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LandLife Congress a huge success!

For the last three years, Eurosite has been a partner in the LandLife project, along with Eurosite member Xarxa de Custòdia del Territori (XCT), Legambiente, Conservatoire d’espaces naturels du Languedoc-Roussillon (CEN L-R) and Prysma. This month the project culminated in the first European Land Stewardship Congress, Land: Quality of Life, which took place in Barcelona from 5-8 November. Eurosite’s Network Project Manager, Jaume Tormo, and Secretary, David Parker, attended the Congress, as well as helping to deliver two workshops. Here is their report from the four-day event.

More than 200 people attended the LandLife Congress, coming from all across Europe and from the United States, representing a diverse array of organisations such as enterprises, NGOs, GOs and landowners. This diversity created a very interesting international environment that provided illustrative examples and ideas and triggered useful discussions during the plenary sessions, short presentations, posters sessions and workshops.

From the very beginning of the Congress there was an optimistic feeling about the usefulness and importance of Land Stewardship. From Xavie Sabaté’s opening speech to the closing remarks of Angelo Salsi, the potential role of Land Stewardship as a widespread tool for nature conservation was continually highlighted.

Land Stewardship provides the framework for voluntary agreements between conservation organisations and landowners, which opens the door to conservation in private lands. Land Stewardship is based on dialogue and agreements between conservationists and landowners where the social and economic benefits for the landowners, as well as the benefits for nature and citizens, are taken into account. In this context, Land Stewardship arises as a potential tool to work in Natura 2000 areas where key European habitats and species thrive together with people. For this reason, Eurosite member ECNC (together with Eurosite) organised a Congress workshop about the potential links between Land Stewardship and Natura 2000 as part of the Natura 2000 Biogeographical Process. Eurosite also organised a workshop which aimed to show, from examples in remote locations in Iceland (Soil Conservation Service) and north-west Scotland (Eurosite member SNH) how working with farmers, landowners and local communities through Land Stewardship type agreements, can achieve the restoration and better management of land to achieve multiple objectives.

Stewardship of nature goes beyond the borders of land and for this reason there was also a workshop on marine stewardship during the Congress. During this workshop, we had the opportunity to see how the same mechanisms of participation and volunteer agreements can be used in marine and coastal environments. Many other subjects were also discussed during the Congress, including the Common Agricultural Policy, land stewardship in rivers and wetlands, ecological restoration, governance, funding, the European Soil Directive and green infrastructure.

On the last day of the Congress, we visited two sites where Land Stewardship agreements are currently in place. It was very interesting to talk directly with the landowners and organisations that are working together, voluntarily, for the benefit of nature. During the visit, we also had the opportunity to have lunch in the magnificent agricultural and natural landscape of the Eastern Pyrenees and try some agricultural products from the lands under Land Stewardship agreements.

The Congress may be the conclusion of the LandLife project, but the LandLife partnership is committed to keep working on the promotion of Land Stewardship in Europe. Hence, the Congress was also the first step in what will hopefully be a long future for Land Stewardship in Europe through the development of a European Land Stewardship Network. This was set out in the Barcelona Declaration which was signed at the Congress to much aclaim (download the Barcelona Declaration).

We are now thinking about new ideas and projects and will continue to keep you updated on all the latest LandLife news!

If you want more information on Land Stewardship and the results of the LandLife Project, or want to explore future collaborations with the LandLife partners, do not hesitate to contact Jaume Tormo: jtormo@www.eurosite.org

You can also find out more on the LandLife project website.