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EU funding for the first Natura 2000 management project

Ljubljana, 18 August 2017 – Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, the Managing Authority for ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund issued grant decision for the project Ensuring appropriate use of karst grasslands and rock walls for conservation of selected habitat types and species in the Natura 2000 network – Karst worth close to EUR 3 million, of which over EUR 2.4 million or 80% comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This is the first project in a series of similar projects under the Natura 2000 Management Programme (2015–2020) that will be partially funded by the EU. 
Natura 2000 is a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union. It is made up of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas designated respectively under the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive and lies in almost every Slovenian municipality covering 42% of Slovenia in the west and 35% in the east. 
Slovenia has set aside EUR 45 million of ERDF funding in its operational programme for the 2014-2020 period to improve the status of the environment and biodiversity, and to contribute to the achievement of the goals of sustainable development. The projects that will be implemented in this context will pursue conservation of biodiversity for future generations. 
The project Ensuring appropriate use of karst grasslands and rock walls for conservation of selected habitat types and species in the Natura 2000 network – Karst is one of the planned projects under the Natura 2000 Management Programme (2015-2020).
The project is expected to contribute to nature conservation in selected karst areas of the Natura 2000 network. It will be implemented in the protected area of Škocjan Caves Regional Park where partners have already recognized the processes, pressures and threats that have a negative impact on the conservation status of some of the Natura 2000 habitat types and species.
The project consists of land acquisition and signing of contracts on nature conservation with a view to setting up peaceful zones in karst grasslands, habitat types of butterfly and bird species of European importance. This will help eliminate inappropriate land use practices and reduce the negative impact of human presence in these areas. Also, the project further seeks to deliver wastewater collection solutions in the area above the Škocjan Caves (construction of the sewage system in the settlements of Škocjan, Matavun and Betanja with connection to the treatment plan), provide insulation of power poles of medium voltage power lines with a view to preventing bird electrocution or injuries, set up green corridors to facilitate passage of amphibians, create a mobile application for bird identification and monitoring and clean up part of the Divača Cave. Awareness-raising activities and education targeting visitors, local population and other stakeholders are another important strand of the project.  
Škocjan Caves Public Service Agency is the lead partner in the project while other project partners which are responsible for individual project lots include the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation, DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia, Elektro Primorska, d. d., electricity distribution company, Municipality of Divača, Agriculture and Forestry Institute Nova Gorica and Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry of Slovenia. 
For more information, please refer to the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning.