Land and Soil Management Award 2018/19 call is now open!

Kristijan Civic

Farmers, landowners, land managers, groups of farmers, on their own or in collaboration with research institutes, universities and/or private companies can now apply for the Land and Soil Management Award 2018/2019. Deadline for application is 31 December 2018.

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The prize rewards land use and soil management practices mitigating soil threats i.e. soil degradation, erosion, reduction of organic matter content, diffuse contamination, and compaction as well as the reduction of soil biodiversity, salinization, sealing, flooding and landslides. In doing so, the award sheds light on outstanding achievements, encouraging new concepts of land and soil protection and their implementation in land management, as well as enhancing awareness about the importance of land and soil functions.

As an interesting fact, in 2010/2011 the prise was won by The Land Stewardship Network, a project run by the member of our project partnership Xarxa de Custòdia del Territori (XCT; Land Stewardship Network).


Legal tools in private land conservation

Jelke Brandehof

The first thematic workshop of the LIFE ELCN Project was held in Rovaniemi, Finland, on 14-15 June 2018. The workshop focused on the legal tools for private land conservation in Europe and was hosted by the Finnish project partner Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Lapland (LAPELY).


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During the first day we were focusing on conservation easements, and the second day was dedicated to the concept of privately protected areas. The workshop was well attended (29 participants from 15 countries) and has raised the interest of participants.

Some of the main lessons learnt are that national legal frameworks might be very different, but experience sharing is very important when trying to develop conservation easements and land stewardship agreements, or to establish privately protected areas (PPAs). It was interesting to realise how many countries are actually having easements recognised as a possible tool, even if these are not used to the full extent.

While some countries have more similarities than others, a lot of work still needs to be done at legal level to be able to make a European approach to the subject. There will not be a ‘one size fits all solution’. Legal tools (in particular those similar to conservation easements) to support private land conservation are needed, but the legal tools will most likely differ from one Member State to the other. There could be a clear role for a network such as ELCN to facilitate this.

It was good to see that there is interest in the topic from across Europe and that the participants really appreciated the opportunity to network.

An additional dimension that is necessary to support private land conservation in Europe are incentives (including tax and financial incentives). That is why this will be the topic of the next workshop ELCN is organising in November this year.


Pilot Action A.09: Integrated Management Plans with local Private Landowners

Jelke Brandehof

In Pilot Action A.09 Natuurpunt tries to cooperate with private landowners by writing integrated (joint) nature management plans, covering both Natuurpunt’s property as well as the adjacent private property. 

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The idea is that from an ecological point of view it’s far more logic to treat a nature area as a whole, neglecting the political or property borders, and work together (within private and public parties) to reach the European Natura 2000 objectives. Since October 2017, this cooperation with and between private landowners is made legally possible by the Flemish government by establishing a new nature legislation. The most important base lines of this legal change are the fact that from now on also a private landowner can write a nature management plan and submit his/her property for official recognition as nature reserve by an everlasting easement. Moreover, the private landowner can get subsidies for recurrent management (mowing, removing alien species, dredging a pond etc.).

So far, Natuurpunt has had good contact with many private landowners to launch the idea of a common management plan. A first determination thereby is that this “communication process” is lasting longer than we initially thought. It takes time to convince landowners of this unique opportunity, as well as to deal with all the legal consequences. Also, the new nature legislation is still very young and not completely operational yet, causing some landowners to drop the idea of a joint management plan. On the other hand, many of them are willing to designate their property as an official nature reserve and pass it on as a whole (when inherited, a domain is often divided into different parts amongst the heirs. Many private landowners want to keep their domain as a robust whole for the next generations).

At this moment, Natuurpunt is working on 5 concrete cases and already has 3 signed contracts (one contract with a municipality as participating landowner):

  • Tienbunders-Zoutleeuw: A private landowner owns 30 hectares of old oak/beech forest and wants to designate her property as a nature reserve forever (everlasting easement as “nature reserve”). We already started with the first parts of the management plan.
  • Forts-Antwerpen: The forts around the city of Antwerp have become a perfect habitat for hibernating bats. Within ELCN we try to connect different fort-owners (private, governmental) and engage them in the development of a common management plan. Four of them have already given their oral approval, one of them has signed a contract.
  • Zottegem: We have a signed contract with a municipality (Zottegem) for 21 hectares (14 hectares in Natura 2000). We already started with the first parts of the management plan.


Also, ELCN will be published in our 3-monthly magazine (Natuurpunt.Blad), reaching more than 110,000 families in Flanders.


Pilot Action A6 update: Crowdsourcing for private land conservation

Jelke Brandehof

On the 29th of April Montis has re-signed an agreement with landowner “Junta de Freguesia de Valadares”, for the management of 3 ha of land in Valadares, São Pedro do Sul, Portugal. The new agreement has extended the timeline for 10 years. Considering that the previous agreement had the duration of 2 years, this is a great step towards a long-term management that will allow obtaining and consolidating results. The area is a steep hill that has burnt intensely in October 2016 during a wild forest fire. Management actions by Montis have been focusing on the control of invasive alien plant species. 


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At the same time, Montis is also in a dialog with a private landowner from Valadaresto establish a new management agreement for 3 ha of privately owned land. Conversations have gone well so far, and the team has already visited the place twice to perform on-site surveys and start the discussion of a possible management plan for the area. 

Montis has been testing a few crowdsourcing tools that have been proven to be efficient so far. An academic volunteering programme has been developed and is taking place since October 2017, on a monthly basis. 6 editions have already been performed with university students from groups such as Vo.uNEB AACand AEESAC, allowing to intervene over 10 ha within Natura 2000, planting over 1.500 trees, collecting over 60 kg of acorns and setting up over 40 nature-based devices for soil retention and improvement.

Very recently, on the 25th of April, the first volunteering action in Montemor-o-Novo, at Herdade do Freixo do Meio-site, has taken place. This site is being managed by Montis under a 10 year management protocol signed on the 06thof June 2017, already under the LIFE ELCN project.

Montis is organising an International Work Camp in June, from 16 to 22. Registration can be found here.

So far, under Pilot Action A6 – Crowdsourcing for private land conservation, the following results have been achieve by Montis:

  • 2 new management protocols (1 signed and 1 re-signed and extended) 
  • 1 new protocol currently under discussion
  • Operation of a new external crowdsourcing tool for field conservation labour – academic volunteering program
  • 1 cooperation protocol for specialized, pro bono, support on law counselling
  • setting up of new tools to support financing of land conservation with private parties:
    • cooperation with MOSSY EARTH, allowing to deliver 7.000,00 €, through planting works (3.000 trees)
    • cooperation with EDPR, allowing to deliver 6.352,80 € euro, through planting 1000 trees and supporting management works on 2,00 ha.
  • Developed 1 inquiry of internal MONTIS associates for internal crowdsourcing
  • 4 volunteering activities resulting from Montis associates 
    • application to funding (national and EU funds);
    • technical advice for management, 
    • designing logos and other graphical elements for ongoing projects;
    • establishing the start of a long term collection of data from one of Montis managed sites, namely climate data and soil analysis. 


ILCN logo

ILCN Conservation Finance Webinar

Jelke Brandehof

Over the past century, the public sector was the predominant funder of land conservation projects, creating national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges in countries around the world. More recently, inventive conservation finance practitioners have discovered myriad ways to bring private capital to the effort - for example, funding for non-profit mitigation banks and providing impact capital to fund acquisition and stewardship of working forests and farmlands. The webinar on 29 May 2018 will explore several of these private and civic funding methods in depth. 

Please find further information and registration here.

Save the Date and Register: Montis International Work Camp

Kristijan Civic

The International Work Camp organised by Montis in 2018 is taking place from 16 to 22 July in Carvalhais, São Pedro do Sul, Portugal. Read more.

Consultation open on: Best Practice Guidelines on Privately Protected Areas

Kristijan Civic

Call for Comments and Examples is now open. An initial draft has been prepared, but your input, insights and illustrations are requested. 

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Responding to a mandate to IUCN to further develop guidance on best practice in the establishment and management of privately protected areas, building on the work and experience of national, regional and global networks and organisations (IUCN WCC-2016-036) the Specialist Group on Privately Protected Areas and Nature Stewardship of IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas has prepared this initial draft.

The instructions on how to contribute and the consultation draft are available here.


Voluntary protection of forests in Finland, Sweden and Norway

Kristijan Civic

The concept of voluntary protection of forests, as a new method to protect nature, has gained a lot of interest since the beginning of 2000s in Finland, Sweden and Norway.

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Voluntary protection is based on one main principle: the forest owner can suggest areas to be protected by law. If the authorities accept the proposal the forest owner receives an economic compensation by the government. The forest is then usually set aside as a formal protected area on a permanent basis. In the end, it is always the forest owner who decides whether to offer an area for protection or not. Enhancing a spirit of openness, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and building confidence between the forest owners and other partners are crucial components of voluntary protection in all three countries.

There are a few dissimilarities between the countries regarding the practical implementation of voluntary protection of forests. Partly these differences are due to different administrative traditions and legislative frameworks in the respective country. In Finland temporary agreements with the forest owners, usually for a time period of 10 years, are used in parallel to permanent protection of forests. Nevertheless, establishing permanent protected areas is still the most common type of voluntary protection if Finland. Likewise, establishing permanent nature reserve is the most common method of protection in Sweden and Norway. Another noticeable difference is the role – with regard to hectares covered - of voluntary protection in Sweden vs. Finland and Norway. In Sweden voluntary protection of forests is implemented in parallel to a more traditional approach, and the area included in protected areas as a result of voluntary protection processes has so far on an annual basis been only about 1-2 % of the total forest area protected each year. The situation in Finland and Norway is completely different. In these countries, protection of privately owned forests is in practice realized entirely by voluntary protection.

Regardless of these differences, voluntary protection is carried out in a rather coherent manner on the ground in the three countries. As a starting point, the environmental or forestry authorities define the type of forests that will be given priority in the selection process. The forest owner then suggests potential areas to be evaluated by the authorities. If the outcome is positive, i.e. the suggested area qualifies for protection, negotiations about the conditions for establishing a protected area start. As an end result, in most cases a permanent protected area is established. Environmental and forestry authorities have a crucial role in the implementation of voluntary protection. However, there are some differences between the countries with regard to the responsibilities of each organisation implementing the forest conservation schemes. For instance, in Norway the main co-operation partners are the environmental authorities and the Forest Owners Association, whereas the forestry administration has only a minor role in the procedure.

The three countries apply more or less the same approach when selecting sites to be included in protected areas according to the principles of voluntary protection. The authorities define criteria for the type of forest areas that are important from a conservation point of view. Ecological features are crucial, such as the occurrence of deadwood, but the need to achieve a balanced regional coverage of protected areas is also considered. For instance, more productive forest areas usually display a higher degree of biodiversity and are therefore often given priority in the selection process. In some cases, the occurrence of red listed species may also influence the selection of areas for protection. All three countries use some type of classification system (points, stars etc.) in order to make priorities between areas that have been suggested to be protected. In Finland the environmental and forestry authorities have used the decision support tool Zonation in order to identify potentially valuable forest areas and to target information about voluntary protection to specific forest owners.

Good and transparent communication between the different stakeholders is one main condition for successful implementation of voluntary protection of forests. Especially the interaction between authorities and land owners is crucial. One main challenge is to reach out to the landowners and clearly communicate to them which types of forest areas are important for nature protection. Websites can provide important overall information but more targeted information efforts are also needed, for instance by using information tools and channels already well-known to landowners.

The concept of voluntary protection has been tested and implemented for more than a decade in Finland, Sweden and Norway. It has produced good and viable results and the concept will be applied also in the years to come. As the number of suggestions of areas to be protected may increase in the future, it is important that the quality of these areas still is sufficient from a nature conservation point of view. It is for instance important to consider the size of the individual sites to be included in the protected area networks. Forest areas will also in the future be set aside by landowners without financial compensation, and it is important that this activity continue. The interest for voluntary protection will probably remain relatively high also in the future. It is therefore important that sufficient resources are allocated to the organisations implementing voluntary protection in the three countries.

Policy background

A large part of the total area of Finland, Sweden and Norway is covered by forests. In these countries, national strategies and polices for conservation of forests have been agreed on.

The national strategy for protection of forests in Sweden was revised in 2017. In agreement with the strategy an additional total forest area of 90 000 hectares should be guaranteed formal protection by 2020, having the situation in 2016 as a baseline.

In Norway the Parliament has agreed on a quantitative objective for forest protection. The long-term goal is to permanently protect 10 % of the forests in Norway. Currently, the protected area coverage with regard to forests is about 4 %.

In Finland, the protection of forests is implemented according to the objectives of the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland (METSO). If implemented fully, about 100 000 hectares of forests would be added to the network of protected areas by 2025 as compared to the situation in 2008. At the moment about half of this target has been reached.

In Sweden and Norway the governmental funding for formal protection of forests has increased in recent years. In contrast, the funding of the METSO programme in Finland has decreased considerably since 2013-2014. However, in 2018 some additional governmental funds will be allocated to the implementation of METSO.

For more information consult a more detailed report by the Nordic Council of Ministers (in Swedish).


Evaluating the impact of IMA-Europe’s Biodiversity Award: an interview with Sibelco

Kristijan Civic

 In 2016, IMA Europe added biodiversity & eco-system services as a new award category under its Recognition Award Scheme. Assisted by an independent expert jury, IMA-Europe now awards outstanding initiatives that significantly contribute to biodiversity and ecosystem services, health & safety, innovation and public awareness, Acceptance and Trust. The new IMA Biodiversity Award was welcomed by multiple stakeholders and has become subject of a pilot action under the ELCN LIFE Project.

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The first IMA Europe Recognition Award on Biodiversity and Eco-System Services was awarded to Sibelco for its project “Valuing our Natural Capital – A strategy for a strong partnership between mining and biodiversity”.  One and a half year later, Amina Langedijk from IMA Europe meets with Cathy Blervacq, Head of Corporate Sustainability, and Inez Goris, Environmental Affairs Manager at Sibelco Europe in Antwerp, eager to find out more about their award-winning project and how it has evolved since 2016.

What impact, if any, did winning the Award have on your organisation? 
Winning the IMA Europe Recognition Award for Biodiversity, attributed by an independent Jury, has had a huge impact for the company. Firstly, it represents a drive for the company internally, validating our Sustainability Strategy and reinforcing the uptake of its implementation. Secondly, it resulted in a partnership with Birdlife International. The fact that Boris Barov of Birdlife International had been part of the Jury and attended the Award Ceremony, has allowed for an interesting, informal initial discussion which resulted in exploring a possible collaboration on the implementation of Sibelco’s sustainability strategy. The ensuing collaboration led to local partnerships with Birdlife members in different countries to start implementing the project at the reference sites. And thirdly, encouraged by winning the IMA Europe Biodiversity Award, we submitted an application under the ELO Bee Award Scheme, which Sibelco won as well. 

The Jury praised your company strategy, best practice experience and success in putting it together into a systematic toolkit – Can you explain a bit more about the project and what it consists of? 
Our Natural Capital Approach is still a fairly recent initiative. It is one of the pillars of the Sibelco Sustainability Strategy which was launched in 2014. Whereas good practices are found throughout Europe – many examples of which had been submitted under the 2016 call for award applications - the launch of the Sustainability Strategy will allow for a more systematic approach towards biodiversity management. We introduced a natural capital approach together with a supportive toolkit to counter-balance negative impacts on nature, showing that sustainable mining can create great opportunities for nature and biodiversity. We then started to apply the natural capital approach and toolkit to six reference sites throughout Europe. The knowledge and expertise being built in the reference sites will be used to inspire other sites. 

In addition, two Europe-wide action programmes were launched based on specific land use in Sibelco quarries, before, during or after extraction: A Species Protection Programme for pioneer species related to quarry areas (e.g. amphibians such as the natterjack and yellow-bellied toads, and birds that need steep slopes such as bee-eaters and sand martins) as well as a Calculator for Ecosystem Services (ESS) and Biodiversity

Inez showed case studies illustrating how they apply the ESS calculator as an effective tool and how it helps them identify the eco-system services and best options for biodiversity taking into account the quarry dynamics. She outlined that the EES calculator will also serve as a great communication tool to present the options to stakeholders in a clear way. 

How did you communicate about the IMA Award Scheme? To which audiences and through which channels did you promote it?
The IMA Europe Biodiversity Award has been promoted throughout the entire Sibelco Group – around 10,000 employees worldwide. In each internal communication and in the appropriate context, reference was and is still being made to the IMA Europe Biodiversity Award. So far, we focus mainly on our internal stakeholders and have not promoted it (yet) to external stakeholders, beside mentioning it in our Annual Report.  

Do you consider Award Schemes such as the IMA Award Scheme valuable tools for helping to enhance reputation and public acceptance of minerals operations?  
Yes, absolutely. Being recognised by an independent Jury and winning the IMA Biodiversity Award may be beneficial in building trust with key stakeholders and to our social license to operate. The start-up of partnerships with Birdlife International for example was considered helpful in facilitating constructive dialogue with the local members of Birdlife, which are often important stakeholders and/or involved in the permitting processes. Establishing good relations with them and enhancing mutual understanding and trust is key. The IMA Biodiversity Award greatly enhanced the visibility of Sibelco’s sustainability strategy. It contributed to Sibelco being perceived as a serious, trustworthy partner. This opened the door for exploring win-win-win possibilities. 

Which of the organisational values are expressed through biodiversity actions?
Sustainability is one of Sibelco’s core values. It comprises of ensuring long-term continuity on the one hand and providing added value to our internal and external stakeholders on the other. 

How can IMA-Europe encourage participation by member companies? 
Participation in the Award Scheme should not be a goal in itself. Yet receiving recognition – notably by an independent Jury – is important and very valorising for the employees managing the project. As mentioned before, for Sibelco the impact has been quite substantial. To encourage or incentivise other companies, and notably SMEs to take part, we suggest foreseeing a small financial prize and increasing the visibility of all the case studies / Award projects. Creating short filmed presentations which could easily be shared and disseminated through social media could be one way, in addition to the poster exhibition and brochure and communication channels used by IMA Europe. 

What supporting role do you see for policy makers?
Policy makers could support biodiversity projects by providing subsidies and through EU funded projects (e.g. Life+, Interreg, …).

Will Sibelco take part in the IMA-Europe 2018 Award Scheme?
Yes absolutely! We already have some projects in mind. 

On that promising note, Amina warmly thanked Cathy Blervacq and Inez Goris for their time and wished them a lot of success in the next stages of their ambitious sustainability project. 

IMA Europe 2018 Award Scheme

The Call for 2018 Award applications is now open and IMA Europe member organisations can submit their projects until 1 June 2018. 

IMA Europe looks forward to receiving further outstanding projects under the 2018 IMA Awards Scheme. They will be assessed and scored by an expert independent Jury during the month of July. We are grateful to be able to count on Dr Tilmann Disselhoff (NABU), Professor Dr Gregory Mahy (Gembloux University) and Professor Dr Michael Rademacher (Bingen University) for this important task.

The Award projects will be presented and exhibited at the IMA Award Ceremony on 4 October 2018 in Brussels.  

See the IMA Award website for more information:

By Amina Langedijk, IMA-Europe


Highlights from the 2018 ILCN Congress

Kristijan Civic

It has been two months since the ILCN Global Congress in Santiago, Chile. If you are interested to see the highlights of the Congress, check out this short  Congress Video. The Congress was attended by 160 people representing 24 countries.

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Over the course of 24 workshops, three plenaries, and a field trip, participants built relationships across countries and continents, as well as discussed shared challenges and the latest innovations in private land conservation management, policy, governance, and financing.

The 2018 Global Congress built upon the momentum, conversations, collaborations, and relationships that have emerged over the past several years, including at the First Congress of the ILCN, held in Berlin, Germany in October 2015 and at the Workshop on Emerging Innovations in Conservation Finance, held in Santiago in September 2016.


ILCN logo

Job opportunity at ILCN!

Kristijan Civic

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is looking to fill the position of Land Conservation Program Manager within the Department of Planning and Urban Form - a full-time position focusing on advancing Lincoln's land conservation programs, including the rapidly growing International Land Conservation Network (ILCN).

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The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy seeks a well-organized and detail-oriented person to fill the position of Land Conservation Program Manager within the Department of Planning and Urban Form.  This person requires leadership abilities for the planning and overall success of the Land Conservation Program goals.

As part of the Department of Planning and Urban Form the Land Conservation Program works to advance the importance of land conservation communities sustainability through improved land use planning, management and decision making.

Lincoln Institute makes its impact through research, demonstration projects, and dissemination of the lessons learned and the Institute is known globally for making long term, sustained commitments to the land policy issues on which they work.


Assist and, in appropriate circumstances, take the lead in the development of projects, programs and practices that advance the goals of the Land Conservation Program within the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

At present, the projects that comprise the Land Conservation Program include the following:

  • International Land Conservation Network (ILCN)
  • ALPINE Network (Academics for Land Protection in New England)
  • Kingsbury Browne Fellowship and liaison with the Land Trust Alliance
  • Conservation Scholars project and
  • Peer Learning Initiative associated with the University of Montana.

For more information read the post on Lincoln Institute website.


Finalists for the EU Natura 2000 Award 2018 were announced - cast your vote!

Kristijan Civic

The purpose of this Award is to reward excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites and to give the organisations and people concerned "the recognition they deserve".

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As such, the Natura 2000 Award also raises awareness about the importance of the Natura 2000 network and its role in safeguarding our European natural heritage, while at the same time promoting social and economic wellbeing. 

The 25 finalists have been selected out of 75 eligible applications received from across the EU. Now finalists will be evaluated by the high level Jury, that will decide who will be the winner in each of the 5 Award categories.

The EU Citizens' award will go the finalist who received the highest number of public votes. This category was created to help increase awareness about Natura 2000 among the general public and every year it becomes more popular. The public vote, which is taking place on a dedicated website  will close on 22 April. 


Private nature reserve in Italy welcomes a very special flamingo!

Kristijan Civic

Among the 150 flamingos that landed recently in the Natural Reserve Saline de Priolo on Sicily, there is a very special one – a 38-year-old female Amelie.

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Amelie was borne and ringed in 1979. From 1979 to 1982, she remained around the wetlands of Sardinia and then moved to Tunisia. In 1985, she returned to Etg. du Fangassier - Bouches-du-Rhône and until the 2000s did not move from the French territory.

Saline di Priolo, a small reserve managed by Lipu, is the only breeding site for this species in Sicily since 2015. It gives satisfaction to see that, despite the many difficulties in the territory in which the reserve is situated, the important work done by the staff of Lipu, in the redevelopment and conservation of the protected area, delivers very good results. This improves the image of the entire territory of Priory and Syracuse.

Read the whole story on Lipu’s website (in Italian).    


Open call for young professionals: Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarships 2018!

Kristijan Civic

Each scholarship is worth €3.000 and enables successful applicants to undertake a study visit on a particular theme to one or more Protected Areas in European countries.

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Each year the EUROPARC Federation, with support from the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S., awards three Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarships to promising young conservationists, who are committed to working for the benefit of Protected Areas. The aim of the scholarships is to enhance international cooperation and to advance the quality, innovation and European dimension of Protected Area management.

The call is open to all young professionals under the age of 35, studying or working in topics related to Protected Areas in Europe.

The applications are due on 4th May 2018 at 15:00 pm, therefore hurry up and check the terms and conditions and apply on the dedicated Europarc website.


Can citizen-led initiatives make a difference for land conservation in Europe?

Kristijan Civic

While examples from around the world often showcase examples of superritch people donating funds to conserve land, Europe seems to be taking a different approaches, such as Community Based Agriculture, allowing all citizens to proactively take charge and secure the land and the environment around us.

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In their article from December 2017, The Atlantic reported that Jack and Laura Dangermond, the couple that founded the GIS company ESRI, made a donation of $ 165 million to The Nature Conservancy, enabling the NGO to purchase 24,000 acres (9.700 ha) of undeveloped California coastal land for permanent preservation - again an international example of private land conservation on an incredible scale!

As a reaction to this, a reader has shared an example from Europe with a totally different motivation. A German-based cooperative (Kulturland Genossenschaft—German-language site) purchases agricultural land in order to permanently secure it for organic cultivation, leasing it out for a very low fee to the organic, but beyond that socially engaged farms. The project started three years ago and to date 100 hectares for 10 farms have been purchased and thus permanently secured.

A rapid increase in the prices of the agricultural land across the EU in the recent years has driven an accelerated consolidation process where ever greater plots of land are being industrially farmed. This is forcing organic farming to industrialize rapidly as well.

The cooperatives such as this take the money that their members put in and purchases land with it. In addition, they set up, often very successful, crowd-funding campaigns. Learn more about the cooperative above from their campaign video.

Could European model be applied in the US as well?


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.


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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.