Forest-related projects among the winners of the Natura 2000 and LIFE Awards
The winners of this year’s Natura2000 and LIFE Awards were announced in the award ceremonies in October 2020. Forest-related projects ranked well in both competitions as “Partnership for protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000” won the Natura 2000 European Citizens’ Award and “FIRELIFE - Hungarian forest fire prevention and training program” won the LIFE Award for Climate Action.
Partnership for protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000

Natura 2000 is an EU network of core sites for species protection. It stretches across all 27 EU countries, both on land and at sea. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. Every two years, Natura 2000 Awards put the spotlight on excellence in management of Natura 2000 sites and conservation achievements.

Voted by the public, European Citizens’ Award was handed out to “Partnership for protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000”. The aim of this project was to reconcile conflicting interests over the designation of forest-related Natura 2000 sites in Bulgaria. At the beginning of the process, there were opposing groups with different visions on how to ensure the protection of the Natura 2000 forest habitats. The project partners, including Executive Forest Agency (EFA), Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, WWF Bulgaria, Association of Parks in Bulgaria and Balkani Wildlife Society, carried out extensive surveys and GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping to draw up an inventory of old-growth forests in state-owned forest habitats. The final list of sites was agreed among interested stakeholders during a long process of exchanges and consultations.

In 2016, as a result of the collaboration of wide range of partners from the state, civil society and Bulgarian citizens the process resulted in an additional 109 300 ha of old-growth forests being designated for protection and excluded from harvesting. In addition, in 2015, the first agreed definition of old-growth forests was incorporated into Bulgaria’s national forest legislation.

Information on the other winner projects of the 2020 Natura 2000 awards can be found here.

FIRELIFE - Hungarian forest fire prevention and training program

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. Every two years, the LIFE Awards put the emphasis on innovative, inspirational and effective LIFE projects.

"FIRELIFE - Hungarian forest fire prevention and training program", winner of the LIFE Award for Climate Action, aimed to enhance effective, proactive and continuous forest fire prevention activity in Hungary where the incidence of forest fires has greatly increased in the last few decades. The project provided information and organised training courses for teachers, social workers, farmers and for forest fire prevention experts. The courses were designed to build relationships and improve inter-agency cooperation on forest fire prevention.

The project achieved its objectives through the establishment of the Hungarian Forest Fire Prevention Communication Program. As a result of the project, forest fires decreased by nearly a third, and the size of the area damaged fell by nearly 90%. The FIRELIFE checklist created during the project, offers a possibility also for other countries to develop their own fire-prevention systems and tools.

Information on the other winner projects of the 2020 LIFE awards can be found here.