From 16 to 18 October 2018, on behalf of the European Habitats Forum, Eurosite attended the 2ndContinental, Pannonian, Steppic and Black Sea biogeographical regions Natura 2000 Seminar. The Seminar took place in Strasbourg, France and was hosted by Région Grand Est. The field visits were organised by the Regional Nature Park of the Northern Vosges (PNRVN), with the support of the Regional Directorate for the Environment, Land Use and Housing of Grand Est (DREAL Grand Est).

 The Seminar was structured around four main topics around which the participants had an opportunity to discuss in thematic working groups:

  • Linking site-level objectives, regional/national-level objectives and favourable reference values
  • Identifying and solving issues in relation to habitat type definitions
  • Increasing the involvement of local land managers through integrated site management
  • Selecting biogeographical level conservation priorities and measures

In relation to the site-level objectives it was agreed that more flexibility is needed. An overview of different approaches in EU member states should be put together (possibly by the EC) and then a follow-up event could be organised to discuss the issue further.

A similar approach was also suggested for streamlining the habitat types definitions. Current definitions are too broad, sometimes including degraded habitats (resulting in Favourable surface, Bad structure and function) and sometimes are too narrow (resulting in Favourable structure and function but Bad surface). A collection of interpretation manuals from all EU member states could help sharpen the habitat definitions. This work could then be taken forward by an EU coordinated Expert Group leading to an updated EU Interpretation Manual.

Eurosite had the opportunity to join the working group on increasing the involvement of local land managers and to present its EU funded project LIFE ELCN that focuses on implementing and assessing innovative private land conservation tools and models, exchanging knowledge and experience about these tools, identifying legal and political obstacles to up-scaling them, and promoting private land conservation among relevant stakeholders. Participants recognised the value of initiatives such as this in building the support for and mobilising more landowners in management of Natura 2000 sites. Further conclusions were that there is a need to build more trust towards Natura 2000. An approach with Natura 2000 facilitators (in France) has shown to be very successful, as these people are constantly present in the field and are well-known by the local communities. Local level is the key for success: there is a need for sustainable financing schemes; promotion of win-win stories; and building bottom-up approaches.

In terms of biogeographical level conservation priorities, some of the lessons learned are that: we should make use of the upcoming (in 2019) Art. 17 and Art. 12 data; looking more into the priorities among the neighbouring member states; focus more on species, including Species Action Plans; bridge the gap between planning and action – with a role for the next cycle of LIFE funding and PAFs.

At the end of the meeting a roadmap relating to all the four topics was agreed upon. The roadmap will be presented at the upcoming EU Expert Group on the Birds and Habitats Directive (NADEG) meeting.


Photo credit featured image: Forêts-Vosgues du Nord / PNRVN-PDe