The European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius announced the winners of the Natura 2000 Awards for 2020.
The six winners include projects from Finland, France, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria and a trans-boundary project involving partners in Romania, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine.
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.
Commissioner Sinkevičius said:
“The COVID pandemics has brought to light the link between healthy, resilient societies and keeping our natural environment in good condition. This year’s winners demonstrate that investing time, energy and resources into nature protection brings big rewards for nature but also for us. They show how conservationists, farmers, foresters, local communities, infrastructure companies and authorities can work together to deliver tangible results for nature and people. These are the models of cooperation and solutions that need to be scaled up if we are to deliver on the commitments of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.”
The special European Citizens’ Award went to the project “Partnership for protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000”, led by the Executive Forest Agency (EFA), the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Bulgaria, WWF Bulgaria, the Association of Parks in Bulgaria and the Balkani Wildlife Society. 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 final list of sites was agreed among interested stakeholders during a long process of exchanges and consultations. The process resulted in an additional 109 300 ha of old growth forests being designated for protection and excluded from harvesting.
And the winners in the other five categories are…
- The Conservation Award went to “Using underwater inventories for the conservation of marine areas in Finland” led by the Ministry of the Environment and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE).
- The French project “Eau la la!!! Eco-tips for sea and shoreSearch for available translations of the preceding link!” implemented by Lannion-Trégor Communauté, Guingamp-Paimpol Agglomération and PETR du Pays de Guingamp won the Communication Award.
- The Socio-economic benefits Award which recognises projects that demonstrate that nature conservation and economic development can go hand-in-hand, went to “Pro-Biodiversidad: shepherds as biodiversity conservators in Natura 2000Search for available translations of the preceding link”, Spain.
- The Reconciling interests/perceptions Award went to the project “Ten keys to co-ownership for nature projects”, implemented in Belgium by the Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos, De Vlaamse Waterweg, Gemeente Kruibeke and vzw Kruibeeks Natuurbehoud.
- “Joint efforts for safe and wildlife-friendly transportation networks in the Carpathians” led by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, with partners in Romania, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Ukraine, won the Cross-border cooperation and Networking Award.
Natura 2000 is an EU wide network of nearly 27 000 protected sites that covers more than 18 % of EU land territory and about 9% of its marine areas. This network aims at protecting and enhancing Europe’s natural heritage and securing the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species while promoting a sustainable land use and economic activity.
The Award is open to anyone directly involved in management of or communication about the EU Natura 2000 network – businesses, government bodies, NGOs, volunteers, landowners, educational institutions or individuals. This year, 85 applications from across Europe were received, out of which 27 were shortlisted. A high-level jury then selected the winners.