By: CHRIS GRAEME
PORTUGAL STANDS to get over 25 million euros a year until 2013 from European Union environmental protection funds to help save endangered species and preserve their natural habitats.
The total 6.1 billion euro EU fund is integrated into the Natura 2000 scheme, an ecological network covering the European Union.
Since the beginning of 2007, funding has been provided mainly through two financing programmes, Life Plus and the Civil Protection Financial Instrument.
Life Plus has a budget of 2.143 billion euros for the period of 2007-2013, of which 78 per cent will be for the co-financing of project actions whereby 50 per cent will go on nature and bio-diversity projects. The remaining sum is for EU operational expenses.
Each year, the European Commission will organise an annual call for proposals from environmental groups, non-government organisations, public administration and government programmes, and other private entities including farming, forestry and fishing organisations and companies for sustainable development projects. The Commission will then select, revise and monitor the projects and make the appropriate payments.
Another source of income is the Civil Protection Financial Instrument programme, which has a total of 189.8 million euros for the period of 2007-2013, which will work out at around 20 million euros a year for actions within the EU.
Portugal has only just subscribed to the 2007-2013 funding scheme and must decide how best to use its slice of the cake in protecting areas of outstanding natural beauty where rare wildlife and their habitats are at risk.
Possible areas could include the River Tejo Estuary whose wetlands are home to a number of rare migratory birds and fish.
One project already integrated into the Natura 2000 scheme is the Castro Verde Sustainable Programme started in 1993, which aims to promote the conservation of the Alentejo steppes in Castro Verde as well as the rare birds and the endangered Iberian Lynx (Lynx Pardinus) that live there.
In the Alentejo steppes, there are a number of rare and endangered birds including the Great Bustard, the heaviest bird in Europe and one of the largest flying birds in the world. Portugal has the third largest population in Europe but with only 1,150 individuals (around 500 pairs) the future for this unusual animal looks bleak unless their natural habitats can be protected from over farming and development.
The Little Bustard, the Corn Bunting, the Lesser Kestrel, the Roller, the Hen Harrier, the Lapwing and the Stone Curlew are all other species of birds which are threatened by un-sustained development and agriculture.
Each EU Member State, including Portugal, must compile a list of its best wildlife areas containing the kind of habitats and species laid down by the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive. This list must then be submitted to the European Commission, which, after a careful analysis, evaluation and selection process on a European level, will select or reject the proposals as a Natura 2000 site.
Other areas which could benefit from funding in Portugal are the Ria Formosa and Aveiro areas, Trás-os-Montes, the serras and valleys in the North-East of Portugal, and the network of national parks.
Private and public entities interested in applying for funds for either nature conservation or commercial sustainable development projects should consult the following websites: www.
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