Almost 30% of Spanish territory some 14 782 211 ha is part of the Natura 2000 network. For 20 years, SEO/BirdLife has been implementing and managing Natura 2000 sites in Spain. However, its surveys have shown that Natura 2000 is still not widely known and that this lack of knowledge is one of the main negative factors impacting on the conservation of the network. In Spain, the designation of Natura 2000 sites was undertaken without first informing the people who live in and use these sites. Thus, neither the restrictions of the Natura 2000 network nor the opportunities and benefits for the rural population are known by those directly affected i.e. those people that are responsible for the long-term conservation of the sites. In addition, many people are misinformed about Natura 2000. Most people in Spain know about national parks and nature reserves, yet few have a clear understanding of Natura 2000. In fact, there are some important social sectors, such as agricultural professional organisations, business or hunting associations, which believe that the declaration of an area as part of the Natura 2000 network limits social or economic development.
The main aim of the project Activa Red Natura was to improve awareness of the Natura 2000 network in Spain and contribute to the appreciation of its maintenance through a series of targeted actions. The project also aimed to provide training for key actors in the conservation of the Natura 2000 network on the legal obligations that derive from the Birds and Habitats Directives. The target was to reach more than 8 million with clear and positive messages based on simple concepts. The discovery, appreciation and appropriation of Natura 2000 by citizens, especially in Spain, can change the status of these areas, engendering a sense of ownership and pride. The project planned to be a catalyst for a new relationship with the Natura 2000 network, facilitating a smoother and more effective implementation of the nature directives and ensuring a better understanding and protection of biodiversity as a whole.
The LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000 project developed a set of toolkits for people that live and work in Natura 2000 areas, for local administrations, for competent authorities, etc. A handbook for journalists offered explanations and tips on how best to bring the nature importance to the public at large. An extensive information campaign on Natura 2000 was held in 50 hypermarkets in 14 regions in Spain. One of the main achievements of the project was the declaration of 21 May as EU Natura 2000 Day by the European Commission together with the European Parliament, the Council Presidency and the Committee of the Regions. The signing of the declaration was done at a special event at the European Commission to mark the 25th anniversary of the EU Habitats Directive and the LIFE Programme and has become an annual celebration moment since then.
Another main focus of the project, its media campaign, proved to be particularly effective. Kantar Media valued the 8 100 news items that were generated by the project at more than 13 million. The projects Facebook page attracted more than 2,600 followers and 141,000 fans, while its Twitter account gathered around 10 300 subscribers). A total of 48 videos were disseminated via Vimeo or Youtube. The project also produced a 28-chapter TV series on Natura 2000, which was broadcasted by RTVE-2 in 2016. The series attracted 5 million viewers and has made a positive contribution to improving knowledge and awareness of Natura 2000 in Spain.
The communication campaign moreover produced a range of valuable tools for furthering knowledge and awareness of the Natura 2000 such as the development of the "Focus Project" for young people and the "Didactic Unit" for teachers. The project also co-ordinated with retail company Alcampo on a campaign to raise awareness the relationship between Natura 2000 and food production, reaching up to 4 300 consumers.
The project compiled a list of good practices and an inventory of services that have a strong relationship with Nature 2000 within 39 Natura 2000 areas in 510 municipalities. Additionally, it also carried out a jurisprudence review of around 1 200 court rulings, which forms a useful reference resource on environmental law in Spain, while also having significant demonstrative value for other European countries.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).