LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU. LIFE-Nature projects usually apply in Natura 2000 sites. Natura 2000 is an ecological network of protected areas in the territory of the European Union.
The high Hautes−Fagnes Plateau, located in the northeast of the Ardennes, consists of acidic and nutrient−poor soils developed on old sediments of the primary era. It is a region of great ecological value with outstanding flora and fauna that preserve boreo−montane and oceanic elements. Heaths, fens and bogs occupied between 15−20,000 ha at the end of the 18th century, but at present occupy just 5,000 ha and are often in a very degraded state, mainly as the result of drainage, widespread spruce plantation and the abandonment of traditional extensive agricultural and pastoral use. Most areas of special interest are recognised as state nature reserves and are in addition protected as Council of Europe biogenetic reserves. The project area also forms part of an international natural park that crosses into Germany, the Natural Park Hautes−Fagnes – Eifel, which occupies 65.000 ha in Belgium. The main economic activities are forestry, hunting and tourism. Two−thirds of the land is publicly owned, local communities own nearly a fifth, and just over a eighth is in private ownership.
The project is run by the Walloon Region represented by the Service Public de Wallonie (SPW) - Direction Générale Opérationnelle « Agriculture, Ressources naturelles et Environnement » (DGO3 – DEMNA & DNF) in partnership with the Management Commission of the Natural Park Hautes−Fagnes − Eifel.
The project focuses on a 9,724 ha working zone located in six Natura 2000 sites. The project aims to restore some 1400 ha of endangered peaty and wet habitats including peat moss and birch woods, raised bogs, damaged or inactive bogs, and wet heathlands.
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