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Reflections of NAT-PROGRAMME mid-term seminar
In late February a significant seminar, organized by LIFE + funded project “NAT-PROGRAMME” which is implemented by Nature Conservation Agency, took place at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. This event brought together more than 100 participants - widely represented by NGOs, government institutions and municipality organizations, land owners and managers. The meeting marked the project mid-term and presented conservation and restoration priorities and possible management solutions of protected habitats of EU importance in Latvian Natura2000 sites.
At the opening of the seminar the goal of the meeting was marked by NAT-PROGRAMME project manager Mr. Juris Jātnieks , who introduced the audience to the development process of the national level nature protection policy planning documents, paying particular attention to the financial attraction for policy implementation activities. Mr. Jātnieks noted that ongoing EU funding period highlights recognizable programming targeting up to year 2025.
This is confirmed by the fact that prioritized management actions set during “NAT-PROGRAMME” project are funded both - at the national level industry operational program and financial instruments such as LIFE, the Cohesion Fund and the Latvian Environmental Protection Fund.
Such approach will contribute to the interests of essential action execution consistency in Latvian Natura 2000 sites and ensures favourable conservation status of protected habitats and species.
During the seminar, group of experts characterized conditions of six EU importance habitat types in the country, presented major protection challenges and named the priorities of legislative changes, including change of boundaries of the especially protected territories as well as management and protection measures, which will form part of the future action program.
The expert of forest habitats recalled that Latvia is a wooded country, but with a very low proportion of still decreasing old forests. As an absolute priority for the conservation of forest biodiversity was mentioned fragmentation reduction, habitat aggregation - quality and coexistence, as well as the restoration of the hydrological regime.
Natural water level importance also was emphasized by the marsh and mire habitat expert. It is the hydrological regime establishing the favourable provision of the conservation status for various types of wetland. At least for 30% of bogs in Latvian NATURA 2000 sites, action is necessary - for both preventing further degradation and renaturalization after earlier accomplished peat extraction activities.
Most endangered marsh types in Latvia are calcareous fens and spring fens - it is a priority to ensure their protection in all Natura 2000 areas where they occur.
The freshwater habitats expert noted that these types of habitats are not always properly evaluated in the nature management plans of the specially protected territories. Marking the management tasks to be taken as an absolute priority - is to restore swift streams - habitats of freshwater pearl mussel. The expert noted that the successful management of freshwater habitats requires legislative changes – to ensure river release from tree piles and beaver dams, a major activity for EU habitat restoration in many rivers.
Maritime topical issues is coastal landscape protection with the help of spatial planning tools. It is necessary maintain favourable conditions for such coastal habitat types as wooded sand dunes and gray dunes. It is also necessary to determine the spreading of the aggressive and invasive species and to identify appropriate methods to combat these species.
Latvia can be proud of the rock outcrop habitats. Cracks, niches and caves in sandstone and calcium carbonate outcrops are important habitat structures for protected plant species and wintering bats. In general, in order to maintain a favourable status for this type of habitat it is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the natural development mode.
Overall it was stated that there is a strong need to pay more attention to public education and awareness and alignment of commercial interests with nature conservation tasks.
During the seminar there was an active exchange of views and discussion after each presentation. NAT-PROGRAMME project experts will take this exchange into account for the further development of management program and guidelines. At present, these two documents are at the draft stage and there will be public discussions organized and further development of these documents at the future course of the project (2015 - 2016) ensured - by publishing them into projects website and discussed in next coming seminars.


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