en The EU Natura 2000 Award: new search begins for Europe’s top conservation achievements The EU Natura 2000 Award: new search begins for Europe’s top conservation achievements Today, the European Commission launches the second edition of the EU Natura 2000 Award. After a highly successful first instalment, this year’s Award will once again honour leading nature conservation achievements connected to the Natura 2000 network. Any organisation or person involved in Natura 2000 – public and local authorities, businesses, NGOs, land owners, educational institutions or individuals – is invited to submit an application by 21 January 2015. 26/11/2014 00:00:00 2 26/11/2014 EUROPA/ The EU Natura 2000 Award: new search begins for Europe’s top conservation achievements ESN en 57-Web home page (text, logo, image of a department) 16-000-EU Institutions and EU Legislation europa european commission Natura 2000 award sustainable green SAC SPA SCI biodiversity tourism hunting farming forestry river management fishing press release BRUSSELS – The EU Natura 2000 Award: new search begins for Europe’s top conservation achievements. ESN Natura 2000 is a network of protected areas of high biodiversity value which helps to preserve our most valuable and threatened species and habitats. The EU Natura 2000 Award highlights the most effective and innovative initiatives for managing and promoting this diverse and precious network. The Award provides an opportunity for individuals or organisations whose work benefits nature across Europe to get the recognition they deserve. This year, these citizens can get involved in the award process by voting for the newly-added ‘EU Citizens’ Award’. The public can vote for applications from any of the five existing categories – Communication, Conservation, Socio-economic benefits, Reconciling interests/perceptions, and Cross-border cooperation and networking. Winners, including the winner of the Citzens’ Award, will be honoured at a high level ceremony in Brussels on 21 May 2015, Natura 2000 Day. Background Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of the EU’s nature and biodiversity policy. Established under the EU’s Birds Directive and Habitats Directive, it is an EU-wide network of over 27,000 terrestrial and marine sites, covering around 20 % of land area and substantial parts of the surrounding seas. The aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species. Functioning ecosystems protected by Natura 2000 benefit human health, society and the economy. Not only does Natura 2000 provide an array of environmental advantages, it also serves essential – and sometimes unnoticed – social and economic functions. Around 4.4 million jobs are directly dependent on the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, a significant proportion of which are situated within Natura 2000 sites. In addition, the financial benefits that flow from the network itself are estimated to be in the region range of €200 to €300 billion per year. Last year’s Award winner in the ‘Socio-economic benefits’ category demonstrated how economic prosperity and biodiversity conservation go hand-in-hand on the ground. The ADEPT Foundation in Romania helps small-scale farmers to increase milk production, receive payments for grassland management and develop a vibrant network of markets. It thus ensures, through the continuation of traditional cattle grazing, that valuable ecosystems are protected. Socio-economic activities are vital, because abandoning agriculture would destroy these valuable habitats. ADEPT was one of five winners selected from an impressive range of over 150 applications for last year’s Award. The other winners included: a pioneering project to save the imperial eagle from electrocution in Bulgaria; a community-based campaign to promote the importance of valuable dry grassland habitats in Czech Republic; a Belgian wetlands project that successfully reconciled the goals of private landowners, the administration and nature organisations; and an expansive Spanish project on networking and cross-border cooperation.