LIFE ELCN - Development of a European private land conservation network

LIFE16 PRE/DE/000005

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Contact details:

Contact person: Konstantin KREISER
Tel: +49 30 2849841601
Email: Konstantin.Kreiser@nabu.de

Project description:


Over the past two decades, EU Member States have dedicated considerable resources to biodiversity protection, especially through designation and proper management of the Natura 2000 network. But the network’s effectiveness for achieving or preserving a favourable status of the habitats and species of Union interest remains mixed. Moreover, the benefits of Natura 2000 have been outweighed by continued and growing pressure on biodiversity in the EU. Current rates of extinction in the EU remain critically high and lend support for regulatory measures to be complemented by private initiatives. Without additional efforts, in particular from the private and civic sector, the targets of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and Natura 2000 will not be reached.

Private land conservation can contribute to the management of the Natura 2000 network and help protect biodiversity in the wider countryside. Interest in alternative approaches to land conservation both within and outside the EU has increased. New instruments for private land conservation have been developed, including cooperative mechanisms, various forms of voluntary agreements with or by landowners willing to conserve biodiversity values on their land, the creative use of property law, and the systematic involvement of volunteers. The underlying premise of many of these initiatives is the acknowledgement that for properties in private ownership, regulation alone cannot fully achieve an optimal land use compatible with desirable conservation objectives. If fundamental questions of land ownership and land use interests are not adequately addressed, conservation management cannot be successfully implemented.

Private land conservation in the EU is still relatively undeveloped compared to other regions in the world, such as North America (the US and Canada), Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), and South America (Chile, Argentina, Belize, Costa Rica and other countries). In the EU, private land conservation has traditionally taken two forms. Either civil-society conservation NGOs have become landowners and managed properties for conservation purposes themselves, or land users (mostly farmers) have been paid subsidies for temporary conservation actions on their land. While the importance of both strategies for the conservation of biodiversity in the EU is unquestionable, other forms of private land conservation, such as using conservation easements for the perpetual protection of private properties, have not yet developed into robust, broadly applied strategies. To date, private land conservation tools in the EU are still very heterogeneous and generally not well known.


The LIFE ELCN project aims to develop a network of organisations and individuals active in private land conservation. The network will support private landowners (non-public bodies or individuals) who are willing to engage in conservation on at least part of their land. It will build on similar efforts that have taken place recently, namely the idea of creating a European Landowners Alliance for Wildlands and Nature, which was presented by Eurosite, Fondació Catalunya La Pedreda, DBU, The Wild Foundation and other organisations in 2013, at the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain. This inspired a similar initiative in 2014, which called upon the formation of a European Land Stewardship Network at the final conference of the award-winning LANDLIFE project (LIFE10 INF/ES/00540) in Barcelona, Spain. In parallel to the momentum created by the LANDLIFE project and with strong personal and institutional overlap, the International Land Conservation Network was founded in September 2014 in Providence, USA, establishing the first global network of private land conservation practitioners.

These efforts culminated in the organisation of the first annual conference of the International Land Conservation Network in October 2015 in Berlin, Germany. At this event, two studies mandated by the European Commission were presented to an international audience of private land conservation representatives from six continents: ‘Alternative Ways to Support Private Land Conservation’, which detailed innovative private land conservation tools and the potential for upscaling them in the EU; and ‘LIFE and Land Stewardship’, which outlined the contribution of the LIFE programme to land stewardship approaches in the EU. The latter highlighted the LIFE projects that have offered best practice examples of providing incentives to private landowners (farmers, foresters etc.) or holders of rights (fishing, hunting, etc.) to engage in nature-friendly management. Many of the projects described in the report were represented at the Berlin conference and form the partnership of organisations behind the project.

The need for the project was also highlighted by the EU Action Plan for nature, people and the economy, which was published in the summer 2017, and emphasises the goal of strengthening investment in Natura 2000 through stimulating private sector investment in nature projects. Several actions on different aspects of private land conservation incentives will contribute to a strengthening of these approaches in the Member States of the beneficiaries and at European level. The project will hold three workshops and an international conference to communicate its aims.

Expected results:

  • The development and testing of new methods and tools for private land conservation;
  • The replication of the project results; and
  • The establishment and sustainable institutionalisation of a European Land Conservation Network (ELCN).



Environmental issues addressed:


Information - Governance - Environmental training - Capacity building
Land-use & Planning - Sensitive and protected areas management
Information - Governance - Public and Stakeholders participation


land use planning‚  landscape conservation policy‚  biodiversity‚  landscape‚  agroforestry‚  land use

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Directive 2009/147 - Conservation of wild birds - Birds Directive (codified version of Directive ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. Bundesverband
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The NABU (Naturschutzbund) is the largest nature conservation organisation in Germany with more than 590 000 members. It is structured in four geographical levels, consisting of one federal and 16 state (Länder) associations, and more than 2 000 regional and local groups. NABU focuses on the preservation of habitats and biodiversity, the promotion of sustainability in agriculture, forest management and water supply and distribution, as well as the promotion of nature conservation. It has extensive experience of private land conservation as a private landowner (its foundation owns more than 16 000 ha of conservation land) and by cooperating with other private landowners.
Partners Natuurpunt, Belgium Fundación Biodiversidad, Spain Xarxa de Custodia del Territori, Spain Eurosite, The Netherlands Montis, Portugal Fundatia ADEPT, Romania ELY Centre Lapland, Finland IMA-Europe, Belgium WWF Oasi, Italy


Project reference LIFE16 PRE/DE/000005
Duration 01-MAY-2017 to 31-JUL -2020
Total budget 1,059,677.00 €
EU contribution 620,000.00 €
Project location Berlin(Deutschland)


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