The EU’s Birds Directive adopted in 1979 and the Habitats Directive from 1992 form the EU’s most important nature conservation legislation framework. The Habitats Directive applies to 1,000 wild animal and plant species in Europe as well as to 230 habitat types, and its goal is to maintain or restore a favourable conservation status for the habitats and species of European importance. The Birds Directive aims to maintain all wild bird populations in the EU at an acceptable level.
The directives require EU member states to establish protection regimes and sites, which together form a Europe-wide network of Natura 2000 nature areas. The network currently covers about 18 per cent of the EU’s land area.
The Commission’s Action Plan for its Birds and Habitats directives (“An Action Plan for nature, people, and the economy”) published in spring 2017 is made up of four priority areas and each includes several detailed actions. The realisation of these actions emphasise co-operation between the Commission, member states, and stakeholders.
The Action Plan’s objective is to improve guidance and thus increase knowledge at all levels so as to establish better coherence with socioeconomic objectives. The Commission will release information packages and guidance regarding, for example, species protection and about integrating ecosystem services into decision-making. Different sectors will receive specific actions to work on. Other areas of focus are, for example, more effective implementation of legislation and completion of the Natura 2000 network. The objective is also to work harder on managing the existing Natura 2000 programme. Communication is seen as having a significant role in improving the implementation of the directives.
The Finnish forest industry considers it important that the EU continue to have a common framework for nature conservation. Legislation, however, must allow for much broader national leeway so that national and local conditions can be better taken into consideration. The implementation of nature conservation legislation has a strong impact on the forest sector’s economic activity and so it is important that the implementation of legislation always take into consideration costs relative to the benefits achieved in terms of species and habitat protection.