Background

Natura 2000 & Forests

50% of the Natura 2000 network are forests.

The European Commission’s DG Environment and DG Agriculture and Rural Development jointly initiated the drafting of a new Guidance Document on Forest Management in Natura 2000. This Guidance Document aims to (a) contribute to the improvement of the conservation status of habitats and species in forests, (b) clarify the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, and (c) promote a more integrated management of forests in Natura 2000 areas, by strengthening partnership / involvement of stakeholders and the forest sector in the management of the Natura 2000 network.

FACE coordinated and submitted a first round of comments with supporting scientific documentation, to which the Natura 2000 national correspondents (experts from the FACE Membership) made extremely valuable contributions.

In those comments, FACE addressed two main concerns in particular:

- Game management and the associated role of hunters were not mentioned;

- “non-intervention” management (including the banning of human activities) was promoted without specifications under which conditions this should apply.

Hunting remains a necessary tool in forest management. Large game species have ecological impacts on forests and depending on the population densities and the carrying capacity of the forests, these may be favourable or unfavourable to biodiversity and habitats. The negative impacts may be preventing forests designated as Natura 2000 sites from meeting their conservation objectives, and are also often connected with economic losses by the forestry sector and forest owners (and hunters in the case where they need to compensate game damages). Furthermore, hunting is also associated with many socio-economic benefits within the Natura 2000 network and often represents an attractive source of income for landowners and an incentive to manage forests sustainably, in line with Natura 2000 conservation objectives.

A concern with the “non-intervention” concept is the lack of consideration for management needs of land uses outside non-intervention areas (e.g. damages in surrounding agricultural fields by wild boar and the control of generalist predator species). There is evidence that a non-intervention regime or strict protection can also have negative effects on biodiversity and habitats (e.g. those with a long history of sustainable management). When activities (including forestry activities, hunting, etc.) have no negative impact on the conservation objectives, they should not be banned. Bans can only be based on scientific evidence and need to be evaluated on a site-by-site basis (due to local differences and different conservation objectives). Conflicts arising from unnecessary bans can cause additional challenges in achieving the conservation objectives. 

In early 2013, FACE will have another opportunity to comment on a more detailed draft and we will contact the Natura 2000 national correspondents again.

Further information on Natura 2000:

With regards to the Biogeographic process, the Atlantic Region will hold its Seminar on 3-5 December 2012 in Bergen, the Netherlands. To our knowledge only FACE-Ireland will be participating from the FACE Membership.

DG Environment is also planning a Guidance document on Natura 2000 and farmland. As this process makes many references to the uncertainty of the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), FACE will keep an eye on this and contribute accordingly, but will focus more on the concrete discussions under the actual CAP.