The aim of this project, which is co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) under Measure 323 of the Rural Development Programme for Malta, 2007 – 2013, is to establish management plans and legal provisions for all terrestrial Natura 2000 sites in the Maltese Islands and to increase awareness of Natura 2000 amongst the general public and stakeholders. This will pave the way for subsequent investment in the management of Natura 2000 sites in the Maltese Islands.
Through the project, the entire management planning procedure will be carried out for all terrestrial Natura 2000 sites. This will include gathering information, carrying out surveys, defining conservation objectives and identifying management measures for each site, with intensive stakeholder involvement and participation throughout the entire exercise.
A secondary component of the project is to increase the level of awareness about Natura 2000 sites in the Maltese Islands amongst the public at large and amongst specific target groups, such as farmers and land managers. This awareness-raising campaign will equip all key stakeholders with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in the management planning process more effectively.
The project will thereby help Malta fulfill its EU obligations by informing, educating, encouraging ownership, and building momentum for the management of Natura 2000 areas in the Maltese islands.
The legal requirement for the designation and management of Natura 2000 sites is mainly provided by the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations (Legal Notice 311 of 2006), as amended. These regulations largely transpose the obligations of the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC).
The Habitats Directive requires Member States to designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to form part of the Natura 2000 network. Furthermore, the Birds Directive (Council Directive 2009/147/EEC) requires Member States to protect naturally occurring wild birds and their habitats by designating and managing Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which sites also form part of the Natura 2000 network. Following designation, Member States are then required to manage these Natura 2000 sites. Article 4 of the EU Habitats Directive requires Member States to manage Natura 2000 sites soon after they are placed on the Community List and within six years at most, which, in the case of Malta, would be 2014.
The Habitats Directive also obliges MEPA to “promote education and general information on the need to protect species of wild fauna and flora and to conserve their habitats and natural habitats”.
Malta has designated a total of 34 terrestrial Natura 2000 sites: 27 terrestrial SACs and 13 SPAs (6 sites are protected under both designations), covering almost a fifth of the land area of the Maltese Islands. The sustainable management of Natura 2000 sites is critical not only from an environmental but also from an economic and social point of view. The absence of management plans results in mismanagement, loss of biodiversity, natural and heritage assets, degradation in the socio-economic value, conflicts amongst land users, and other pressures that are a cost that the Maltese economy and society cannot afford. In this regard, this project will improve the quality of life in rural areas, whilst ensuring sustainable rural development through the use of methods which are compatible with environment protection and conservation.
As the lead national agency responsible for the designation, regulation and management of protected areas forming part of the Natura 2000 network, MEPA will be pioneering this project, which will be coordinated by the Ecosystems Management Unit with the assistance of the International Projects Team of the EU & Multilateral Affairs Unit within EPD.
This project started at the beginning of 2011 and will be implemented over a 36 month period.
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Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007 – 2013
Axis 3 – Improving the Quality of Life in Rural Areas
Project part-financed by the European Union
Co-financing Rate: 75% European Union, 25% Government of Malta
The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
Europe Investing in Rural Areas