Today European Commission announced the finalists of Natura2000 awards and for the first time Lithuanian initiative – Aquatic Warbler conservation project – is among them. This project claims to be the best European project in the category of socio-economic benefit for the society.
„We are very happy that Aquatic Warbler conservation project received international recognition and especially in the category which stress the project‘s benefit for local community it‘s value for the social and economic well-being.“- says Zymantas Morkvenas, the manager of Aquatic Warbler conservation project and the director of Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania.
Aquatic Warbler conservation project was noticed in the contest because a long-term nature conservation system that will ensure the continuity and maintenance of nature conservation after the project is created.
„Farmers that protects Aquatic Warblers in their fields have to postpone mowing significantly and therefore they receive compensation payments from Rural Development Programme of Lithuania. Late-cut grass is no longer suitable for fodder therefore there is a need to find a wise solution where to use this biomass meaninfully. We solve this challange by building up a biomass processing facility in the region. It collects remaining wetland grass from local farmers and recycles it to a new product – grass pellets that are used for animal bedding. The new product enters European market little by little. We recieve more and more orders from interested horse owners willing to use this bedding. They say, that the product performs it‘s function perfectly. In a long run, the income from pellet sales will help to cover the operational costs of the processing facility and this nature conservation system will not need external support for maintenance. This business model is in line with the principle of circular economy which is now highly promoted.“ – says Z. Morkvenas.
The naturalist also points out that the biomass processing facility perfectly illustrates nature conservation philosophy, when nature is protected not from, but together with people. „That‘s the way it is, Aquatic Warbler is a species that need people. People once interfered to it‘s living environment and now it would be extremely difficult for the species to survive without the help of people. Biomass processing facility is a symbolic place, where the biggests supporters of the bird – farmers, nature conservationists and animal lovers – meet.“ – continues Z. Morkvenas.
The contest of Natura 2000 awards has not ended yet. The competent jury will select 5 best projects – one in each of 5 categories – from 27 finalists. All European citizens will select one more winner during public voting. You can also express your opinion about the finalists – vote for your favorite. Voting remains open until 15 September 2020. The winners will be invited to a high level Ceremony in Brussels to receive their awards, and will get support to organise high-profile local events attended by representatives of the European Commission.
This pan-European Award recognises excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites and conservation achievements, showcasing the added value of the network for local economies, and increasing public awareness about Europe’s valuable natural heritage. The aim of the awards is to show people what the network is, how it works, and what it does to preserve Europe’s biodiversity.
Natura 2000 awards are organized from 2014. It is the 5th international contest of this kind.
Seventy-nine applications were received under the 2020 edition of the Award from 26 EU Member States and the United Kingdom in five categories. Independent experts selected 27 applications as finalists.
The Natura 2000 network covers an enormous variety of different sites across the continent. It preserves and enhances Europe’s biodiversity, safeguarding it for future generations, and it provides a range of important benefits, helping nature to help us. At the heart of the Birds and the Habitats Directives lies the creation of the Natura 2000 network – a Europe-wide ecological network of nature conservation areas. Over 27,800 sites have been included in the network so far. In total, they cover a substantial area: almost a fifth of Europe’s land area and nearly 10% of the surrounding seas. This makes it the largest coordinated network of conservation areas anywhere in the world.