In 2020 LIFE-IP project “Comprehensive management of forest and farming landscapes to improve the conservation status of Natura 2000 habitats and species” (ForEst&FarmLand) was launched, involving all key players from universities, forestry sector and nature conservation as well as NGOs to jointly protect and restore Estonian landscapes and ecosystems and to improve the condition of the species and habitats in Estonian forests and agricultural lands.
The project (2020-2029) is led by the Ministry of the Environment and the total cost of the project is € 19,561,784.
The main objective of the LIFE-IP ForEst&FarmLand is to implement the most critical part of the Estonian Prioritised Actions Framework (PAF) for Natura 2000 related to forests and agricultural land.
More precisely LIFE-IP ForEst&FarmLand aims to:
- improve the conservation status of forest and farmland habitats and species to achieve results that benefit whole ecosystems;
- improve conservation practices and collaboration between administrative authorities; and
- raise awareness and capacity of main stakeholders and general public, including the use of innovative conservation tools and solutions.
The activities are divided into 6 thematic areas, namely (1) forest protection, (2) restauration of semi-natural grasslands, (3) nature friendly agriculture, (4) protection of species, (5) development of IT-systems for planning and implementing nature conservation work, and (6) environmental awareness and everyone’s nature conservation.
The project involves two types of forest protection activities.
Firstly, the project creates actions plans for wet and dry forest habitat types to develop suitable management approach, give overview about different actions needed to improve their conservation status and prioritize the concrete conservation interventions on country scale.
Action plans are focused on Natura 2000 areas but also they could be applicable to maintaining a certain forest habitat types across Estonia. Based on the action plans 3500 ha wet forest and 500 ha dry forest will be restored, and their conditions will be monitored.
In addition, 500 ha forest will be purchased from private owners for the purposes of nature protection.
The second forest related activity is focused for measures undertaken by private forest owners in Natura 2000 areas.
In Estonia, Natura 2000 private forest support has been paid since 2008, however by now it is outdated and many problems in terms of compensation rates, restrictions, etc. have occurred. Moreover, current support is a passive support to compensate loss of income but in some forest areas active measures are needed to improve the status of the forest habitats.
The project is analyzing and updating Natura 2000 compensation measures as well as developing active forest measures to improve the conservation status of forest habitats and species in protected areas belonging to private owners.
Regarding semi-natural grasslands the existing action plan will be updated, 1000 ha of semi-natural grasslands will be restored or further maintained, including 20 pilot sites of coastal meadows. The current subsidy system will also be modernized in order to provide more incentives for landowners and land users to restore and maintain semi-natural areas.
There will be a new advisory center established at the Environmental Board, with the task to improve communication between environmental officials and local people and thus create a favourable ground for further cooperation and reaching out to potential new landowners who are willing to contribute to the maintenance of the semi-natural areas.
The existing agricultural support schemes will be evaluated and improved in order to better protect natural values of arable land. These biodiversity-friendly measures will be tested and on the basis of the information received, proposals for new support schemes under the EU Common Agricultural Policy will be made.
Within the area of spices protection action plan for pollinators will be developed, several research on farmland birds will be made, 100 small water bodies for amphibians restored or created in agricultural landscapes, eradication of invasive alien species - Fallopia spp, Solidago spp, Symphoricarpos albus and Sorbaria sorbifolia will be conducted.
During the project, a new IT-system will be developed, which should gather all the necessary data and become a universal tool for coordinating and managing nature conservation work. The current wildlife information system is fragmented and contains only part of the information that is needed for planning and carrying out nature conservation work.
In addition to extensive nature conservation work, environmental awareness, everyone’s contribution to the environmental protection and community-based actions will be promoted.