EU awards excellence in nature protection across Europe

EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella announced the winners of the 2018 edition of the Natura 2000 Awards. The six winners include projects from Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Spain.

18/05/2018

The Natura 2000 Awards recognise conservation success stories across the EU and raise awareness about one of Europe’s outstanding achievements – the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Natura 2000 is an EU wide network of 27 500 protected sites that covers 18 % of EU land territory and 7% of its marine areas. Combining nature protection with sustainable land use and economic activity, the aim of the network is to protect and enhance Europe’s natural heritage, securing the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species. The six winners, chosen from a shortlist of 25 finalists, are active in Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Spain.

Announcing the winners at a ceremony in Brussels, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries 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 winners of the European Natura 2000 Award 2018

This year, the European Citizens’ Award went to the School of Nature in Portugal, developed by the Centre of Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation of Viana do Castelo Town Hall. In order to bring local schoolchildren closer to their unique natural heritage in Natura 2000, the project organises field trips for pupils to learn about nature first hand and training courses for teachers on sustainability and nature conservation. A total of 20 000 people have already benefited from the communication programme.

The Conservation Award went to the Partnership to stop the poisoning of imperial eagles led by BirdLife Hungary. Actions were carried out across 20 Hungarian Natura 2000 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. Since the project started, the number of cases of poisoning has decreased substantially and in the last two years of the project the breeding population increased by 36%.

The Spanish project Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity, implemented by SEO / BirdLife and the news agency Agencia EFE, won the Communication Award for their efforts to reach out to people through documentaries, workshops, news reports and information dissemination 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 which recognises projects that demonstrate that nature conservation and economic development can go hand-in-hand, went to a LIFE project to restore Estonian alvar grassland. The project, managed by the Environmental Board of Estonia and partners, has succeeded in restoring alvar grassland in 19 Natura 2000 sites in close cooperation with over 600 landowners and local farmers through dedicated agri-environment schemes. The project 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.

The Greek project to improve co-existence with bears won the Reconciling Interests/Perception Award. The project, carried out by the NGO CALLISTO in the district of Kastoria, an important corridor for the brown bear between Greece and the Western Balkans, resulted in drastically reducing bear fatalities and increasing the local community's acceptance of the species. To reduce conflicts between humans and bears, measures were taken to prevent collisions between bears and vehicles on a newly-built motorway, establish a network of guard dog owners, and install ‘bear-proof’ waste-bins and electric fences to protect beehives and orchards.

A project to conserve the Egyptian vulture across three continents won the Cross-border Cooperation and Networking Award. The partnership between BirdLife members in Greece, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom 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. A network of experts from 26 countries was created and International Species action plan was developed for the conservation of the Egyptian vulture along its flyway.

Background

The Award is open to anyone directly involved in the EU's Natura 2000 – businesses, government bodies, NGOs, volunteers, land owners, educational institutions or individuals. This year, a total of 75 applications from across Europe were received, out of which 25 projects were shortlisted. A high-level jury then selected the winners.

Further information

More information about the winners, finalists and the Natura 2000 Award including pictures and video footage from the ceremony are available here: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/awards/index_en.htm       

More information about Natura 2000: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/index_en.htm

More information about the EU Natura 2000 Day http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/EUnatura2000day/index_...