LIFE is a financial instrument that aims to contribute to the implementation, development and updating of European Community environmental policy and legislation through the co-financing of pilot or demonstration projects. LIFE was first adopted in 1992 and has since then financed more than 4,600 projects.

The LIFE Nature programme

Under the LIFE Nature instrument, nature conservation actions are those "necessary to maintain or restore natural habitats and populations of wild fauna and flora species to a favourable state". In practice, LIFE Nature is to contribute to the implementation of the EU Birds (79/409/EEC) and Habitats (92/43/EEC) Directives and, in particular, to the establishment of the European network for protected areas - NATURA 2000 - aimed at the management and conservation "in situ" (in their natural environment) of the EU's most valuable fauna and flora species and habitats.

The LIFE Nature programme also provides for the results of the projects to be widely publicised in order to promote the replication of the most effective conservation measures in other areas.

LIFE Nature projects are financed if they affect Sites of Community Importance (SCIs/SACs), Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) and concern species included in the annexes of the Habitats and Birds Directives.

For more information:

The Habitats Directive

The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) identifies natural and semi-natural habitats and species of wild flora and fauna of Community interest and sets out the actions to be taken for their conservation. On the basis of this directive, each EU state has identified a number of Sites of Community Importance (SCI), which have then been approved by the European Commission and included in a European list of Sites of Community Importance.

SIC become Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) when the conservation measures necessary to maintain or restore the natural habitats and populations of the species for which they have been designated have been applied.

The Birds Directive

The Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) identifies bird species of Community interest, including those threatened with extinction. It stipulates that each State shall establish Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) for their conservation and also indicates the actions necessary for their protection.

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