Organisation: Foundation for Environmental Education

Website: www.videsfonds.lvl; www.manajura.lv

Dates: 14 July 2016 – 14 August 2016

Place: Latvian Baltic Sea coast from Lithuanian to Estonian border

Description of the activity:

In 2016 I was expedition manager of My Sea campaign – expedition 500 kilometers of Latvian Baltic Sea coast from Lithuanian to Estonian border. The purpose of the expedition is to promote responsible attitude towards the unique values ​​of the coast of Latvia by documenting, summarizing and exploring the topical marine and coastal environment issues, focusing on the data collection on the situation of marine pollutant waste along the Latvian coast.

What was the environmental problem:

To fill the data gaps regarding marine litter found on Latvian beaches and turn public attention to the marine litter topic that was perceived only as a nuisance for recreation, not the acute environmental issue.

The result of the activity:

Year 2016 marked 5th anniversary of campaign, when more than 800 people took part in campaigns expedition alone, not counting side events and other public initiatives that were developed through the years. But public numbers and campaigns results recognition – starting from National Environmental Science award in 2012 for FEE Latvia, when campaign was just set up and ending with recent honours of receiving Annual Health Award in 2016 for promotion of solutions for healthy Baltic Sea ecosystems – is just the tip of iceberg of campaigns commitment to become driving force in seeking solutions for the marine litter issue in Latvia – starting from very local situations to national processes.

In 2012 network of 40 monitoring/survey sites was created along all the coast of Latvian Baltic Sea border, with surveys done according to UNEP/IOC guidelines and methodology. It is now complemented with 12 seasonal survey sites. Such amount and diversity of monitored sites allowed during these years to compile very valuable amount of information, giving clear knowledge not only about situation important for policy making on national level (as average amount of litter found on beaches, structure of materials, distribution and trends), but also very down-to-earth picture about situation, challenges and possible reasons and solutions for marine litter pollution issues in each of 17 coastal municipalities in Latvia.

In 2016, when gathering data in survey sites, also litter items sized 0.5-2.5 cm were counted, giving at least initial deeper understanding about litter amount that is escaping representation in official beach litter statistics according to UNEP/IOC protocols. Similarly, in all the survey sites one of the “litter plague” of beaches – cigarette butts – were counted for all the stretch of site to analyse how the total amount represents 10 m stretch, where in UNEP/IOC that litter fraction is taken into account. That was done as an effort to continue work on integration and improvements of different beach litter survey methodologies, so that they better help local and national policy makers to choose right instruments for tackling the issue.

Judging from results of five years research work in Latvia it is not surprising – as situation all around the globe shows the similar trends – that the main challenge for Latvian coast regarding marine litter turns out to be plastic materials. If the average amount of litter found on the Latvian beaches over last five years accounts to be slightly over 170 items per 100 meters, the plastic constitutes more than half of all litter. Even more alarming is the fact that, if those data is expressed as the distribution percentage of litter fractions among all the surveys – during more than 200 surveys made on Latvian beaches over five years, even most remote ones – there are none, where the unidentifiable plastic materials (PL24 category according to UNEP/IOC protocol) in different stages of degradation have not been found.

Campaigns data now have become a backbone of emerging national policies regarding marine litter. Already in 2014 FEE Latvia have invested necessary amount of work to create a marine litter profile for each of coastal municipalities, ensured the issue to be taken up and seriously considered within Coastal Spatial Planning process for next programming period. Efforts continued, when government intensified work on plans and strategies for implementation of EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. My Sea data was used to set up national strategy for MSFD Descriptor 10 for reaching Good Environmental Status both as statistical reference to the amount of marine litter and also in setting the goals for National Programme. Marine litter continues its rise in scientific and political agendas, emphasising the urgent need for solutions.

  

 

Environmental challenge accepted - Public vote

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Organisation: Natuur 2000

Dates: The last 3/5 years

Place: Fort Oelegem at 2520 Oelegem, Belgium

Description of the activity:

Managing the fort ruin into a suitable hibernation site by securing absolute quietness during the hibernation period, a 100% humidity and the right cave temperature.

What was the environmental problem:

Becoming an overpopulated counrty, Flanders doesn't provide any longer enough and suitable hibernation habitas for bats, specially for heavily endangered species like Geoffroy's bat and Natterer's bat.

The result of the activity:

Fort Oelegem is now providing a reliable winter habitat for more than 1300 bats, including the species mentioned above. On top of that the fort is now, during the summer months (when the bats have left for their summer life), equipped for receiving vistors on e.g. bat nights and other educational events.

  

Environmental challenge accepted - Public vote

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Organisation: Organisation “Dēms”

Website: www.facebook.com/kuszaleaug

Dates: 28 June 2017

Place: Liede river, Jaungulbene parish, Gulbene district, Latvia

Description of the activity:

Liede river cleaning activity took place in a small village Jaungulbene, Gulbene district, Vidzeme region, Latvia. From 27-29th of June, 2017, 25 people (20 youngsters, environment experts and enthusiasts) gathered to learn about biological diversity and ecosystems of small rivers in frames of project “Kuš! Zāle aug!” /be quiet, the grass is growing!/, funded by Latvian Environmental Protection Fund and coordinated by NGO “Dēms”.

During the training participants involved in one voluntary deed, in this case – cleaning of the Liede river. We took off the tree dams, collected plastic and other trash, together with hydro-biologist Andris Urtāns learned to assess the extent of water quality. Before the cleaning activity youngsters had a theoretical overview about small river ecosystems and pollution problems.

What was the environmental problem:

Small rivers are more than a separate water unity – it is a kind of blood circulation that defines the quality of big rivers, drinking water and the sea, finally. Historically the Liede has been a clean trout river but due to dams, anthropogenic influence, beaver population, overgrowing of forests has lost its natural flow.

Each fell tree and each dam slows down the flow of river, creating stagnant water sections that lead to the loss of oxygen in the water. By clearing the river from fallen trees, the speed of the stream increases and in the spring when the ice melts down the river is able to do the self-cleaning process. Therefore, the maintenance of the river every year is becoming easier.

Very significant is participation of youngsters in this environmental action. Awareness of environmental problems and own responsibility are the key moments that strengthens sustainment and protection of the surrounding environment.

The result of the activity:

The first and the most remarkable result is awareness of participants regarding the environmental problem – youngsters gained practical skills, experience and knowledge about small river ecosystems, why do we need to clean them, how to measure the level of water pollution, why it is necessary to leave some trees in the flow, what kind of species are living in small rivers and its banks and a lot more.

During the activity we released a 500 meters long Liede river section form fallen trees, dams and trash and made a forest walking rout. One historical moment – by cleaning the banks of river we found a hoarstone datable back to 19th Century.

Our regional TV made a story about the process, so we could share the problem and encourage other people in Latvia to take care about rivers in their surroundings. So far one follow up activity has been arranged in Lejasciems parish, Gulbene district. During the activity a group of local youngsters gathered for a bout trip – the Gauja river cleaning activity. And one more thing - for the first time young participants saw a river cancer, marked in a Red Book as protected species!

  

Videos about the project:

Environmental challenge accepted - Public vote

Main page of the project

 

Organisation: Luonto-Liitton susiryhmä (The Finnish Nature League's Wolf Action Group)

We are a nation-wide nature and environment protection organization for children, the youth, and young adults. We work in forest, wild animal, water systems, climate and energy issues and are pioneers in environmental education in Finland.

Website: http://www.luontoliitto.fi/susiryhma/in-english

Dates: 1-2 July 2017

Place: "Tuulispää" Animal Sanctuary - a retirement home and rescue shelter for farm animals http://www.tuulispaa.org/english/

Description of the activity:

Applying for support from the state organisation the Finnish Wildlife Agency (https://riista.fi/en/) for supplying us with all the required materials for installing a protective electric fence around 5 Hectares of recently acquired pasture land.

Once we got the confirmation saying the state would support this project with all the needed materials, we advertised the event in our social media calling all our active young members to do voluntary community work for the installation of the fence.

We installed the fence during the weekend of July 1st-2nd 2017 and on August 14th 2017 cows arrived for the first time to feed on safe summer pastures.

What was the environmental problem:

The Animal Sanctuary “Tuulispää” acquired a new pastureland for allowing their rescued farm animals to graze freely during the summer. The problem was that the area is also home to wildlife such as grey wolves which would naturally prey on these animals if left on unprotected land. Throughout history in Finland there has been much intolerance and hate towards wolves which has been a big obstacle for wolf conservation.

What is the result:

In an effort to promote tolerance to wild animals, by installing an electric fence we were able to protect farm animals from predation by the local wildlife, and fulfil their need to graze freely on the land while at the same time showing to other farmers in the area that coexistence with wild predators is possible.

At the same time, we were able to engage with the environmental authorities to support the first animal sanctuary in Finland and the endangered Finnish grey wolf population (less than 180 individuals left in the whole country).  

  

Environmental challenge accepted - Public vote

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Organisation: Mountaineering-ecological organization "Endophine"

Website: Facebook

Dates:

  • Adaptation and promotion of hiking trails, potential and surrounding biodiversity – April and May 2017;
  • Eco action – Periodically (every 3 months since June 2016);
  • Second birthday of the organisation – 13 June 2017.

Place: Macedonia

Description of the activity:

  1. Eco action – Periodically (every 3 months since June 2016): 4 actions in total were organised, as a part of the annual plan of the organisation for improving the nature and surroundings. Actions on which lot of garbage was collected from sport fields, parks and the fortress near Kichevo (Kitino kale), with collaboration with the NGO Vizio, that is managing the summer cultural center “Kita” in the “Kitino kale”.
  2. Adaptation and promotion of hiking trails, potential and surrounding biodivercity – April and May 2017: Two teams were included in the process of creating (mapping) two hiking trails on the mountain range Chelioca – Pesjak in the region of Kichevo (one mapping was done with collaboration with mounteneering club “Transverzalec” from Skopje. During these actions cleansing and signalizing the trails were main activities and also informative panels were set up, showing the trail specification and the peculiarities of the micro region. All of this had the aim to engage youth in “natural activities” of learning about surrounding nature and biodiversity, raising awareness about emerging dumpsites and solutions for waste management (which is a topic that we like to meet more often) and promotion of healthy lifestyle while hiking and adventurism. Facebook photos.
  3. Second birthday of the organisation – 13 June 2017: Celebrating two years of non-formal socializing and activism (at the moment the organization is officially formal), we organized an event for promotion of the activities of the past period. There were 4 presentations for promoting of what was done in the previous period (Markings and settings for the hiking trails), Etymology of toponyms in the region, Biodiversity (past and present), New proposals for scenic hiking trails with aim of “meeting your surrounding” and archeological cites/ life in the past. This event was supported by summer cultural center “Kita”.

All actions were part of the annual plan of the organisation, as a indicator for increased participation of youth in process of creating sustainable solutions for ecotourism and raising awareness for broader scope of the topic. These actions included approximately 300 people (mostly youth) with support of enthusiasts, local individuals and with collaboration with the NGO Vizio, that is managing the summer cultural center “Kita” in the “Kitino kale”. Facebook photos.

What was the environmental problem:

We, as a responsible citizens, concluded that our town is very polluted by illegal dumpsites, trash from markets and shops, lot of cars, polluted air etc etc. We knew that solving these problem is not going to be as easy as it seems because we need institutional help (while the country was/is in institutional crisis), so we aimed our actions toward engaging citizens and youth that love nature and mountain sports. With their participation we were able to promote and sustain our idea of a healthy nation that needs more “outdoor” than “indoor” productivity. Setting signalization for hiking trails, eco actions, so far, will be beginners steps for improving the awareness about healthy environment.

The result of the activity:

- 300+ engaged citizen (aware of possible ecological threats);

- Promoted hiking trails and their surrounding (biodiversity, meaning and history);

- Raised awareness about eco-tourism potential regarding region specifications.

  

Environmental challenge accepted - Public vote

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