2018 Award Finalists

Sports in Natura 2000: Reconciling interests in Menorca

In order to cope with the impacts of the growth of sports activities at Natura 2000 sites, the organisation EUROPARC Spain has developed a "Guide to Good Practices for holding Mountain Races in Protected Natural Areas". This was developed in close collaboration with the Spanish Federation of Mountain Sports, Natura 2000 administrations and scientists. The Handbook provides a framework for the development of sports activities aiming to avoid impacts but at the same time allowing enjoyment of nature.

In 2017 Handbook was officially endorsed by the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries of the Balearic Islands who adopted a legal Circular requiring all sports activities in Natura 2000 to be evaluated using the handbook.   The circular was then applied to the 12ª Mountain Bike Tour in Menorca (August 2017). This is a major cycling competition that attracts over 500 participants but as it follows a pre-existing coastal path, it also crosses no less than 9 Natura 2000 sites on the island, and so runs a considerable risk of causing species disturbance and habitat damage within the sites.

However, thanks to the handbook, solutions were found to minimize any conflicts with Natura 2000 whilst maintaining the enjoyment of the circuit. Different measures were tested to run the race outside Natura 2000 where possible and to minimize disturbance once inside Natura 2000. The sports promotor also signed a good environmental practice statement and offered to contribute positively to the conservation of the Natura 2000 sites through other complementary measures, such as signage and fencing.

Overall the attitudes of the sports promotors and the participants have been very positive towards the Handbook. They recognise that the handbook provides them with a highly efficient tool for dialogue and joint planning with the authorities whilst also offering a wealth of practical advice on how to ensure that sporting activities in Natura 2000 cause minimal impact whilst not distracting from the pleasure of the sport or causing any negative fall out from a socio-economic perspective.

In recent years, sports activities have increased significantly in Natura 2000 sites, as well as sports events and events of different types. The design of a common evaluation methodology is considered highly positive, both for conservation and for the concertation of interests.

The Spanish Federation of Mountain Sports and Climbing (FEDME), is now actively promoting the manual, and has committed to apply, to the extent possible, its best practices in all mountain races in other regions, and improve the environmental protection skills of its referees.