Lunch of Grassland Conservation Management Advisory Service

Lunch of Grassland Conservation Management Advisory Service

The Grassland Conservation Management Advisory Service was established under the GRASSLAND-HU integrated project to promote conservation-friendly grassland management and provide professional support for farmers who are open to adapt agri-environmental measures.

The LIFE Programme is of paramount importance for Hungary, which is reflected in the government decision made in 2017 to co-fund the implementation of LIFE projects with 400 million HUF each year. The Hungarian government is willing to support the first nature conservation integrated project under LIFE with an additional 2.4 billion HUF over its 8 year duration, announced the deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture in charge of nature conservation, Bertalan Balczó at a LIFE press conference. He informed the audience that, up to now, a total of 38 domestically coordinated traditional projects received EU funding under LIFE, with a total of more than 86 million Euros used for nature conservation purposes.

A significant proportion of the LIFE projects targeting grasslands habitats within or outside Natura 2000, focusing on threatened and/or outstanding species and habitats. The deputy secretary added that, although the grassland areas cover a relatively small geographic part of the country, two thirds of the protected plant species and half of the protected animal species under domestic regulations occur there. Bertalan Balczó underlined that the experience and successes of the LIFE projects clearly shows that workshops, dialogue and cooperation between state and civil nature conservation organisations, farmers, wildlife managers and other land users have worked well in practice.

The deputy secretary highlighted the establishment of the Grassland Conservation Management Advisory Service (GCMAS) works as gap filler in the field of nature conservation, and promotes a strengthening of cooperation between farmers and conservation professionals.

Grassland habitats have high biodiversity values, thus it is very important to restore their natural condition and biodiversity, after damaged from harmful agricultural activities and intensive farming. Taking into account the interests of land users, it is essential to establish farming practices that are beneficial to all stakeholders.

The GCMAS is the first integrated project to be implemented in the field of nature conservation under LIFE GRASSLAND-HU, focusing on grassland habitats. The Herman Ottó Institute Nonprofit Ltd. is the coordinating beneficiary of the project until the end of 2026.

During the implementation of the project, 15 partners will co-operate with each other. One of the GCMAS’s tasks is to draw attention to the high biodiversity values of grasslands and to promote farming practices that have direct impact on conservation of grassland sites among stakeholders (farmers, land users), decision-makers and the general public. We are very proud of this project, because it is an excellent example of the efficient cooperation between organisations committed to nature conservation in Hungary, said Mr. Péter Bozzay, the executive director of the Herman Ottó Institute Nonprofit Ltd.

In addition to the development and implementation of conservation actions, promoting co-operation between stakeholders (mainly farmers) is also an important part of the project launched in 2019. The GCMAS was established in April 2021 as a professional network, operating directly at grassland sites as well, to achieve these aims, said Mr. Mátyás Prommer, the GCMAS project manager.

To perform these tasks, GCMAS consultants are expected to have comprehensive knowledge of grassland habitats and should be capable of building connections with farmers and of understanding and reconciling agricultural and conservationist interests and aims - this wide range of tasks was emphasised by the GCMAS coordinator, Mrs. Zsuzsanna Vitkay.

The GCMAS will provide advice and support services in the areas of networking, data collection, decision-making and promotion of the Grassland-HU project.

The GCMAS aims to raise the general public’s awareness of the importance of grasslands. The public tend to associate conservation primarily with forests, and with the mammal and bird species that are considered to be flagships in nature conservation. Many associate the terms “grassland” and “grassland habitats” with barren steppes or golf courses. In fact, grasslands are amongst the most species-rich habitats in Europe, with unique and endangered ecosystem.

The GCMAS is a pioneering, national initiative. Preparation is underway, but the GCMAS Consultants will formally start to offer their services from April. In the first few months, the Consultants’ services will be restricted to raising awareness and meeting with farmers. In the longer-term, the forward-looking Consultants aim to become a spearhead of nature conservation in Hungary.

 

Source: Herman Ottó Institute Nonprofit Ltd.