In the last issue of “Natura 2000 in the Western Balkans” newsletter we explained the importance of Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) Article 6. It encourages Member States to manage Natura 2000 sites in a sustainable way and designates activities that can affect Natura 2000 sites negatively, providing opportunities for certain exceptions in specific circumstances. As promised, in this issue, we will explain the importance of the first paragraph of Article 6
Article 6 (1): ‘For special areas of conservation, Member States shall establish the necessary conservation measures involving, if need be, appropriate management plans specifically designed for the sites or integrated into other development plans, and appropriate statutory, administrative or contractual measures which correspond to the ecological requirements of the natural habitat types in Annex I and the species in Annex II present on the sites’.
The conservation measures can take at least two forms: the form of ‘appropriate statutory, administrative or contractual measures…’ and ‘if need be’, the form of ‘appropriate management plans’.
The words "if need be," indicate that management plans are not always required. If a member state chooses to adopt management plans in most cases it is best if they are established before the conclusion of the other measures mentioned in Art. 6 (1), especially contractual measures. Contractual measures often include the relationship between the competent authorities and individual landowners, so they will be limited to individual holdings, which are usually smaller than the protected area. In such circumstances, a management plan that focuses on the protected area will provide a wider framework, and its contents will provide a useful starting point for specific details of the contract measures.
The phrase ‘if need be’ refers only to the management plans and not to the statutory, administrative or contractual measures. Thus, even if a Member State considers that a management plan is unnecessary, it will nonetheless have to take such measures.
Different measures may be considered appropriate to achieve the objective of the directive. In general, it includes measures that have a positive effect, but in some exceptional cases, may include measures that do not require any action. Among the measures that include positive effects, agro-environmental measures are a good example to illustrate how socio-economic requirements can be taken into account. For example, for a semi-natural habitat made by man, which are listed in Annex I (meadows and pastures) and species listed in Annex II that live in these habitats, agreements need to be made with farmers in accordance with the Regulation on rural development. In most cases, this will be sufficient contractual obligation, which aims to maintain a favorable conservation status of habitats and species.
Article 6 (1) is not applicable to Special Protected Areas (SPA), in contrast to Article 6 (2), (3) and (4). But the legislator has envisaged a regime that establishes a special protection measures for special protection areas (SPA), which are classified in accordance with the Birds Directive, on the basis of its Article 4 (1) and (2). A regime that defines the extent of protection for Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) is designated under the Habitats Directive, under its Article 6 (1).
For a better understanding of how this looks in practice, we recommend some interesting links:
Guidance document: Managing Natura 2000 sites (2000)
Good Practices in Managing Natura 2000 Sites
Participation of stakeholders in developing management plans for Natura 2000 sites in Poland
Young Researchers of Serbia