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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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.