Socio-economic benefits of Natura 2000 in the UK

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1 Socio-economic benefits of Natura 2000 in the UK Rebecca Halahan, December 2002 SUMMARY WWF has worked for many years to ensure that Member States and, more recently Accession Countries, fully implement the Habitats and Species Directive. WWF is concerned that some landowners believe that protected area designations can damage their prospects for economic development in the area. This perception can, through neglect or poor management, lead to the deterioration of the site with potentially disastrous consequences for the species or habitat for which it has been designated. This report highlights, through the use of case studies from around the UK, the socio-economic benefits that Natura 2000 designations can offer landowners and other stakeholders. INTRODUCTION The decline of many species in the EU is primarily due to the deterioration of the habitats necessary for their survival. Many habitats are being lost or fragmented due to the intensification of human activities, such as agriculture, forestry, industry, energy, transport and tourism, leaving little room for wildlife or confining it to tiny fragments. Despite this bleak picture, the European Community and Accession Countries have a chance to address these pressures and reverse this trend for many species and habitats through proper implementation of the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. Sites designated under these Directives (Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas respectively) form an ecological network of protected areas, known as Natura 2000, which aims to conserve species and habitats listed in the Annexes of these Directives. In view of the need to protect species and habitats listed under these Directives, some restrictions on land use, development or management may be required. Furthermore, the Habitats Directive requires not only protection per se, but positive management of species and habitats to enhance their nature conservation status and value. A range of fiscal mechanisms exist to encourage landowners and farmers to manage land specifically to enhance or protect its wildlife interest. These fall into the following categories: Voluntary payments. These are available to landowners who have adopted alternative management practices, on a voluntary basis, to protect and enhance the environment eg agri-environment schemes.

2 Compensatory payments. These relate to existing designations, compensating the landowner for loss of profit arising from management requirements imposed in respect of designated sites. EU LIFE-NATURE. This scheme supports initiatives intended to enhance or maintain the conservation value of designated sites. Furthermore, an increasing body of research is highlighting the wider socio-economic benefits of designation. For example: According to an RSPB study the natural environment sector in the UK employs the equivalent of 18,000 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) jobs (7) ; Conservation activities can generate substantial opportunities for wildlife tourism, with typical estimates being that conservation supports four to six times more jobs by attracting visitors to rural areas than it provides directly (4). A network of protected areas also contributes to: enhanced biodiversity; associated health benefits for people; educational benefits; ecosystems with added value. For example, floodplains, functioning properly, can help prevent flooding downstream; capacity to respond and adapt to future environmental change, for example from climate change. 2

3 CASE STUDIES This report highlights the existing and potential socio-economic benefits of Natura 2000 using three case studies from around the UK. It reviews the benefits derived from an area designated a Special Protection Area (SPA), the benefits from a species listed in the Birds Directive and for which SPAs are designated, and the benefits within a National Park, of which nearly 30 per cent is designated Natura ) Abernethy Forest, SPA, Scotland Project objectives: The RSPB manages the Abernethy Forest Reserve to conserve its montane and native pinewood ecosystems to provide optimum conditions for forest regeneration and recovery and to continue to run Operation Osprey and associated visitor facilities (1). Site: The RSPB's Abernethy Forest Reserve is located 30 miles south-east of Inverness and covers 12,795 hectares of pine woodland, heather moorland and montane habitats, including the Loch Garten osprey nest site. It is located in the Scottish Highlands and Islands Objective 1 region, 30 miles south-east of Inverness. Project activities: The Abernethy Forest Reserve is located in a remote rural area. It is sensitively managed for forest regeneration and expansion, allowing for nature and bird watching tourism, together with active management for the restoration of tree stands and a stable deer population. Reserve staff are also involved in visitor management and education, survey and monitoring, administration and community liaison. In order to diversify income sources in the local economy, the reserve produces, processes and markets goods, including forestry products and venison (2). Benefits: The reserve, and particularly the Osprey Centre at Loch Garten, attracts large numbers of visitors (around 100,000 visitors visit a year) who spend money in the local economy (1). A recent survey estimated that local expenditure attributable to visits to the reserve totalled 1.7 million in 1996 (3). The reserve employs the equivalent of 11 FTE jobs (Full Time Equivalent). Visitor expenditure in the area is estimated to support a further 69 FTE jobs (4), with additional jobs supported by expenditures by the reserve on contractors, goods and services, spending by reserve staff in the local economy (2). Combining the various economic impacts, it is estimated that in total, the Abernethy reserve supports a total of 87 FTE jobs in the local economy, helping to stimulate and diversify a rural economy disadvantaged by a harsh climate and unfavourable topography (2). Lessons Learnt: The reserve demonstrates that conservation areas can enhance the landscape and the wildlife within it, while bringing significant economic benefits. It also highlights the need for careful 3

4 management of visitor numbers in order to strike a balance between visitor pressure and wildlife conservation (2). 2) The Red Kite (Milvus milvus, on Annex 1 of the Birds Directive requiring SPA designations) and the economy of rural Mid Wales Project objectives: The project focuses on bird tourism and aims to extend the tourist season, through sustainable tourism development, to promote the region s wildlife and environment, and to raise awareness of, and support for, the red kite and other birds of prey and their habitat (2). Site: Rural Mid Wales suffers from reliance on a declining agricultural labour force, low wages and problems of rural unemployment and under-employment. Average incomes are low, amounting to 76 per cent of the EU average (2). The area supports the remnants of the native British population of the red kite, one of our rarest birds of prey. Project activities: The project, funded mainly by the Welsh Office s Strategic Development Scheme and some EU Objective 5b funding, was launched in It focuses on promoting wildlife tourism. This has been achieved by establishing six visitor centres and providing all weather viewing facilities and improving the interpretation of the wildlife and natural environment of Mid Wales. In order to reduce the environmental impact of tourists visiting the kite centres, the project promotes the use of public transport, cycling, walking and horse riding. Furthermore, an initiative has been established to involve businesses in the production and marketing of Kite Country merchandise. In addition, they are encouraged to sign a Green Charter and contribute towards local research and habitat protection (2). Benefits: In , the Kite Country Centres attracted 148,000 tourists, spending a total of 2.9 million in FTE jobs are supported through the direct employment of staff and contractors. In addition, it is estimated that the project has created, or safeguarded, a total of 114 FTE jobs in the local economy (2). The project has been successful in stimulating the tourism industry in the area and has helped to raise awareness about sustainable transport and the environment, while enhancing the image of birds of prey among visitors and the local community (2). Lessons Learnt: The project demonstrates the role that wildlife tourism can play in stimulating a rural economy suffering from declining employment and over-reliance on agriculture. The red kite has become an important marketing tool for the area. 3) Peak District National Park The aim of the National Park designation is: to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area; and 4

5 to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park s special qualities by the public. Site: The Peak District was Britain s first National Park designated in The 1949 National Park and Access to the Countryside Act gave protection for this area of natural beauty and recognised the town s and cities dependence on the countryside for people living and working in the Peak District. Tourism has since become a major part of the rural economy. The National Park covers 143,833 hectares, in which farming is one of its most important industries. 35 per cent of this National Park is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which recognises the special qualities of this area nationally. Furthermore, almost 30 per cent of the National Park area is designated Natura The candidate SACs are designated to protect ash woodlands, flower-rich limestone grassland scrub and white-clawed crayfish, covering 2,018 ha. The SPAs are designated for populations of merlin, golden plover and shorteared owl, covering 36,930 ha of the National Park (5). Activities: The National Park Authority encourages rural businesses to develop in ways that help look after after the environment. It recognises that, managed carefully, visitors can enjoy the area s natural environment while boosting the local economy. Traditional crafts are encouraged to help maintain the landscape, such as drystone walling and charcoal burning. A tourism website has been developed, supporting local businesses and promoting a strong sustainable tourism message. The National Park is also encouraging more sustainable use of transport in a number of ways, for example, promoting walking, cycling and public transport. It is also developing a marketing strategy for sustainably and profitably produced local produce, building local supply networks including farmers markets and co-operatives, as well as a Quality Marque for businesses which help conserve and enhance the area or use best sustainable practices (6). Benefits: There are about 15,000 jobs within the National Park, of which 52 per cent are in services (including tourism), 19 per cent in manufacturing and 12 per cent each in quarrying and farming (6). The area attracts 22 million day visitors every year - a survey conducted in 1994 found that 61 per cent of visitors came for the Parks beauty and scenery (6). Visitors make a substantial contribution to the local economy spending, on average, 7/head/day, plus an additional 11.50/head/night for staying visitors (5). Lessons Learnt: National Parks are often test beds for innovative sustainable solutions integrating the conservation and enhancement of the landscape and socio-economic benefits. National Parks have benefited from Government funding, and a high profile. However, Natura 2000 can learn from these areas - these natural assets are prime attractions, reflecting the qualities that are 5

6 particularly valued by visitors and residents of the area and, as such, represent a basic economic resource as well as being worth protecting in their own right. With more than 22 million day visitors per year there is considerable pressure on the National Park. For example, over the last 20 years road traffic in the Park has grown by 60 per cent and it continues to grow. Such pressures rely on careful management to preserve the characteristics of the area that attracts so many visitors in the first place (5). Tourism (especially where visitors stay overnight) plays a major part in the local economy,and the contribution which it makes depends on maintaining the National Park as a special place. If jobs in farming and other traditional industries continue to decline, the importance of tourism is likely to increase (5). CONCLUSIONS Farming: Farmers can help supplement their incomes by diversifying their farm production. For example, through the introduction of alternative crops, sustainably harvesting natural plants, improved marketing to local areas and to markets further afield. However, European agricultural policies often have a detrimental impact on wildlife and the environment encouraging productivity at the expense of the environment. To continue to attract alternative sources of income, eg through tourism, relies on the careful protection and management of the environment and, in particular the jewels of the landscape - the Natura 2000 network. The Mid Term Review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2003 and the review in 2006 represent significant opportunities to shift more funding towards nature conservation and sustainable rural development. Tourism: Communities can realise socio-economic benefits from tourism activity attracted by the rural, wildlife or landscape value of an area. Wildlife attracts visitors to rural areas, where they spend money on local goods and services, providing income and employment. A study in 1997 estimated that tourists spending in the English countryside was 9 billion per year, supporting 350,000 jobs (7). If properly managed sustainable tourism initiatives can even help to improve the economic base and living standards of rural communities. However, without proper management, the impacts of tourists to an area of conservation could end up destroying the very thing upon which it is based. It is important to note that not all Natura 2000 sites may be suitable for tourism. Forestry: improved management of woodland, through advice and support to private landowners, can help add value to timber. For example, by encouraging on-site processing, developing new uses for small-scale timber production and improving marketing. WWF s report Keeping the Forest Making the Money (8) highlights some ways that forest owners who have adopted the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard have realised added value, while managing their woodlands sustainably. Education: Protected areas can provide a valuable teaching and research focus. 6

7 Image and branding: The quality of the natural environment can make a contribution to the profile and image of an area, which can be exploited in marketing produce from the area or selling the area for tourism and/or inward investment. As awareness is raised on Natura 2000, and these areas are promoted for their special qualities, there is great potential for these areas to gain the recognition that, for example, National Parks have. Ecological: Designation and beneficial management can help restore populations of species and their habitats conserving biodiversity for its own sake! REFERENCES 1 Socio-economic benefits from Natura Central Research Unit, The Scottish Office Case Studies of links between Environmental Policy and Employment. European Commission 3 Futurescapes Largescale habitat restoration for wildlife and people. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Working with Nature. Economies, Employment and Conservation in Britain. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds/Bird Life International, State of the Park Report Peak District National Park Authority 6 Peak District National Park Management Plan Peak District National Park Authority 7 Rayment, M., Dickie, I. Conservation works for local economies in the UK. RSPB, Keeping the forest - making the money. Forest owners tell their own FSC stories. WWF

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