Get out and enjoy your local Natura 2000 site
Monday of next week is 'European Natura 2000 Day'. The special day commemorates 21 May 1992, the day on which both the EU Habitats Directive and the LIFE programme were approved.
A habitat is a place where plants and animals are found, for example, a wood, a pond, the seashore, etc. While some habitats are common others are rare and fragile and in need of special conservation measures if they are not to become extinct.
The 1992 EU Habitats Directive lists some 200 habitat types throughout the European Union that need to be targeted for conservation measures by Member States. Some of these habitats support a range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species. Fifty-eight of the 200 or so listed habitats are recognised in Ireland and plans are in place to protect several examples of them.
The Birds Directive was adopted in 1979 and together with the 1992 Habitats Directive the two directives form the cornerstone of the European Union's nature conservation policy. Together, the two are sometimes known as 'the nature directives'.
The two directives require Member States to designate areas where birds and habitats are protected. Protected areas in accordance with the Birds Directive are known as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and protected areas in accordance with the Habitats Directive are known as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
The SPAs and SACs together make up the Natura 2000 network, a collection of more than 27,000 sites across the land and sea areas of the Union successfully contributing to the preservation of the unique natural heritage of Europe.
European Natura 2000 Day seeks to celebrate the Natura 2000 network, one of the EU's significant achievements. We are all encouraged to participate in the celebration by visiting, enjoying and learning more about one of the sites that is part of the pan-European network.
European Natura 2000 Day also celebrated the LIFE programme. That programme is the EU's financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed more than 4,500 projects. For the 2014-2020 funding period, LIFE will contribute approximately €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.
So, do make a point of getting out to enjoy your local Natura 2000 site be it a forest or woodland walk, a seashore or coastal walk, or a bog or upland area. Log onto www.npws.ie to locate your local Natura 2000 sites and all you need to know about them.