What is Natura 2000?
All the countries of the European Union have made a co-decision to make a joint net of protected areas that is named Natura 2000. Since 2004 Latvia have joined this net. The existing specially protected areas were included in this net and it was replenished with 122 new territories. The main basis for including a new area in the net is protection of species of plants and animals and their habitats that are rare and endangered in Europe. The lists of these species and habitats are included in two directives of the European Union, and their protection is obligatory for all EU members. In the territory of Latvia 20 species of plants, 34 species of invertebrates, 29 species of mammals, 3 species of reptiles, 11 species of amphibians, 13 species of fish, 93 species of birds and 58 types of habitats.
Natura 2000 territories in Latvia
The net of Natura 2000 in Latvia includes 332 territories – 4 national parks, 4 strict nature reserves, 238 nature reserves, 37 nature parks, 9 protected landscape areas, 7 marine protected areas, 9 nature monuments and 24 microreserves. Terrestrial territories cover 12% or 787729 ha of the whole terrestrial area of the country. The protection and management regimes are various – from minor restrictions in landscape areas to absolute prohibition of any management in nature reserves.
What is the message of Natura 2000 for land owners and inhabitants?
Including of the land property in the Natura 2000 territory does not mean termination of any management. However, economic activities are more or less restricted, depending on the purpose of the creation the protected area. For example, in a swamp, where protection regime is stated to protect the ecosystem, the peat extraction is forbidden, but hunting, picking berries, bird-watching and nature trails are allowed. In many nature reserves economic activities can be carried on: land farming, mowing the meadows, ,grazing the grass, and considerately manage the forest. To make sure that the protection and management will be carried out in a proper way, nature protecton plans are developed. They are worked out in cooperation with local authorities and land owners, to get out most of both the nature protection and successful profitable management. Financement from EU funds for the management is available. To help land owners with compensations to cover losses that occur because of the restrictions concerning economic activities in protected areas, the law „About restrictions in protected territories” is prepared. This law will state the order of compensation ways and amounts – money compensations or land exchange.
Possibilities of visiting Natura 2000 territories
Visitors are allowed to all Natura 2000 territories, except a part of nature reserves. There are numerous nature trails and information boards already waiting to welcome interested parties.
However, it is necessary to remember the main purpose of creating these territories – the protection regime for rare and endangered nature values. This means that nature should be traeted here carefully, especially in spring, when birds and animals are mating and breeding their offspring.
Walking in the protected territories is allowed only along roads and paths, fires can be made on spesially allowed places and no litter can be left behind. Behaving quietly will increase the chances of seeing more birds and animals.
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