24 May 2016

BirdLife Partners win big at the 2016 Natura 2000 Awards

The 2016 Natura 2000 Awards were held on 23 May in Brussels. Photo: EU Environment/Facebook
By Sanya Khetani-Shah

The six winners of the 2016 Natura 2000 Awards were announced at a prestigious ceremony in Brussels on 23 May 2016 by Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella and other jury members. The event was attended by representatives of all the finalists, European Commission representatives, environmental NGOs, institutes and universities, and permanent representatives of the EU Member States and Regions.

Winners were selected for the five official categories (Conservation, Communication, Reconciling Interests/Perceptions, Socio-Economic Benefits, and Cross-border cooperation and Networking) as well as for the Citizens' Award. The six winners include projects from Bulgaria, France/Belgium, Latvia, Spain, the United Kingdom and a trans-boundary project involving Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Norway.

“I am once again honoured to be here tonight to recognise the fantastic work undertaken by the winners and all of the finalists in preserving our common natural heritage," said Commissioner Vella. "These initiatives have gone a long way towards ensuring that nature’s benefits keep flowing for many years to come.”

Happily, three of the six winning projects involved BirdLife Partners. The Conservation Award went to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK) and United Utilities partnership’s ‘Demonstrating success in blanket bog restoration’ project. It addressed the loss of peat-building mosses and peat erosion due in the South Pennines bogs in England, caused by air pollution from neighbouring industrial towns.

The RSPB and United Utilities are working to restore biodiversity and improve water quality at the Dove Stone Natura 2000 site. As a result, the populations of the Golden Plover, Curlew and Dunlin have improved.

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The Socio-Economic Benefits Award went to a team that included the Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds (BSPB, BirdLife in Bulgaria), WWF DCP Bulgaria, FOA Bioselena, Association of Parks in Bulgaria (APB) and the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (BBF). The project – ‘For the Balkans and the People: Nature Protection and Sustainable Rural Development’, won for its work with farmers, micro enterprises and small enterprises (such as wild berry and herb processing, wildlife tourism and bee-keeping businesses) that rely heavily on the rich natural resources in six Natura 2000 sites in the Balkans.

The coalition set up innovative schemes to pay these businesses directly for the environmental benefits they help maintain. This has been vital to help protect biodiversity in Bulgaria’s Balkan Mountain region, the poorest in the EU.

The ‘Europe’s rarest waterbird benefits from a team effort in conservation’ project by the  Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS, Birdlife in Greece) won the Cross-border Cooperation and Networking Award for the implementation of a successful ‘flyway approach’ – which includes conservation actions as well as policy work, awareness-raising, vocational training and environmental education – covering 15 countries and spanning the entire Eurasian migration path of the Endangered Lesser White-fronted Goose.

Coordinated by stakeholders from Greece, Finland, Bulgaria, Hungary and Norway, the project has played a key role in implementing a standardised monitoring programme and securing patrolling and habitat restoration work. The project has been implemented simultaneously in the wintering and staging grounds of the species in seven Natura 2000 sites. And its success is remarkable: At the start of the initiative in 2011, the population of the Lesser White-fronted Goose was 50-70 individuals; now, over 110 birds are registered. 

Here’s the full list of winners:

Conservation

Demonstrating success in blanket bog restoration at the RSPB / United Utilities partnership - United Kingdom

Communication

Nature Concerthall - Latvia

Reconciling Interests/Perceptions

Creating green corridors for biodiversity under high-tension lines - Belgium and France

Socio-economic Benefits

For the Balkans and the People: Nature Protection and Sustainable Rural Development - Bulgaria

Cross-border Cooperation and Networking

Europe’s rarest waterbird benefits from a team effort in conservation - Bulgaria, Greece, Finland, Hungary and Norway

Citizens' Award

Collaboration between Public and Private Bodies saves the Iberian lynx from extinction - Spain