Restoring green corridors to preserve biodiversity in the Rhône-Alpes region

RegioStars 2012 FinalistThe Rhône-Alpes is leading a strategy to preserve and restore a series of ‘green corridors’ on its territory to reduce the erosion of biodiversity. Five areas are receiving support under a system of innovative funding contracts concluded with local stakeholders.

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The fragmentation of natural areas due to human activity is one of the primary causes of biodiversity loss in industrialised countries. In the Rhône-Alpes region, a series of ‘green corridors’ is being created in ‘at risk’ areas to facilitate the movement of wildlife and preserve the rich local biological network.

These green corridors are being created through a system of land contracts based on a detailed five-year action programme which are financially supported by the region (average 50 % with a total grant limited to EUR 1 million per contract).

Five corridor contracts are now in place and cover 5 % of the Rhône-Alpes region (Grésivaudan, Bauges-Chartreuse, Chartreuse-Belledonne, Massif Central, Saint-Etienne).

Restoring sustainable corridors

The key objectives of the contracts are to restore corridors, ensure their sustainability and to improve knowledge on species and their habitat. They also set out to foster ‘green’ agricultural practices to protect biodiversity and counter obstacles to biodiversity continuity.

Contracts play a key role in the sustainable development of the region by mainstreaming biodiversity issues into all policies (urban, agricultural, etc.), fostering awareness-raising on the long term objectives and creating long-lasting infrastructure that preserves the ecological continuity of the region.

The starting point for the process is the mapping of the ecological networks in the region, which forms the working basis for all local players wishing to engage in ecological projects in their areas and ensures they are both participants and beneficiaries of the project.

Developing regional strategies

Today, five contracts have already been agreed and four others are in preparation, of which one is a cross-border contract with Switzerland. They will form the basis of the ‘Regional Scheme of Ecological Coherence’ (SRCE), an environmental strategy that each French region will have to jointly elaborate with the State by 2012. A key success factor in the project has been the development of strong partnerships: the actions are jointly led by local associations, road infrastructure organisations, infrastructure users, land owners, farmers, and local authorities. A total of 71 public partners, 19 associations, and eight private companies are involved in this elaborate, multi-disciplinary approach.

The contracts have, for example, initiated the construction of crossing points for wildlife, the planting of hedgerows, the implementation of agro-environmental measures, the restoration of riverbanks, awareness-raising actions, the management of wetlands, and the acquisition of land by the regional authorities. Moreover, the contracts create jobs, with the region financing 50 % of the salary of the engineers responsible for their coordination.

Once the contract/funding phase is completed, the cost of the daily functioning of the infrastructures will be almost neutral. Management costs are relatively low and can be assured by local and regional authorities alone.

Total and EU funding

The project “Green Corridors Contracts” has a total eligible budget of EUR 18 785 173 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 7 119 349 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

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