EC announces the 2020 Natura 2000 Award winners

A Bulgarian project has been awarded the European Citizens’ Award 

Photo: European Commission Commissioner Sinkevicius presenting the Citizens’ Award to Tsenko Tsenov and Kiril Tashev of the Bulgarian Executive Forest Agency, Vesselina Kavrakova and Neli Doncheva from WWF Bulgaria, Toma Belev of the Association of parks in Bulgaria and Andrey Kovatchev from the Balkani Wildlife Society

This week the European Commission proudly announced the six Natura 2000 Award winners for 2020. Given the unique circumstances in 2020, the six winners of the 2020 Natura 2000 Awards were announced at an exclusive hybrid Ceremony, on 14 October 2020. 

The projects awarded include activities on Natura 2000 sites in Finland, France, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria and a trans-boundary project involving sites in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.

The Conservation Award, for instance, went to “Using underwater inventories for the conservation of marine areas in Finland” for collecting over 150,000 spatially explicit observations of marine habitats and species across Finland sea area with the VELMU Programme. Thanks to advanced data analysis, the project was able to produce spatial distribution models for functionally important, rare, and threatened species.

This valuable information has been used to develop the marine Natura 2000 area network, for reporting under the EU Habitats Directive and to describe over 200 Ecologically Significant Marine Areas (EMMAs). 

In the meantime, "Eau la la!!! Eco-tips for sea and shore!” in France won the Communication Award for launching a campaign aimed at boaters, managers of port infrastructures, tourists and recreational anglers to raise awareness on good boating practices and the possible environmental consequences of their activities.

The campaign has proven very effective, as post-campaign surveys showed 85% of the boaters involved were keen to improve their practices.

As for the Reconciling interests/perceptions Award, it went to “Ten keys to co-ownership for nature projects”, implemented in Belgium, for creating enthusiasm and acceptance for a project involving the expropriation of flood-prone land that was initially highly criticised by the local population and the municipality.

The LIFE+ Scalluvia project used the opportunity to turn the land in the Kruibeke Polders into nature reserves accessible to the local population thus also improving the area’s recreational values. Intense communication and participation efforts proved successful and the area is now regarded as a tourist asset, providing additional income and jobs.

The fourth winner this year was “Pro-Biodiversidad: shepherds as biodiversity conservators in Natura 2000”, Spain won the Socio-economic benefits Award for the creation of a special certification brand, Pro-Biodiversidad (Pro-Biodiversity), to support the extensive sheep sector, halt rural abandonment and improve conditions for biodiversity (in particular for scavengers).

The brand, launched in 2015, has met great success with four important commercial agreements signed since 2017. The involved farmers witnessed a 45% increase in their revenue compared with their 2015 situation.

Continuing on, the project “Joint efforts for safe and wildlife-friendly transportation networks in the Carpathians” with partners in Romania, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic,  Slovakia, and Ukraine, won the Cross-border cooperation and Networking Award for its interdisciplinary cooperation addressing landscape fragmentation in the Carpathian Mountains.

The partnership developed common methodologies for monitoring wildlife-related traffic collisions and road-kills, created safer road and rail transport solutions for wildlife and produced “Guidelines for Wildlife and Traffic in the Carpathians”.

And last but definitely not least, this year, the European Citizens’ Award was won by the project “Partnership for protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000”. The project helped to reconcile conflicting interests over the designation of forest-related Natura 2000 sites. The partners carried out extensive surveys and GIS mapping to draw up an inventory of old-growth forests in state-owned forests habitats.

The process resulted in an additional 109 300 ha of old-growth forests being designated for protection and excluded from harvesting.

The Natura 2000 Award is designed to reward excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites and showcase the added value of the network for local economies. It pays tribute to all those who work tirelessly to make Natura 2000 a success whilst drawing public attention to its substantial achievements.

The Natura 2000 network works to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats, and is the centrepiece of the EU's nature and biodiversity policy. It is currently made up of almost 27 000 terrestrial and marine sites, covering more than 18% of land areas and about 9% of the surrounding seas, making it the largest coordinated network of conservation areas anywhere in the world.

Yet, despite its scale and the wealth of benefits it provides, many Europeans have still not heard of Natura 2000. This is why, in 2014, the European Commission launched the annual European Natura 2000 Award. The aim of the award is to demonstrate what the network is, what it does to preserve Europe’s biodiversity, and how it benefits us all.

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