The EU Commission: enforcing nature protection?

The EU Commission: enforcing nature protection?

Wildlife Estates participated yesterday in a debate in the European Parliament in Brussels on why enforcement matters to save European natural heritage for future generations. A representative from DG Environment sat down with a number of MEPs from across the political spectrum to discuss the rule of law as the last line of defense in nature protection.

The EU Nature laws
Europe’s most precious wildlife and habitats are protected by strong legal standards – the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. An EU-wide review of these laws has found they are ‘fit for purpose’: they have successfully established the world’s largest protected nature network (Natura 2000) and safeguards for over 1000 rare species.
European habitats are under pressure from a variety of factors. These include habitat fragmentation, degradation and destruction due to changes in land-use, intensification of production systems, abandonment of traditional (often biodiversity friendly) practices. The Wildlife Estates concept of “conservation through wise management” embraces the idea of responsible use of natural habitats.

Wildlife Estates believe that private landowners play a vital role in preserving the biodiversity in our countryside and we believe their efforts deserve recognition, both nationally and at the European level. The farms and estates that receive our label go above and beyond the legal requirements to ensure that European natural landscapes and biodiversity are maintained to the highest standard. 60% of our WE members’ territories are located within Nature 2000 designated areas. Yet while much of Europe’s rare nature is safeguarded on paper, by private landowners, by Natura 2000 and other European nature laws, there are cases where nature does not receive the high levels of protection it should.

When protected nature is in trouble – whether from illegal logging, damaging infrastructure or bad management – the EU Commission is often nature’s last line of defence.

As the body responsible for enforcing EU nature protection laws, and referring governments to the EU’s top court when the laws are flouted, the Commission is ultimately the last one standing in the way of illegal destruction.

When prompt proactive enforcement action is taken, nature and people benefit. The European Commission must prioritise and speed up dealing with complaints, launch infringement actions faster, and see them through.