The European Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime affairs Karmenu Vella, together with the high–level Jury members revealed the winners of the 2018 edition of the prestigious European Natura 2000 Award.
Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “I am once again honoured to recognise the people behind the projects we are awarding today, who are working tirelessly to preserve our common natural heritage and support Europe’s exceptional biodiversity. This year as part of the EU Citizens’ Award, over 50 000 people voted for their favourite project to win, which shows how much nature matters to Europeans. Today's celebration of Europe-wide efforts to promote biodiversity will continue with the official EU Natura 2000 day on 21 May.”
The Ceremony was a vibrant event, with around 170 participants including representatives of all the finalists, all the jury members, evaluators, members of the press, EC representatives, EU-wide environmental NGOs, national/regional environmental NGOs, institutes and universities, and permanent representatives of the EU Member States and Regions.
Video of the award ceremony
Press release from the Award ceremony
Pictures of the Award ceremony
And the winners is….
This year, the European Citizens’ Award went to the School of Nature in the North of Portugal which, in a close contest, won with nearly 5000 votes. The project, developed by the Centre of Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation of Viana do Castelo Town Hall, seeks to bring local schoolchildren closer to their unique natural heritage, in Natura 2000. Field trips are organised for pupils to learn about nature first hand and training courses run for teachers on sustainability and nature conservation. A total of 20 000 people have already benefited from the communication programme.
The winners in the other five categories are….
- The Conservation Award went to the Partnership to stop the poisoning of imperial eagles led by BirdLife Hungary. Actions were carried across 20 Hungarian Natura sites and surrounding habitats to track down illegal activities, record mortalities, guard nests and bring conservationists, hunters, police and veterinarians together in the fight against illegal crime. The number of cases of poisoning decreased substantially over the project period and the breeding population has since increased by 36% in the last two years of the project.
- The Communication Award went to Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity. SEO / BirdLife and the news agency, Agencia EFE, have made fantastic efforts to reach out to people through documentaries, workshops, news reports and an information action in 50 hypermarkets. This resulted in an increase in the number of people recognising the term Natura 2000 from 10% to 22% in Spain, with 90% of those knowing of Natura 2000 also choosing to visit Natura 2000 sites.
- The Socio-Economic Benefits Award went to LIFE to alvars: restoration and grazing reintroduction for 2500 hectares of Estonian alvar grassland managed by the Environmental Board of Estonia and partners. The LIFE project restors alvar grassland in 19 Natura 2000 sites in close cooperation with over 600 landowners. Local farmers are now continuing to manage the grasslands with the help of a dedicated agri-environment scheme. The project also helped farmers create additional revenue by finding uses for the timber harvested during the restoration actions, and by marketing the meat and wool derived from the extensive grazing activities, thus changing substantially the local communities’ perception of Natura 2000.
- The Reconciling Interests/Perception Award went to Co-existing with bears in the 21st century: Difficulties and achievements focused in the district of Kastoria, Greece, which is of strategic importance as a communication corridor for the brown bear between Greece and the Western Balkans. With the support of LIFE funding, the Greek NGO CALLISTO installed different measures on the newly-built motorway to prevent collisions between bears and vehicles. It also established a network of guard dog owners, installed ‘bear-proof’ waste-bins and electric fences to protect beehives and orchards in order to reduce human-bear conflicts. Thanks to these efforts bear fatalities have been drastically reduced and the local community has become much more tolerant of the bears.
- The Cross-border Cooperation and Networking Award went to Joint conservation efforts across three continents to save the sacred bird. The partnership between BirdLife members in Greece, the United Kingdom and Bulgaria and WWF Greece, trained 178 custom officers in Greece and Bulgaria to control the illegal trade in Egyptian vultures. They also helped farmers in Bulgaria to manage pastures for the benefit of the species and insulated over 400 electricity pylons in Greece and Bulgaria. The project is part of the larger Flyway Action Plan for the Conservation of the Balkan and Central Asian Populations of Egyptian Vulture (EVFAP), involving 26 countries.