Commissioner Sinkevičius presented the 2022 Citizens’ Award to Ronald Würflinger and, on screen, Tanja Dietrich-Hübner for the application “FLORA: Empowering conservation entrepreneurs in Austria”.
About the project
- Main applicant
Blühendes Österreich - REWE International gemeinnützige Privatstiftung
- Countries involved
- Main N2000 site
In Austria, many habitats that depend on human management are in a poor condition, due mainly to a move away from traditional extensive management, especially in grassland and meadow habitats.
The environmental NGO Blühendes Ôsterreich (“Blossoming Austria”) developed a new approach to the protection of high nature value farmland in Natura 2000 sites in Austria: the FLORA programme. This unusual pgoramme’s aim was to secure long-term management of such areas through the creation of specially-created partnerships of so-called “conservation entrepreneurs” (NGOs, communities and farmers). The title of “conservation entrepreneur” was conferred on participants to encourage ownership as well as pride in their involvement in FLORA’s activities. More than this, these partnerships were conceived of to be game-changers, improving biodiversity in their regions and beyond.
The partnerships received financial support to implement flagship projects that will benefit priority habitat types and species (such as high natura value farmland), as well as being supported with advice on nature conservation, accompanied press and media work, leveraging of other private and public partners, recurring evaluations of habitat management, as well zoological-botanical monitoring.
Over a period of seven years (2015-2021), FLORA supported 28 nature conservation projects in Natura 2000 sites in eastern Austria: new conservation organisations and collaborations were established in the Natura 2000 sites Waldviertel, Wachau, Wienerwald-Thermenregion, Steyr-Ennstal/Planwiesen and Western Weinviertel.
The support from FLORA secured long-term activities (including mowing, grazing, fencing and species-specific management) and site management on 900 hectares in the Natura 2000 sites, including 400 hectares of high nature value farmland. Monitoring shows that, through FLORA, partners have improved and enlarged the management of 19 protected habitat types and hundreds of species that are protected in these Natura 2000 sites.
On learning that FLORA had won the public vote and was awarded with the 2022 Citizens’ Award, Tanja Dietrich-Hübner, Head of Sustainability at BILLA AG and board member of Blühendes Österreich said: “The Award strengthens our efforts to show that private sector and business initiatives are enablers for biodiversity and climate protection.”
The initiative “FLORA: Empowering conservation entrepreneurs in Austria” won the European Citizens’ Award after a public vote in 2022 for their biodiversity protection programme involving farmers as well as scientific organisations and environmental NGOs. FLORA celebrated their success with a local event on the 26 June 2023 at the Centre for Culture in Perchtoldsdorf, Austria, in conjunction with one of its partners, the “Thermenlinie” association. The event location was close to the “Wienerwald – Thermenregion (AT1211000)” Natura 2000 site.
During the day, “Thermenlinie” organised a regional workshop as part of the European project “Bioregional Weaving Lab”, which provided a productive transnational networking platform for the event participants, who came from several European countries. It was followed by the winner’s celebratory event in the evening, which featured short presentations from the different project partners as well as a panel discussion with representatives from various sectors: the European Commission – represented by Frank Vassen, team coordinator in the Nature Conservation Unit of the Directorate General for the Environment – as well as farmers, scientists and environmental NGOs. The panellists discussed challenges in the field of biodiversity, nature conservation and agriculture in Austria and Europe, as well as approaches for tackling them. Afterwards, the participants had the chance to enjoy some regional specialties and network with other participants.