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EU Commissioner Eludes Plea for Better Involvement of the Scientific Community
 
The following is an update to the SCB Europe Section's statement on strengthening the EU legal framework for nature conservation.  

January 8, 2016 In his response letter to our Statement (see below), Karmenu Vella, European Union Commissioner for Environment, declares the gathering of evidence for the current “Fitness Check” of the EU Nature Directives closed. However, we maintain our claim that a better involvement of the scientific community in the ongoing evaluation process, as well as in any other future undertakings of this kind, is crucial. The Europe Section of SCB, supported by its Policy Committee, will continue advocating for improving the science underlying the Nature Directives and their implementation.

Scientists Call for Strengthening the EU Legal Framework for Nature Conservation

The International and European Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB-ECCB 2015), held from August 2-6 in Montpellier, France, was attended by 2,046 scientists and conservation professionals from almost 100 countries. The congress saw a series of events that addressed the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), which the EU is currently conducting to evaluate the impacts and relevance of the Habitats and Birds Directives (“Fitness Check”). These Nature Directives, and the Natura 2000 protected area complex built upon them, are considered the most eminent cornerstones of European biodiversity conservation.
 
Participants arrived at a general consensus that the Nature Directives indeed have made a difference for nature conservation in Europe. While some criticism addressed the legal framework set by the Nature Directives themselves, conservation scientists and professionals agreed that existing problems lie mostly with poor implementation. One important issue raised concerns the relatively sparse interaction with the scientific community in both the implementation of the directives and the REFIT. Among others, a better involvement of the scientific community would benefit specification of favorable conservation status for species and habitat types, best management practices, monitoring programs and the quality of impact assessments.
 
See the full text of the Statement by the Europe Section of the Society for Conservation Biology here.
 
This statement is part of a long-term initiative of the Policy Committee of SCB’s Europe Section on improving the science underlying Natura 2000.