Managing tourism in special areas of conservation

While visitors to Latvia’s Natura 2000 sites are welcome, the impact they have on the environment they have come to enjoy needs to be carefully managed and infrastructure systems enhanced.

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Projects such as this are helping the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by 2020, as set out in the EU 2020 growth strategy. The EU is facing some tough challenges, including an ageing population, an insufficiently qualified workforce, the need for greater innovation, striking a balance between economic growth and environmental degradation, and ensuring secure, clean energy supplies. Regional policy projects across the EU are playing an active role in dealing with these and many other challenges, by undertaking projects designed to generate employment, raise educational achievement, develop renewable energy sources, boost productivity and give all citizens access to opportunities. The projects and the regions play a pivotal role in this, as they generate real results that contribute to achieving the strategy’s key goals.

The project, Development of an Anthropogenic Load Reduction and Informative Infrastructure in the Territories of Natura 2000, includes 38 Natura sites located across 51 Latvian regions.

Biodiversity back to life

In 2001, the EU set itself the ambitious target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010. The EU ‘Habitats’ and ‘Birds’ Directives form the basis of this commitment.  At the heart of the two directives is the Natura 2000 Network, designed to conserve Europe’s most valuable wildlife and natural habitats, irrespective of administrative and political boundaries. Some 25 000 sites make up Natura 2000. The current project is helping the EU meet its environmental goals in Latvia, notably a protected natural environment, yet a place to be enjoyed by locals and visitors.

Preserving sensitive environments

Rare and protected species are both vulnerable and, at the same time, attractive to visitors. Yet, while tourism provides the necessary revenue, the challenge is to ensure that the wildlife people are coming to see is preserved. One problem is waste water, generated by visitors, which may pollute the environment. Reducing this pollution, decreasing soil erosion and optimising the flow of visitors to less sensitive areas, are the project’s central goals, alongside helping to prevent existing and future threats to the natural environment through effective use of resources.

Natura 2000 – Latvia’s areas of natural beauty

The project has been building new trail routes (including footbridges, stairs and bridges), developing resting places, creating and putting up information signs, directions and thematic information stands, building parking spaces for visitors’ cars, constructing viewing platforms and providing information on Natura 2000 activities in Latvia. Visitors are allowed to all Natura 2000 sites, with the exception of some nature reserves. Walking in the protected areas is encouraged, but only along roads and paths. Fires too can be made on specially permitted areas, however no litter can be left behind.

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