Press Release: The NATURA 2000 Network and its contribution to local economic development
In the difficult economic and social period that we are in, the protection and conservation of valuable ecosystem services within the NATURA 2000 Network provide significant benefits for local economy and a wide range of opportunities to enhance employment and the development of environmentally friendly business. A prerequisite is to alleviate the misconceptions about the status of NATURA 2000 Network, so that the productive institutions and the local community of Crete to understand and support the biodiversity protection policy as a starting point, and not as an obstacle to local development. This finding is the main conclusion of the 1st Joint Meeting of the Stakeholders Consultative Team (SCT) and the Project Steering Committee (PSC) of the LIFE13 INF/GR/ 000188 project entitled: "The ecological services, social benefits and economic value of ecosystem services in Natura 2000 sites in Crete” (LIFE Natura2000ValueCrete), which was held on Wednesday, 26th of November 2014, at the Exhibition of NHMC in Heraklion, Crete. The project “LIFE Natura2000ValueCrete” started in July 2014 and is being implemented by the University of Crete - Natural History Museum of Crete (NHMC). Partners of the project are the Decentralized Administration Authority of Crete – Directorate General for Forests and Agriculture, Directorate of Coordination and Supervision of Forests (DAAC) and the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS). The project is co-financed by the European Commission – DG Environment and the Greek Ministry of Reconstruction of Production, Environment and Energy (YPAPEN).
The project’s objective is to implement a campaign of environmental awareness of the population that resides and operates at a business basis within the areas of NATURA 2000 Network (farmers, stockbreeders, hunters, professionals in tourism sector, public servants and local authorities, media employees, engineers, students and visitors), but also the wider population of Crete about the environmental, economic and social value of ecosystems within the areas that have been included in the NATURA 2000 Network.
The Stakeholders Consultative Team (SCT) is composed from representatives of the main productive institutions of the primary sector and tourism that are working within the NATURA 2000 network of Crete. The 1st Meeting of the SCT and PSC was attended by representatives from the following stakeholders associations:
· Stockbreeders Association of Anogeia;
· Lassithi Hotels Association;
· Stockbreeders Association of Lassithi;
· Heraklion Hotels Association;
· Rethymno Hotels Association.
The meeting was also attended by members of the project’s team of the Coordinating Beneficiary (NHMC) and the Associated Beneficiaries (DAAC and HOS).
The NATURA 2000 network does not prohibit any economic activity, but only sets limitations and requires modifications in cases where the relevant activities have a negative environmental impact, without compromising local production and development. Simultaneously, the NATURA 2000 Network is the last refuge for wildlife in Crete. Most ecosystem services are offered for free, while in case of degradation, the cost of rehabilitation is huge in financial terms. The development of ecotourism enterprises, the production and standardization of organic agricultural and livestock products, and the need for qualified staff in management actions are among the wide range of opportunities for strengthening the local labour market which provides the integration of a region in the NATURA 2000 Network, while it is also ensured the sustainable management of natural resources. Moreover, the protection and conservation of the natural landscape is itself a tourist product which attracts visitors all year round.
Representatives of producers participating in the meeting agreed to support the project “LIFE Natura2000ValueCrete”, as well as the institutions and policies that will trigger offsets from the ecological Network NATURA 2000. The next meeting will be held in the first half of 2015, while communication will present at a regular basis with all members of SCT. Information about the project and its objectives will be extended to other productive bodies of the primary sector and tourism, who were unable to attend the 1st Meeting of the “LIFE Natura2000ValueCrete” project.