EUSTAFOR Published a Positions Paper on the on the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives and Its Implementation in State Forests
The European Commission has undertaken a “Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives” as part of the overall Regulatory Fitness and Performance Program. The Commission already received the mandate in February 2014. The main input into the process came from a stakeholder consultation, a public consultation and a review of scientific literature and published reports that included the ‘State of Nature in the EU’ and the mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. EUSTAFOR took part in both consultations and attended the high-level stakeholder conference on the Fitness Check of EU Nature Legislation in November last year.
According to the original timeline the final report from the European Commission (Staff Working Document) on the results of the Fitness Check study was planned for spring 2016 but its publication was postponed. The high-level conference “Future-proof Nature Policy – Reaching common goals,” organized by the Netherlands Presidency, was subsequently cancelled because of the delay.
Following the publication of the long-awaited Final Fitness Check Report, discussions about the Nature Directives can be expected to flare up again. It therefore appeared to be a good moment to spell out the position of state forests concerning the fitness check and possible improvements concerning the implementation of the Nature Directives. EUSTAFOR’s positon paper (XXX LINK), published on 8 July 2016, stresses the importance of forests for the Natura 2000 network and the fact that sustainably managed European state forests are well positioned to serve conservation needs in addition to other aspects of multifunctional forest management.
EUSTAFOR and its members are of the opinion that forest management and the goals of the EU Nature Directives are reconcilable. The fact that so many managed forests have been included in the Natura 2000 network and that they continue to have a high biodiversity value proves that sustainable forest management covers the conservation needs as regards forest biodiversity. European State Forest Management Organizations adhere to the principles of sustainable and multifunctional forest management and meet the objectives of the Nature Directives without neglecting economic and social values or other fundamental functions of forests. The position paper also points out that the implementation of the Nature Directives leads to extra costs. This fact needs to taken into account when programming conservation objectives and be recognized when establishing the financial objectives of SFMOs. EUSTAFOR and its members share the view that SFMOs should be eligible for EU support for environmental measures related to Natura 2000 in the same way that public land owners are compensated for the financial impacts of agricultural environmental measures.
The current Nature Directives are suitable tools to effectively preserve populations of wild species and to maintain or restore natural habitats while at the same time maintaining the economic, social and cultural functions of forests. This is why EUSTAFOR and its members do not advocate for re-opening this part of the EU legislation but strongly advise improving its implementation at both national and local levels. Implementation must be more flexible and bureaucratic burdens must be reduced to a strict minimum. Forest owners, administrators and managers must be sufficiently involved in relevant decision-making, implementation and management processes at all levels and stages.