Natura 2000 Awards honour innovation, hard work and partnership
Six outstanding environmental projects from across Europe collected the EU’s prestigious Natura 2000 Awards this year.
Natura 2000 is a network of over 27 000 protected sites covering 18 % of EU land territory and over 5 % of its marine areas, working with local communities to conserve Europe’s natural heritage.
EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella
The 2016 Conservation Award went to the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a water company, United Utilities, restoring blanket bogs in England’s Peak District. Centuries of pollution led to widespread peat erosion, but local volunteers have been painstakingly replanting vegetation to improve water quality and boost bird populations.
Winner of the Communication Award was Latvia’s innovative Nature Concerthall Association, which brings together musicians and scientists to organise free performances on Natura 2000 sites, where audiences also learn about specific habitats and species.
A Franco-Belgian scheme to create green corridors for biodiversity under high-tension power lines won the Reconciling interests/perceptions Award.This initiative tested a nature-based approach to overcoming the challenges of power supplies in forested areas.
Winner in the Socio-economic benefits category was a coalition of organisations working with farmers and small entrepreneurs in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, one of the poorest EU regions, to help them market their products and promote eco-tourism. It has also introduced a ‘payment for ecosystem services’ scheme, which ensures that protecting essential grasslands and water ecosystems gives local businesses economic benefits.
The Hellenic Ornithological Society/Birdlife Greece has worked with eight partners to protect the threatened lesser white-fronted goose throughout its Eurasian migration route. For its achievements in almost doubling the Lesser White Fronted Goose population, the project secured the Cross-border cooperation and Networking Award.
Over 37 000 people cast their vote in the EU Citizen’s Award. The Spanish conservation initiative to save the Iberian lynx – the world's most threatened cat species – from extinction captured the public’s attention, winning with almost 6000 votes.
At the award ceremony in Brussels in May, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella paid tribute to the outstanding work of award-winners in preserving Europe’s natural heritage. “These initiatives have gone a long way towards ensuring that nature’s benefits keep flowing for many years to come,” he declared.