On Tuesday 24 November 2020, as part of the ILCN/ELCN webinar series, a webinar was organised on the topic of “The Natura 2000 Protected Areas Network: the History and Future Outlook for Integrating Conservation on Private Lands”.
Natura 2000, a network of protected areas covering 18% of land and 10% of marine waters for the most valuable and threatened species and habitats across all 28 countries of the European Union, is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. The webinar explored the creation of the network; its evolving approach to integrating conservation on private lands; discussed its results for nature and biodiversity conservation in Europe and introduced a case study from Ireland. Speakers shared reflections on the history, context, and future outlook for Natura 2000 and private land conservation, providing an opportunity for conservation practitioners, land managers, and protected area coordinators to get in-depth perspectives into the achievements, lessons learned, and broader implications from this unique effort.
To specify, Mr. Angelo Salsi of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) gave a brief but comprehensive overview of the origin of the Natura 2000 network, explaining the biogeographical approach and highlighting the uniqueness of the network. What makes the Natura 2000 network so special is its strong scientific focus in the legislation, a strong drive from the European Commission, the financial programme which supports the process and a conductive social and political context. The next speaker, Anton Gazenbeek, shared his expert insights on the historical context. His presentation also included the exciting news on the cooperation between the network of European private landowners (ELO) and that of conservation organisations (Eurosite) who will soon start working on a shared project, the continuation of the ELCN LIFE project as Conservation Landowner Coalition. His talk was followed by an inspiring personal story from Michael Davoren, a landowner from Ireland involved in the creation of the Burren Programme. His presentation included the introduction of a five-point template for successful private land restoration and he emphasised the importance of including landowners in decision making and planning. Lastly, Frank Vassen of the European Commission's Nature Unit of the General Directorate for the Environment completed the round of inspiring talks by providing an overview on the current impact of the Natura 2000 network – did they deliver? In short, yes. For instance, thanks to legal protection, many species of mammals and birds that were formerly persecuted (killing, poisoning, collecting, etc.) have recovered.
A recording of the webinar is available at the ILCN website.