From: World Wildlife Fund
Published April 24, 2008 08:07 AM

More space for species in Europe

Brown bears, wolves, lynx, owls and black storks have been given vast new areas to roam in as the European Commission accepted new areas corresponding to two-thirds the size of The Netherlands to its Natura 2000 network of protected natural areas.

Many of the new areas are in central and eastern Europe, including a significant part of the Carpathian Mountains. Slovakia has added a wealth of sites, including for example the traditional farming area of Mala Fatra.

“We are extremely pleased by the European Commission’s decision to extend the Natura 2000 network”, said Andreas Beckmann, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme’s Deputy Director.

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“This marks another major milestone for nature protection in Europe and is an achievement for WWF, which has been working for several years to support preparations for introducing Natura 2000 to new EU member states.”

Poland has added 18 sites in the Carpathian range, among them the Gory Slonne Mountains, classified as an important bird area.

Other areas in the newly declared 19,000 km2 are in Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Natura 2000 now covers almost 20% of the continent’s land and 100,000 km2 of its seas.

To address biodiversity loss, European countries decided in 1992 to establish a network of specially protected sites to protect and maintain habitats and species. It is also supporting a healthy environment for EU citizens.

Natura 2000 is seen as a key instrument to achieve the Community’s objectives to stop biodiversity loss until 2010. It is in the process of being extended to its newest members in Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

It also fulfils part of the obligations of the EU and its member states under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The network is expanding in marine areas and even non-EU countries, including those in the Dinaric Arc and Turkey, are starting to follow similar conservation approaches as part of their effort towards EU accession.

WWF and its partners played an important role in identifying and designating future Natura 2000 sites, as well as building capacity for their effective protection and management.

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