Why is the Nature Census being implemented?
To collect detailed and scientifically-grounded information about Latvia's natural resources, their quantity, diversity, distribution, and condition.
What kinds of activities are included in the Nature census?
- The assessment of the distribution and condition of endangered habitats of EU importance, and the analysis of the basic information collected.
- The development of nature conservation plans for the 25 existing Special Areas of Conservation.
- The development of Species Conservation Plans for 5 endangered species.
- Preparation of the necessary preconditions for the conservation of our country's biological diversity and the protection of our ecosystems.
Is the goal of the Nature Census to expand especially endangered territories or implement restrictions on economic activity?
The goal of the Nature Census is to collect information, not to increase or decrease the number of protected areas in Latvia. The Nature Census will help fill in missing information and summarise what we know. The goal of project is not to prohibit economic activity. Restrictions on economic activity are determined solely in accordance with the laws and regulations about creating Special Areas of Conservation or micro-reserves corresponding with the goal of protecting habitats protection and the ecological requirements to do so.
If an endangered habitat is discovered on a landowner's property will there be any restrictions on economic activity?
Concerns about the impact of the assessments on economic activity are most often groundless. The discovery of an specially protected natural territory in a specific area will not automatically cause restrictions. The objective of the nature census is to obtain information, not to increase or decrease the number of protected territories.
Although the words 'specially protected' may evoke associations with the prohibition or restriction of economic activity, in practice such habitats are only protected if they are classed micro-reserves, or if they are located in a Special Area of Conservation. Micro-reserves are particular areas created to ensure the protection of an endangered species or habitat. However, the prohibition or restriction of economic activity in protected areas is determined by the Cabinet Regulations. The most likely places to find natural capital is in those territories that have already been given the status of Special Area of Conservation or have other restrictions on economic activity (e.g. protective zones, „green zones” in local territorial plans, a distinct geological formation, etc.).
The Nature Conservation Agency urges you not to make decisions about managing your land based on rumour, and to contact the Nature Conservation Agency with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org; +371 26107005 (work days 10 - 16).
How much Latvian land is subject to forestry restrictions?
Forestry activities are completely forbidden in 3,3% (90,8% of which is national forest land) of the total area of Latvian forests. 71,8% of Latvian forests are commercial forests with no restrictions on forestry activities. More information here.
What are the planned results of the Nature Census?
- The collection of basic information and cartographic material about endangered habitats of EU importance and the assessment of their status throughout Latvia.
- The development of Species Conservation Plans for at least 5 species and 25 existing Special Areas of Conservation.
- Digitalization of the collected data.
- Summarization of the collected data, assessment and in-depth analysis of the basic information.
What does the Nature Census entail?
A common methodology will used to assess habitats of EU importance – the „EU importance habitat distribution and quality assessment and work organization methodology”, approved by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia. The census will be carried out on behalf of the Nature Conservation Agency by census experts who will assess a given territory in the field, fill out a special questionnaire, and mark the precise borders of any habitats they encounter. Every census expert must carry a global positioning system (GPS) tracker during the assessment so that their movements can be recorded and inspections can be made should doubts about the quality of the work arise.
Where will the Nature Census take place?
The territory of Latvia has been divided into squares and a certain number of squares will be surveyed each year. Census experts will assess only those territories deemed to have potential natural capital – for the most part these are existing protected territories, micro-reserves, other sites that are not currently being used for economic activity.
The Nature Conservation Agency has listed places that do not require an assessment of their natural capital, including:
- intensively managed agricultural land;
- populated areas, with the exception of specific territories listed for mandatory inspection, e.g. a sand dune zone within city limits;
- territories that been surveyed within the last 3 years, and have obtained permits for various activities (e.g. quarries, peat extraction sites, etc.)
How long will the Nature Census take?
The project will be continue through May 2023; assessment of the distribution and condition of habitats will be completed no later than 31 December 2020.
How will landowners be informed about a Nature Census on their property?
Each year before the habitat assessments are to begin, letters containing information concerning the approximate dates census expert will arrive and how to recognise them will be sent to the declared addresses of the landowners (legal possessors) and to the municipal government. Letters will be sent to those landowners (legal possessors) whose land is scheduled for obligatory assessment.
Will landowners be allowed to participate in the assessments?
Landowners will be allowed to participate in the expert-conducted assessment and ask relevant questions of interest to them. However, Paragraph 9 of the Law for the Protection of Species and Biotopes states that landowners and regular users have an obligation not to limit the research, appraisal, or control of specially protected species and biotopes.
How will I recognize the census expert?
Going into the field, every census expert must take along an identity card issued by the Nature Conservation Agency, which is to be presented to the landowner upon request. The identity card will include the phone number of the Nature Conservation Agency, which can be called for additional information if necessary.
Sample census expert ID card:
Are landowners able to refuse assessment of their natural capital?
Landowners may not refuse the assessment of their property. This has been determined by Latvian law – Paragraph 9 of the Law for the Protection of Species and Biotopes, which states that landowners and regular users have an obligation not to limit the research, appraisal, or control of specially protected species and biotopes.
Will the data gathered by the experts be verified?
The questionnaires and maps submitted by the experts will undergo a 100% initial verification process. In accordance with the methodology at least 10% of the submitted data will be verified in the field. This will take place through random inspections and repeated inspections of specific places. Adjustments will also be made if complaints or objections about the quality of work is made by the owners (legal possessors) of a property.
How will landowners know if significant natural capital has been found on their property? What steps should be taken?
If a habitat of EU importance is discovered during assessment, the landowner (legal possessor) will be informed in writing. Landowners may also access information about the natural capital found on their land via the data management system Ozols (ozols.daba.gov.lv).
If biologically valuable grassland is discovered on a property, this information is passed along to the Rural Support Service and will, in time, be available in the Rural Support Service's information system.
What are the benefits of gathering information about Latvia’s natural capital?
- The survey of natural capital in Latvia will collect new information about the natural resources (habitats of EU importance) in the country as well as their condition and quantity.
- In many cases, landowners will not have to spend their own money for an expert's report to be able to apply for support/compensation payments, or to receive building permits or technical specifications.
- The activities that will take place during the project will help reduce the administrative burden and time spent for the preparation and issuing of various permits, as the data input into the data management system „Ozols" will be integrated with other government information systems, e.g. the united geospacial information portal www.geolatvia.lv. With the information available in these databases it will be possible to plan entrepreneurial activities more intentionally with the distribution of endangered species and habitats in mind.
- The data collected during the project will help balance the development of nature conservation and the national economy much more effectively. It will also help us recognise the distinctive character of certain areas, and will support territorial planning efforts and the resulting economic gains.