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European Habitats Forum meets with DG Environment

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The European Habitats Forum (EHF) assembles leading European nature conservation organisations to provide advice on the implementation and future development of EU biodiversity policy, including improving integration into sectoral policies. Before its most recent meeting with DG Environment on 16 October, a position paper was sent to DG Environment on the nature protection commitments in the new Biodiversity Strategy to 2030. The paper welcomes the Protected Area targets and emphasises the need for Member States to endorse them politically, to commit to their implementation at the highest level, and to install the necessary governance, as improving the management effectiveness and actual protection of all existing and new protected areas is an urgent priority. In the view of the EHF, Natura 2000 can be used as a back bone for Protected Areas (PA) with additional designations that should be ecologically meaningful and comply with IUCN criteria for PAs and the definition agreed by Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Strictly Protected Areas (SPAs) should specifically be aligned with IUCN categories 1 and 2. The definition should exclude extractive and habitat damaging activities and only permit activities that enhance habitat for biodiversity – nature should be the primary objective of the area. EHF believe that targets should be shared equally across Member States. The Commission agreed with the issues addressed in the paper, and added that Member States should also look beyond the Nature Directives and consider tools like the IUCN red list to designate additional PAs. Regarding strict protection, a stricter approach than IUCN category and 1 and 2 will be used. It is considered that SPAs should have very limited human intervention and ecological function should be allowed to restore with little intervention.

The EHF additionally expressed its appreciation for the proposed development of a EU Nature Restoration Plan with legally binding restoration targets/law. A Roadmap and a public consultation are expected soon to be launched soon.