| Natura 2000 management in France (Charente-Maritime département)
LPO/BirdLife in France has been active on Natura 2000 management planning from the very beginning: in 1996 the organisation initiated the first program designed to develop and write 36 experimental management plans for Natura 2000 sites spread across the country.
One of these sites was in the département of Charente Maritime, Poitou-Charentes region in the west of France.
Since then LPO has completed six other plans, and coordinates the management for eleven within Charente-Maritime and Charente. Examples of the habitats are wetlands and quarries that are of key importance for bat populations.
Taking an ecosystem approach, the French government has handed over the management of the entire Charente river valley (including downstream marshes and two tributaries) in 2012 to the LPO. . In this department LPO now manages areas varying between 1 and 13,000 ha in size.
From 1998 to 2011, the implementation of management plans was a priority for the French government, including the allocation of more or less adequate budgets for this work. The activities included coordination, awareness raising, management measures and ecological monitoring. The relationship between the stakeholder and the local operator improved into more cooperative and constructive work relations.
After LPO has been working on the most important of the Natura 2000 sites in this region for 13 years, and despite this the ecological results are not always significant
However, budgetary restrictions on Natura 2000 have resulted in worrying developments. Since 2011, the available budget for the local operators of Natura 2000 sites in Poitou-Charentes region has been cut severely and there is currently no funding available for ecological monitoring. This situation is likely to last at least until 2015, providing little hope for adequate conservation results.
The approach to Natura 2000 management taken in France, based on clear management plans and dedicated site managers is good in principle, however needs to be adapted further. The approach can be effective with relatively simple ecological challenges, such as specific habitat management in peat bogs or chalk grassland. In these cases solutions can often be found at local level, through consultation and decision making at the municipal level.
More complex issues that have wider economic and social implications, such as water management and agricultural practices, are often dependent on higher level policies (regional, national or EU), e.g. Natura 2000 regulations, national water management or the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU.
|The instrument of “Natura 2000 contracts” with strict obligations and a compensation of costs is working well in France. On the other hand, the voluntary tool of agri-environmental measures under the CAP remains insufficient to address complex ecological and economical systems, e.g. those on which the conservation of the Corncrake (Crex crex) depends. The reason for this lies in insufficient financial support and a lack of political will to use this instrument. As a result there are not enough economic incentives for farmers to adapt their agricultural practices to conservation needs.Finally, the tool “Natura 2000 Charter” where voluntary commitments are made by stakeholders (with no direct economic incentive e.g. late mowing of road verges and reduction of pesticide use in villages, without any reimbursement of costs) has proven very successful in terms of communication and education. However one cannot expect any major improvements for biodiversity.
LPO (BirdLife partner in France)
Emannuelle Champion, Emannuelle.Champion(at)lpo.fr