2016 Natura 2000 Award winners announced
At a ceremony in Brussels on 23 May, Commissioner Vella announced the winners of the 2016 Natura 2000 Awards. The six winners include projects from Bulgaria, Latvia, Spain, and the UK and cross-border projects from Belgium, France, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland and Norway.
The annual Natura 2000 Awards recognize conservation achievements across the EU and raise awareness about initiatives that protect nature across Europe, benefiting citizens’ quality of life as well as the economy on which their prosperity depends.
Natura 2000 is a network of over 27,000 protected sites that covers 18% of EU land territory and more than 5% of its marine areas. The aim of the network is to protect and enhance Europe’s natural heritage, securing the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species.
Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: ‘I am once again honoured to recognize the fantastic work undertaken by the winners and all of the finalists in preserving our common natural heritage. These initiatives have gone a long way towards ensuring that nature’s benefits keep flowing for many years to come.’
This year, the European Citizens’ Award goes to the Spanish conservation initiative to save the Iberian lynx – the world’s most threatened cat species – from extinction.
The Conservation Award went to an initiative on Blanket bog restoration in Dove Stone in the UK, implemented by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the water company United Utilities.
The project For the Balkans and the People: Nature Protection and Sustainable Rural Development in Bulgaria won the Socio-Economic Benefits Award for demonstrating that nature conservation and economic development can go hand-in-hand and are mutually dependent.
The Communication Award went to the Nature Concerthall project in Latvia implemented by the Nature Concerthall Association, for their efforts to improve public knowledge about nature and biodiversity in an innovative and artistic way.
The Reconciling Interests/Perception Award goes to the project Creating green corridors for biodiversity under high-tension lines between Belgium and France. Implemented by two electricity transmission system operators, ELIA and RTE with the support of LIFE funding, this initiative tested a nature-based approach to overcoming the challenges of power supply in forested areas.
The project to preserve the Lesser white-fronted goose, Europe’s rarest waterbird, won the Cross-border Cooperation and Networking Award. Partners from Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Norway, and 15 other countries combined their efforts on urgent conservation actions along the bird’s flying route.
The Award is open to anyone directly involved in the EU’s Natura 2000 – businesses, government bodies, NGOs, volunteers, landowners, educational institutions or individuals. A total of 83 applications from across Europe were received this time. From these, a shortlist of 24 applications was established. A high-level jury then selected the winners.