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Summary descripion of the project

Project title: Restoration and conservation of priority habitats and species in the Eastern Bakony area

Objective:

The general objectives of the project are the implementation of Community Environmental policy through its integration to military practice and supporting the further development and implementation of the Natura 2000 network (in accordance with Annex 2 of Regulation (EC) No 614/2007 concerning the Financial Instrument for the Environment). The specific objectives of the project are managing future Natura 2000 sites in the Eastern Bakony (Hungary) area and rehabilitate natural habitats which have been damaged by past military actions and neglect. Attention will be paid to sustainable long-term maintenance of the sites and informing stakeholders and the general public about the natural values and conservation efforts of the area.

Natural sites owned and used by the military are characterized by relatively undisturbed environmental habitats due to their isolation from the general public. This statement applies to numerous military sites (training grounds, campsites, etc.) throughout Europe. Many of these environmentally valuable, often vast areas are within the Natura 2000 network; furthermore many of them have been the grounds for natural conservation and demonstration projects co-financed by LIFE. In general, the main objectives of these projects are to preserve the natural resources of these special sites, restore previously degraded habitats and population of valuable species and preserving biodiversity, and, most importantly, to find an optimal balance between ongoing military activities and the natural preservationist perspective.

The project aims to elaborate a management plan to reconcile Natura 2000 conservation requirements with multifunctional land use. It directly addresses several of the environmental and land management issues common among military-owned or -managed Natura 2000 or future Natura 2000 sites. The project area is located in the Eastern Bakony Mountains (Veszprém County, Hungary) and contains ecosystems that comprise habitats and species priority-listed on the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora and Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds.

The area has long been a site for military activity including training and shooting practice. Although the region’s biodiversity has been relatively well preserved, there are several threats generated by natural processes and military activity that this project aims to address. The major objectives of this project are to halt natural degradation of priority habitats and to preserve priority species of the area. An additional aim is to remediate the harmful effects of past and ongoing military activity such as fire damage and carry out habitat restoration work, notably against biological succession. Another objective is maintaining and expanding grazing management; in order to increase returns for subcontracting farmers and conservation benefit.

The project also aims to create a viable post project conservational plan which will consider the conservation of natural resources and the needs of important stakeholders (e.g., environmentally conscious military guidelines) on a longer-term. Beneficiaries intend to build up the framework for lasting recurring management after the project.

Finally, the beneficiaries intend to apply best practice for efficient dissemination activity targeted at the general public, environmentalists, NGOs, military personnel and other LIFE+ military project site management teams during and after the project. This way partnership between the military and environment authorities in running the site could be continued and deepened for mutual benefit.

Actions and means involved:

The means involved in the project are issuing the following threats on priority habitats and species of the area: disruption of grazing and herding, accidental fires, illegal waste deposition, illegal motor vehicle traffic, military activity and traffic, succession of biocoenosis, invasive species, sport activities, damage by game population, prey species shortage. Three primary types of actions will be implemented in order to accomplish the stated objectives: habitat restoration and maintenance, safety measures to protect natural resources and biodiversity, and communication actions.

Habitat restoration includes suppressing invasive species (such as shrub and arboreal species) that degrade the ecological value of habitats and leads to succession of biodiversity. It also includes recultivating anthropogenic land forms and facilities and ameliorating life conditions of endangered target species (e.g. by installing nesting breed boxes).

Safety measures of the project aim are to protect valuable habitats and species from the harmful effects of military activities. The most important step of such actions is the construction of a fast and effective fire service system to manage accidental wildfires resulting from shooting practice and the development of fire breaking buffer zones around military training and testing areas.

Communication actions include setting up information and notice boards to describe the natural values of the area and rules for their protection, training military personnel on environmental practices, publication of informative materials on the integration of military and nature conservation interests, keeping current online content on project development and the issues addressed by the project, organizing public events to disseminate information about biodiversity in military areas and related maintenance measures.

Besides these activities an integral part of the project will be the comprehensive and long-term monitoring of forests and environmental interactions.

Expected results:

Environmental, forestry and military experts and stakeholders will develop and adapt a Natura 2000 site management program for the project site aimed at sustainable priority habitat and species conservation based on professional consensus. Project will set a positive example to other military training areas in Hungary and the EU.

During the course of the project 720 to 750 hectares of high-priority natural habitat will be restored. Shrub thicket will be removed from a total of 600 hectares in the project area which will ultimately result in the rehabilitation of Sub-pannonic steppe grasslands. Sub-pannonic steppe grasslands and Pannonic woods with Quercus pubescens habitats will be protected from invasive species such as Eleagnus angustifolia, Ailanthus altissima, Robinia pseudo-acacia, and Pinus nigra. Pannonic woods with Quercus pubescens and Medio-European calcareous scree of hill and montane levels habitat will be also rehabilitated and protected form game damage. Population size and seed production of priority species Serratula lycopifolia will increase in the project area. The population growth of saker falcons and bats will be stimulated.

Abandoned mines and military buildings will be recultivated which will result in the restoration of Sub-pannonic steppe grassland on 4 to 5 hectares and also suppress illegal mining and waste dumping activity in the area.

Magnitude and damage done by fires will decrease in the area thus protecting Quercus forests, Sub-pannonic steppe grassland habitats. A sustainable and effective fire emergency system will be constructed (fire break zones around military training area, 34.5 kilometers of fire emergency roads, water catchment pool).

Military personnel and the general public will be educated on environmental protection practices, thus raising public awareness and acceptance. Environmental practices will be adapted by military. The number of trespassers and magnitude of illegal activity on the area will decrease.

A Post Project Management Plan will be elaborated ensuring continuity and permanence of the actions started during the project and that funds allocated for the project are spent sustainable.

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