-first” given its radical collaborative approach involving fishermen in stock management and research.
The LIFE+ 3WATER Project: a model for sustainable cooperation - Belgium
Vijvercomplex Van Midden Limburg – BE2219312
The EU-funded LIFE+ 3WATER project, located in the heart of the Natura 2000 Vijvergebied van Midden Limburg site, represents an innovative and open partnership between local landowners, nature organisations and cities, as well as the province and other stakeholders. Key target species were the bittern (a bird that belongs to the heron family) and the tree frog. Partners joined together in a ‘3E’ approach, balancing Economy, Ecology and Education to ensure that the project area remains a viable place for nature, business and tourism well into the future. The actions taken were fully in line with the 3E approach.
These included a massive restoration of the traditional open landscape, the restoration of ponds, building new reed islands for the bittern to keep away predators, new ponds and open landscapes designed specifically for the tree frog as well as the restoration of traditional wet and dry heather in the area. To ensure public knowledge about the project, a documentary is being produced, as well as an education package for local schoolchildren. All project sites have been enhanced with signs and notices concerning Natura 2000 and the key species, while many open and visitors’ days have been organised, to ensure that the cooperative model established is spread as far as possible. The 3WATER project has created a dramatic shift towards positive attitudes and cooperation in the area, and will continue to do so.
When hunting overlaps conservation : raptors community interest - France
Gorges du Tarn et de la Jonte - FR9110105
In the Languedoc-Roussillon region, the Natura 2000 ecological network has face challenges. The Languedoc-Roussillon region has vast (33%) areas dedicated to Natura 2000. Poor communication and a lack of strategy for implementing Natura 2000 policy at the local level led to misunderstanding, reluctance, and in some cases even tension. So in 2009, the Regional Federation of Hunters (Fédération Régionale des Chasseurs) ran a project entitled ‘ChasNat 2000: Awareness-raising of the Natura 2000 Network Among Hunters’, under the framework of the Sustainable Hunting Initiative – a communication project launched by the European Commission.
ChasNat2000 is an active example of this project. Hunters can help to test an innovative method of ‘rural participatory diagnosis’, where working groups discussing the Natura 2000 management plans for hunting activities encourage hunters to actively contribute. Today, the hunters’ organisational bodies are involved in virtually all Natura 2000 areas in the region and particularly in the ‘Special protection areas’ (SPA) designated for birds of prey. A positive outcome of this, for example, is that the Federation of Hunters of Lozère now runs a Natura 2000 SPA, ‘Gorge du tarn et de la Jonte’, created to conserve 25 species of birds of community interest (including Gyps fulvus, Aegypius monachus and Nephron percnopterus – all types of vulture).
Association of Natura 2000 site managers of Brittany: a human network serving the Natura 2000 policy - France
Rivière Elorn - FR5300024
In Brittany, the regional environment directorate (DREAL) has been an active part of the Natura 2000 network for 10 years, mainly through organising training days for site managers. However, it was felt that more action was needed for managers to share their experiences, skills and expertise. To improve the day-to-day implementation of the Natura 2000 policy, an association of Natura 2000 Brittany site managers was created, a group made up of site managers for site managers. Its goals are to encourage the exchange of experiences within the network, to represent site managers in dealings with regional institutions or other decision-making entities and strengthen the ownership of this policy by local elected representatives. Stemming from an initial group that met several times to develop projects, the association was officially created in 2011, bringing together all of Brittany’s Natura 2000 site managers.
Today, 38 members (each managing one or more Natura 2000 sites) carry out the association’s objectives. Each member can contribute to the actions of the association by: meeting state departments, being involved in decision-making entities, drafting press articles to promote the network and its benefits, and so on. Now after two years of development, the association is ready to pursue new projects. It is the first association of its kind in France; it is an inspiration for other regions.
Quality standards for Natura 2000 site ‘Rebollar de navalpotro’ management plan - Spain
Rebollar de Navalpotro - ES4240012
In Spain, all public authorities responsible for the management of Natura 2000 sites are busy drafting and approving management plans for all ‘Sites of community importance’ and ‘Special protected areas’. There are over 20 different public administrations – due to the high degree of decentralisation – conducting these plans, often without a common approach. To ensure the consistency of the network and that it reaches the goal of maintaining ‘favourable conservation status’ for all habitat types and species of community interest, the Fundación Fernando González Bernáldez and EUROPARC Spain have launched a technical cooperation network covering all administrations (local, regional and national) to develop practical tools for the effective management of the Natura 2000 network.
Actions taken include the formalisation of a working group with more than 90 technicians, thematic workshops, the development and dissemination of a quality standard for management plans, its pilot implementation in a sample site of community importance, and the creation and maintenance of a reference website on the state of development of the Natura 2000 network in Spain. ‘Rebollar of Navalpotro’ in Guadalajara, Castilla La Mancha – a site of community importance – was selected as an exemplary area where all of these actions have been successfully applied. The project has resulted in the development of a management plan according to the quality criteria and best practices identified in the cooperation network.
Cross-regional cooperation to enhance the natural structure and public awareness of the Sonien Forest - Belgium
Zoniënwoud - BE2400008
The Sonian Forest, connected to Brussels, consists of 4 400 ha of top European nature. Each year, several million tourists visit the forest which is home for several Natura 2000 listed species. In 1980, the forest was legally assigned to three Belgian regions: 56% to the Flemish Region, 38% to the Brussels-Capital Region and 6% to the Walloon Region. In the past, the three regions each took care of the forest within their own territories. However, in 2008, the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels-Capital Regions decided to work together to better coordinate the various functions of the forest and its uses. Thereby, the three regions delineated the future of the forest in a ‘Structural vision for the Sonian Forest’ and committed themselves to cooperate more intensively to strengthen the forest.
Improved cooperation between the regions, from 2009 onwards, led to multiple successes: inventories, meetings on management plans, establishment of a participatory platform, improved public information by using a website and other publications. Furthermore, the cross-regional cooperation triggered a process to establish a recreational network and five entrance gates where visitors are welcomed to the forest and informed about Natura 2000, forest management and future projects. In order to enhance the mutual ecological, economic and social benefits, more cooperative projects will start between the three regions, different users and municipalities involved in the forest’s management.