An important wetland in the Mediterranean protected by private land conservation

Kristijan Civic

A large portion of "Pantani of South Eastern Sicily" was purchased by the German Foundation "Stiftung Pro Artenvielfalt" (Pro Biodiversity Foundation - SPA) with the aim of conserving the site for its biodiversity.

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This system of coastal lagoons extends along the coast between Pozzallo and Marzamemi (situated between the provinces of Syracuse and Ragusa), forming some of the largest and most representative wetland habitats and ecosystems. Throughout the year, the site offers ideal conditions for resting, feeding and reproduction to an incredible number of animal species: over 250 species of birds, at least 21 species of dragonflies, hundreds of species of insects. This strip of Sicily is in a crucial position along the birds’ migratory route for Africa and represents a very important wintering and nesting area for several very rare species, such as the ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca) and the marbled duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris).

The territory has historically been a subject to indiscriminate hunting and fierce poaching. For years Sicilian protectionists and the German SPA Foundation have been trying to protect this area from negligence and indifference that were jeopardising its enormous potential. Eventually, in just 3 years, the donations of over 29,000 German citizens, motivated by the work of the President of the Foundation, Roland Tischbiere, together with a group of some 30 volunteers from all over Sicily, generated an unprecedented result. The objective of this land acquisition is to stop and remove the negative factors that strongly impacted the area, such as poaching, illegal waste disposal and the disturbance from anthropic activities that are not compatible with the conservation needs of this delicate ecosystem.

In all the activities that have or will require the involvement of specialized firms, companies or workers in general, the Foundation has chosen to entrust the work to local entities, so as to create immediately a positive impact in terms of employment and income for the local community. The goal is to trigger, in the medium term, a broader change to enhance the area: to restore the best natural conditions; to create the conditions for starting a virtuous process that leads to a sustainable local economy linked to naturalistic tourism and agricultural production of excellence.

This story shows that private land conservation initiatives can make a difference in conserving and restoring the most valuable pieces of European nature.

Original article (in Italian) is available here.


Mature land stewardship in Catalonia

Jelke Brandehof

 XCT is very satisfied with the work carried out by the land stewardship organisations in Catalonia and enthusiastically face future challenges with the belief that, together with its organisations, land stewardship will become a key strategy for the conservation of natural areas.

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LIFE-ELCN partner Xarxa de Custòdia del Territori (XCT) has recently published the VIIth Inventory of land stewardship organisations and agreements (only available in Catalan). Data, collected in a report, proves that land stewardship is an effective tool for the conservation of the environment in Catalonia. It also confirms the strengthening of environmental organisations and their growing compromise towards the execution of quality stewardship projects. It registers more than 40,000 hectares managed by 69 organisations through 765 agreements, 76 of which were signed between 2015 and 2017. Notice that stewardship agreements play an important role for the Natura 2000 Network: 44% of the agreements are partially or totally carried out inside the Network. The most common area is forestry, both in the number of agreements (373) and in the surface covered (19,982 ha). Other objectives are associated with the conservation of traditional land management and the fauna. 36% of the agreements include sites of community importance. A large part of the land stewardship agreements are implemented on private properties (531 of the agreements, covering 25,345 ha). 

The inventory has been produced since 2003, every 2 or 3 years, based on data provided by the land stewardship organisations operating on the Catalan territory. As a novelty, data collected in this last version is accompanied by the agreements cartography, which can be easily consulted online. The objective of such access to cartography is to provide relevant information about the agreements (surface, start year, duration, overlap with protected areas, detection of habitats of interest, etc.), thus promoting transparency and the dissemination of existing projects. 



Towards natural capital accounting in the Netherlands

Kristijan Civic

National Natural Capital Accounts can contribute to initiatives at different scales - such as private land conservation - to improve the quality of life in the Netherlands.

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The Netherlands is a densely populated country, with a high standard of living and a world-renowned agriculture and food industry. However, intensive land use is putting pressure on the local environment, causing the degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Only 14 per cent of the land in the Netherlands is covered in natural or semi-natural vegetation or forests; little is left of the region’s original biodiversity. Therefore, a transition is needed towards a future where companies, government officials and other stakeholders more accurately measure their dependence and impact on natural capital. This will help create a more sustainable society.

Between 2011 and 2014 the Dutch government launched a series of studies and experiments – involving businesses, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the government – to stimulate awareness about and experiences with the values of biodiversity and natural capital. From 2014 to 2016 a research programme on natural capital in The Netherlands investigated the possibility of working with natural capital assessments in practical situations in different policy areas. Also, a start was made with developing tools for assessing natural capital impacts and dependencies for companies, as well as with online platforms for the exchange of information.

These initiatives have stimulated a growing interest from companies, science institutions and other parties. They have also highlighted the need for standardization as well as better access to data and practical tools for natural capital accounting (NCA).

Red the full article here.


Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) misses out on subsidies from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Kristijan Civic

The growth of CSA initiatives show that private land conservation is possible even without the help of EU agricultural subsidies!

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By connecting producers and consumers through direct marketing, the entire value chain remains in the hand of the land user, enabling him/her to make a living while supporting lively communities and a healthy environment. Think what would be possible if the CAP supported such initiatives…

Although Brussels repeatedly stresses the CAP’s goals should be biodiversity and strong rural communities, it’s still the large-scale farmers who win big in the CAP. Eighty percent of direct payments go to only 20 percent of farms. While it is technically possible to support Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives within the CAP, there is no example of this ever having happened, according to the European Commission.

CSA appeals in many respects to the EU’s cardinal objectives: supporting smaller, often weak, rural communities and a more eco-friendly model. In just six years, 45 such schemes have popped up across the Belgian region of Flanders.

The most obvious way for CSA initiatives apply for funds would be as a “sub measure” under the so-called Pillar 2 of the CAP, dedicated to rural development spending. But most of the CAP budget is poured into Pillar 1, which provides the direct payments to big landowners.

There are numerous reasons for the lack of funding: many young farmers looking to set up small-scale farms that produce organic food and are more integrated into local markets lack the know-how to apply for CAP subsidies. In many cases, this is due to bureaucratic constraints. But critics of the CAP also point to a lack of political will — be it in national capitals or inside the European Commission — to move toward more sustainable farming models.

Read the full article here.


SAVE THE DATE: International Workshop on Legal Tools for Private Land Conservation

Kristijan Civic

The event will take place in Rovaniemi, Finland, 13 - 15 June 2018 and will be hosted by the European Private Land Conservation Network (ELCN) in cooperation with Lapin ELY-keskus, NABU, and Eurosite.

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The workshop will look at private land conservation from more technical perspective. It will investigate the question of how private land conservation can be implemented under the existing EU and national legislation and how new legal instruments could be developed in the future.

More information, including the full programme and registration coming soon on the event page.


ELCN project study tour in Colorado, USA

Tilmann Disselhoff

The purpose of the Colorado Study Tour was to introduce the ELCN delegates to conservation tools and techniques that are not yet widely applied in the EU and to discuss the potential of their transferability with private land conservation practitioners from the US.

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The International Land Conservation Network (ILCN) organised a study trip for the partner European Private Land Conservation Network (ELCN). From Sunday, October 22 through Thursday, October 26, 2017, the ELCN members together with representatives from the ILCN and the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy went on an educational study tour of private land conservation projects around Denver, Colorado. Afterwards, the ELCN members attended the Land Trust Alliance’s annual Rally in Denver from Thursday night, October 26 through Saturday, October 28, 2017.


Over the course of the tour, the ELCN team learned more about the use of easements, particularly on working lands; farming using conservation practices; marketing environmentally friendly products; working with farmers/ranchers (and why they would want to conserve their properties); how conservation can relate to water quantity and quality challenges; partnering with public agencies; and financing conservation areas as well as legal differences between the US (Common law) and most of the European countries (Civil law). 

The main pressure on agricultural land in Colorado is due to development for recreation and leisure. However, apart from selling their property to real estate developers, owners generally have a variety of options at hand, from granting conservation easements, to mortgaging, covenants, rent or lease to donation.


More information:



ELCN kick-off workshop in Berlin, Germany

Kristijan Civic

On 19 and 20 June 2017 the project team met for the first time to launch the LIFE ELCN project. Beneficiaries and partners set an ambitious goal for the three year project period: to establish a European Land Conservation Network (ELCN), which will remain active long after the project has ended.

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On June 19 and 20 2017 the first project team meeting was held in Germany. All project beneficiaries and partners set an ambitious goal for the three year project period: to establish a European Land Conservation Network (ELCN), which will remain active long after the project has ended. The project is being coordinated by NABU/BirdLife Germany, however, Eurosite will be charged with the long-term management of the network as the acting secretariat after the project has ended.

The objective of the project is twofold. It aims at testing several private land conservation tools with an eye to promoting their replication at a wider level wherever feasible and proposing policy actions to support them, as well as – in the process – at developing a robust, well-informed European network on private land conservation with a clear long-term strategy (after LIFE) and strong international allies.

The project’s work programme 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 publicising private land conservation among relevant stakeholders. By doing so, the project intends to contribute to the further development of private land conservation tools and the expansion of their use. At the same time, the project will continue and strengthen the networking among the practitioners of private land conservation in the EU and abroad.

As outputs, the project will produce assessments of the conservation tools tested in the project as well as guidelines and policy recommendations for private land conservation in the EU.

For more information about the progress of the project, please follow this website closely.