Presenting LIFEstockProtect at part 2 of LIFE19 Welcome Meeting

The second session of the LIFE19 Welcome Meeting took place this week with more than 200 participants. Both the coordinating beneficiary BIO AUSTRIA Niederösterreich & Wien and the European Wilderness Society participated in this meeting, which was organised by EASME and NEEMO. In this meeting, the coordinating beneficiaries of newly approved LIFE projects are invited to present their project to each other, and become more familiar with the Agency EASME that coordinates the LIFE programme on behalf of the European Commission.

Looking forward to the next LIFE period

The year 2020 marks the last year of the current financing period for LIFE projects. The programme is currently being revised by experts and will be published in the near future. In the opening speeches Angelo Salsi, the Head of Unit (EASME), shared some interesting details and achievements of the LIFE projects that are being financed by the LIFE programme. This was followed by a presentation from Frank Vassen from the Directorate General Environment – Nature unit. Mr. Vassen provided insight in the plans of the European Commission regarding the new EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, and what new focus topics will be important in the coming years.

Presenting our project to fellow LIFE projects

Following these first presentations, the participants were grouped in breakout rooms to present their own projects to others. The LIFEstockProtect project shared its breakout group with the following inspiring LIFE projects that focus on different mammal species:

LIFE BEAVER, coordinated by the Institute for Conservation of Natural Heritage (LUTRA), is focusing on the European beaver. The beaver has been locally extinct in Slovenia and Croatia for two centuries, and is now re-colonising its historical habitats. It has favourable conservation status in these two countries. However, its long absence means the beaver is now considered as a “new” species, and even a pest, with conflicts arising as the population increases. The project partners will improve awareness about the animal’s return, emphasising its positive impact on the environment. This will ensure public acceptance of the beaver and create positive attitudes towards the species. The institute will also strengthen cross-border cooperation between Slovenia and Croatia for exchanging best practices and synchronised population management. 

LIFE BEARS WITH FUTURE, coordinated by Fundación Oso Pardo, addresses the brown bear population in the Cantabrian mountains, which has been steadily increasing, while climate change represents a serious challenge for its conservation, making hibernation more difficult. The LIFE project will therefore ensure that bears have sufficient resources by planting chestnut trees and fruit-producing trees and shrubs, as well as purchasing land and striking agreements with landowners for their cultivation. The project will also address conflicts that relate to shorter wintering periods, carrying out an extensive information campaign. 

LIFE LYNXCONNECT, coordinated by the Andalusian Consultancy for Agriculture, Farming, Fishing and Sustainable Development. This project addresses the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) which is listed as ‘Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List. Its genetic diversity is among the lowest reported for any species, and current rates of natural migration are not enough to guarantee the viability of the global population. LIFE LYNXCONNECT aims to increase both the overall population size and the connectivity among Iberian lynx population nuclei, to assure a viable overall population and down-list the species to IUCN ‘Vulnerable’. The project team will consolidate four existing population nuclei, and create two new ones, by introducing captive-bred individuals, and creating stepping stones of favourable habitat to encourage gene flow between them. Actions will also reduce non-natural mortality by making road crossings safer, repair farm structures such as henhouses, and draw up agreements between landowners, hunters and farmers to reduce conflicts. 

LIFE SYSEL, coordinated by the Regional Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development, is all about the European ground squirrel. Once common in Central and Eastern Europe, the population and habitat range of the European ground squirrel is declining. The LIFE project will address this decline, carrying out grassland management to provide suitable habitat for the species and to re-connect its fragmented sites and thus boost its genetic viability. It will also tackle the threat of predation and lack of food supply, installing boxes and stone and wood piles, while planting favourable crops. It will also encourage replications beyond the initial target northwestern border area of its range.

We are very thankful to the support of the LIFE programme to turn the LIFEstockProtect project into practice. We are looking forward to sharing our experiences with other relevant LIFE projects, and look forward to learning from them vice versa.

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October news update

A lot of interesting things happened last month in LIFEstockProtect, thus, we want to share the news with you! In October, besides another exciting trip to Majella National Park, first meetings on the different A actions were initiated, data collection started, and our website is finally also available in Italian.

News overview

The European Wilderness Society and EURAC, together with three Austrian shepherds, returned to Majella National Park. The aim of this trip was to exchange experiences with local shepherds about how they implement livestock protection. As the Apennines in Central Italy represent one of the regions in Europe where wolves never disappeared, the exchange about best practices is crucial for similar implementation in the German-speaking region of the Alps. The team visited a sheep and goat farmer who owns more than 1.400 animals that are protected by 24 livestock guarding dogs; a cow farmer who explained how the cows are instinctively dealing with the presence of wolves in the region; and a young couple who just started their own goat farm three years ago. Read all the details of this trip here.

The working group on preparatory action A.2, a stakeholder analysis, consisting of Naturschutzbund Österreich, EURAC, Umweltdachverband Österreich, ELIANTE and BUND Naturschutz Bayern got together for a first online meeting. Experiences where shared by Anna Crimella (ELIANTE), who has performed stakeholder involvement for many years already. A draft template for stakeholder mapping was subsequently developed in collaboration with the other LIFE project LIFEWolfAlps EU. Over the course of the next weeks and months, the partners will continue to develop relevant baseline information to prepare a lobby network plan which will then be used for effective stakeholder engagement.

Naturschutzhunde had a meeting in the beginning of October after an exciting dog training weekend in Ansfelden and organized the administration for the project. Also, they are making great progress in the preparatory action A.5 and A.6. They are collecting detection dog training protocols from other organisations and countries, and are assessing among relevant stakeholders who is interested to participate in the planned training. Together with VetMedUni Wien, Österreichzentrum Bär, Wolf, Luchs, and ELIANTE, they will look at ways to effectively train scatdog owners to collect scats for genetic analysis further on in the project. Finally, they are organizing an online workshop for Saturday 14th of November, which will give interesting insights into the different uses of detection dogs!

The LIFEstockProtect team of Bavaria, consisting of Bioland Bayern, Bioland Beratung GmbH, BUND Naturschutz Bayern und OPUS, established a weekly online jour fixe meeting to discuss project progress in the region and to tackle the data collection of wolf-livestock depredation, livestock protection impact, the human dimension and legislation for preparatory action A.3.

The European Wilderness Society established effective communication channels through different platforms for all project partners and is in the process of ordering marketing material to be used by all partners throughout the project realization. Together with EURAC, they also updated the project website. It is now available in English, German, and Italian!

Press appearances

October has also been a successful month in terms of press appearances, especially in Italian media! Here is a selection of media platforms that covered the LIFEstockProtect project with a direct link to the article:

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Attending the LIFE19 Welcome Meeting

Earlier this month, the coordinating beneficiary BIO AUSTRIA Niederösterreich & Wien and associated beneficiary European Wilderness Society attended the LIFE19 Welcome Meeting. Usually, this meeting takes place in Brussels, at the headquarters of EASME. This year however, the first 2 days of the meeting took place virtually due to the corona restrictions. This meeting aims to welcome and introduce all newly approved LIFE projects to the programme and its regulations. The second part of this LIFE19 Welcome Meeting will take place mid-November. This is where we will present LIFEstockProtect to other approved LIFE projects in the Nature subprogram.

The LIFE programme, EASME and NEEMO

The LIFE programme is a funding instrument of the EU for projects concerning the environment and climate action. It was created in 1992 and its budget continues to grow with every funding period. The current funding period 2014-2020 has a budget of €3.4 billion. A significant part of this is allocated to the subprogram Nature, where LIFEstockProtect falls under. The European Commission set up the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) to manage on its behalf the LIFE programme. EASME also manages several other EU programmes regarding SME support & innovation, environment, climate action, energy and maritime affairs. At this moment there are approximately 1.000 LIFE projects ongoing. Therefore EASME has an external monitoring team to evaluate the performance of the projects. NEEMO is responsible for this monitoring, and consists of a consortium of international experts from the European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG).

During the LIFE19 Welcome Meeting, Angelo Salsi from EASME and Jan Silva from NEEMO introduced their organisations to the participants. Their colleagues shared more details with the project beneficiaries about financial administration and reporting regulations. Furthermore, we discussed effective ways and best practices to communicate and disseminate information about the project to the general public and important stakeholders. Afterwards there was time for a Q&A session to cover some of the most pressing issues that some beneficiaries are currently facing.

For our project, this was a very useful meeting! Of course it was good to get to know the people behind EASME and NEEMO better. Yet it was also helpful to get more practical tips and advice on how to adhere to the programme’s regulations. We are already looking forward to the second part of the LIFE19 Welcome Meeting, where we will present our project to fellow LIFE19 projects online.

Project update: first successful weeks

A lot has already happened since the start of the project LIFEstockProtect in September. On the one hand, each partner set up project management and administration. On the other hand, some already started to collaborate with stakeholders to work towards the goals of the different project actions. Here is a summary of the activities of the first six weeks:

General update

  • All project partners participated in the successful 2-day Kick-off meeting on 22nd and 23rd of October. We looked into details of the project organization, administration, financial management and communication. Additionally, we planned the next steps and established multiple working groups to tackle the planned preparatory actions.
  • The project management team participated in the welcome meeting of the LIFE programme on the 7th and 8th of October. During this meeting, all LIFE projects which launched in 2020 had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge on project management requirements, financial management and guidelines on communication.

Austria

  • Several employees and volunteers from the European Wilderness Society tested the planned livestock protection volunteer training activities in Tyrol. They supported a local livestock owner with herding 200+ sheep, moving them from the mountains to the valley, and assisted in collecting the fences for the winter season.
  • The European Wilderness Society accompanied the television crew from ZDF to Tyrol and Central Italy (Majella National Park) who are producing a documentary on the return of the wolf and arising challenges for livestock protection. The documentary, which is expected to air in spring 2021, will include the LIFEstockProtect project and will showcase one of the locations of a livestock protection competence centre, established within the project.
  • Naturschutzhunde has contacted several organizations from the field of wildlife detection to put together all the information necessary for the creation of the certification and curriculum of scat dog teams.

Italy

  • The EURAC team visited a farmer on the Seiser Alm. Together, they fixed an electric fence to protect sheep against wolf attacks. The conversation revealed that the farmer already experimented a lot with different kinds of fences and gates. His property is situated in a touristic area, which can cause conflicts, for example when visitors do not close gates properly. The farmer is interested to be involved in the LIFEstockProtect fence lab to share his knowledge and to assist in the development of new and better tools to protect livestock.
  • The European Wilderness Society visited Majella National Park to learn about the extensive research they conduct on wolves. Wolves have always been present in the area, thus, locals are accustomed to living alongside them. The researchers of the park management explained to us how they perform research to study the wildlife interaction with wolves, and many more interesting topics.

Germany

  • OPUS and BUND Naturschutz Bayern finalized the hiring process of project managers.
  • BUND Naturschutz Bayern presented the LIFEstockProtect project to the audience of the anniversary conference “25 years Nationalpark Unteres Odertal” in Brandenburg.
  • The Bavarian LIFEstockprotect team held an online-meeting on the 7th of October to discuss important issues regarding financing, administration, and planning of the livestock protection competence centers.

LIFEstockProtect Has Kicked Off

LIFEstockProtect, the largest and most ambitious livestock protection project in the German-speaking Alpine region, is off to a flying start. After its approval this summer, it officially started on the 1st of September 2020. Last week, the internal Kick-Off meeting of all beneficiaries signalled the next step in the process. As result of Covid restrictions, the meeting took place online. However, this could not overshadow the enthusiasm of all participants that the project was finally starting.

Work has started

Even though LIFEstockProtect has only just completed its first month of the five year project period, work has already started and the first obstacles have been cleared. Many partners are hiring or have already hired new staff to implement the project. The tendering process has begun and external expertise acquisition is ongoing, contributing to project implementation with material and expertise. Feedback from many participants has evidenced the media’s interest in livestock protection. Not only has a film crew already produced material about LIFEstockProtect for a German TV documentary, but outreach activities have taken place in many places.

It was great to finally officially kick-off LIFEstockProtect with all beneficiaries. Everyone is excited to start with the ‘real’ work and help farmers with livestock protection. At the same time, it was impressive to see the partners´ commitment and the work they have already done this summer.

Max Rossberg- Project Manager of LIFEstock Protect and Chairman of the European Wilderness Society

Some of those involved even spent their summer holiday preparing the project. Moreover, some visited the ‘Almen‘, typical summer pastures in the Alps, to get an idea of possible project locations and to visit affected the farmers. Futhermore, the European Wilderness Society took the immersive experience even further. During the Kick-Off meeting, two employees and three volunteers were in a rural area in Tyrol, Austria to support a local sheep farmer with the ‘Almabtrieb’, the traditional herding of sheep back down to the valley in the autumn. They went from the online conference room directly back to the mountains.

Participants attended the meeting from over 13 different locations all across the project area:

The Next Steps In LIFEstockProtect

In the following months, project partners will focus on setting up work structures for LIFEstockProtect and starting the preparatory actions. This includes collecting information about the current state of livestock protection in the German-speaking Alps and preparing the educational and livestock protection training courses, which will start next spring.

LIFEstockProtect approved: start 1.9.2020

On September 1st, under the leadership of BIO AUSTRIA Niederösterreich / Vienna, the largest livestock protection project, co-financed by the EU, called “LIFEstockProtect” starts in Austria, Bavaria, South Tyrol.

LIFEstockProtect is financed with a budget of 5 million euros and is aimed at all livestock farmers for a period of 5 years, regardless of whether they are cattle, cows, pigs, poultry, sheep, horses or goat farmers. The project is carried out under the leadership of BIO AUSTRIA Niederösterreich / Vienna. During the project development, special attention was paid to the expertise of livestock protection experts from agriculture as well as the involvement of numerous agricultural organizations, environmental protection associations and public institutions.

Another important focus is the development of knowledge for the breeding and use of livestock protection dogs, as well as the touristic challenges regarding the implementation of livestock protection.

“With submission and approval, we ensure that all livestock owners, regardless of whether they are obliged to graze on grassland or not, can pursue their profession despite the predators’ return.”Otto Gasselich, lead partner and chairman of BIO AUSTRIA NÖ / W

Otto Gasselich
Leadpartner und Obmann BIO AUSTRIA NÖ/Wien

The project will train more than 1000 livestock owners in all aspects of livestock protection. These trainings are aimed at all livestock owners, livestock protection advisors, veterinarians, shepherds, agricultural livestock protection advisors and official representatives.

“Professional education and training is indispensable for the successful implementation of livestock protection in the entire Alpine German-speaking region. That is why the 180 training courses are conducted by experienced agricultural livestock protection experts. ”

Max A E Rossberg
Projektmanager und Obmann European Wilderness Society

The kick-off event is planned for November 2020, taking into account the conditions imposed by COVID-19. Three more livestock protection conferences will be held in the following years. The first of a total of 180 training courses and workshops will be offered from spring 2021.

Press release DE

LIFEstockProtect project proposal submitted

The project team with up to 27 employees from all 19 partners is working feverishly on the last documents to submit the application to the EU on February 11, 2020. The key data:

  • 24 months preparation time
  • 440 pages project description
  • 20 actions with more than 60 sub-actions
  • Budget with more than 1,000+ lines
  • more than 170 declarations of support
  • 12 graphics, mind maps and pictures
  • 12 detailed maps

During the livestock protection conference of the LIFE project EuroLargeCarnivore many interesting discussions had been held and the project idea was positively evaluated by many people present.

Here are some impressions from the last few days:

The goals of LIFEstockProtect

Livestock protection is still a major challenge and requires the implementation of various measures depending on the case complexity. For the first time, agricultural organizations have come together and developed a joint project for the German-speaking Alpine region. We collaborated with scientists, nature conservationists, livestock protection experts and other actors from Austria, Bavaria and South Tyrol.

The main objective of the project is to demonstrate and implement livestock protection measures to enable the coexistence of humans, livestock and wild animals.

LIFEstockProtect plans at least 150 activities with at least 4 000 participants, including workshops, seminars, and trainings. They have the following objectives:

  • More regions where livestock protection is effectively implemented
    • Establishment of at least 20 livestock protection competence centres
    • Establishment of at least 9 pilot regions to test various livestock protection measures
  • Better knowledge of farmers on the subject of livestock protection through
    • Training of at least 1000 farmers
    • Education of at least 100 livestock protection advisors
  • Increased public acceptance of livestock protection measures through
    • Mediation of at last 100 volunteers to help shepherds
    • Training of 100 livestock protection ambassadors
    • Visit of at least 140 schools
    • 3 public conferences
  • Less conflicts between people, grazing animals and wild animals in the project target region in the Alps
    • Education of at least 5 tracking dogs
    • Education of 24 000 farmers
    • Workshops with at least 25 Tourism associations

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If you are interested in livestrock protection and would like to support the project, please download a support declaration (preferably in English) and send it to info(at)lifestockprotect.info.

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