Natura area forest support and support for the maintenance of semi-natural biotic communities, both fit in the new Rural Development Plan costing over EUR 1 billion. In comparison with the previous Rural Development Plan, greater attention has been focused on the environment and the conservation of resources, the scope of several types of environmental support have been expanded, and new support opportunities have been added.
“It can be safely stated that, in the end, the new Rural Development Plan has been well preserved when it comes to nature. In Natura areas, the payment of forest support, and support for caring for species rich alvars, wooded meadows, and coastal meadows, is important for preserving the diversity of rural life," commented Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus-Rosimannus. “Places that are similar to the alvars in Estonia, and just as rich in terms of species, are found practically nowhere else in the world. Therefore, it is entirely justified that funds from the EU budget are used to care for them. “The goals of Natura private forest support and Natura agricultural support are to partially compensate for revenue lost due to nature conservation restrictions. If private forest owners are currently paid Natura support on 55,000 hectares of forest, then the number will reach 58,000 hectares under the new Rural Development Plan. Taking into consideration the restrictions placed on the management of forests in Natura 2000 areas, the continuation of the payment of private forest support is important for ensuring cooperation between private forest owners and nature conservationists. Support is also provided for the composition of species of trees found in the forests and cuttings to improve growing conditions on 35,000 hectares. The Rural Development Plan also promotes joint activity in the forestry sector, which improves the services directed towards private forest owners. EUR 28 million has been designated as support for private forests, with EUR 10 million for improving the economic and ecological vitality of forests.
The goal of supporting the maintenance of semi-natural biotic communities is to ensure the preservation of the species rich heritage landscapes. While caring for 25,000 hectares of semi-natural biotic communities is supported within the framework of the Rural Development Plan, then under the new plan it will be possible, by the year 2020, to pay support for the caring of up to 40,000 hectares, for which more than EUR 40 million has been designated. Estonian flora and fauna are one of the richest in the world in terms of diversity. However, the condition of several species affected by agriculture – such as the natterjack toad, northern crested newt, and others – is poor. Improving the living conditions of these species through habitat restoration and maintenance is Estonia's nature conservation priority, and its importance is also confirmed by the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
The total budget of the Rural Development Plan 2014-2020, completed under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, is EUR 1.002 billion, and nearly 30 organisations were included in its preparation.