On 1 August 2023, the new Description of Procedures for the Preparation of Strategic Planning Documents (SPDs) for Protected Areas came into force, aimed at the protection and management of natural and cultural heritage values through the preparation of strategic planning documents. This is one of the most significant, successfully achieved objectives of the LIFE Integrated Project “Optimising the management of Natura 2000 network in Lithuania”. The description has been prepared by the team of the State Service for Protected Territories (SSTT) in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment.

A remote presentation of the SPD inventory took place on 28 September, during which specialists from the Methodological Analytical Centre of the SSTT commented in detail on the changes and differences between the old and the new SPD inventories. Conservation expert Nerijus Žitkevičius, reviewing the reasons for the need for the changes and the preparatory work for a comprehensive review of the established SPD documentation process, said that “we have more data on the values of Natura 2000 sites, as some of them have already been identified for protection, and we have a tool called Biomon, with the help of which we can more quickly turn planned management measures into management schemes (maps) and make them publicly available, and the reduced requirements for the inventory will allow for a more efficient and high-quality planning”.

Legal expert Gintaras Gaidys gave a detailed presentation on the main changes in the regulation of SPD documents. The main differences between the new and the old regime are as follows:

– the SPD Schedule, implementing the Law on Protected Areas, regulates three types of strategic planning documents: nature management plans, target programmes and action plans;

– a reduced size of the management plan, as detailed descriptions of the site and other redundant information that does not influence the choice of management measures are eliminated. The document will be a single document without separate supporting information;

– Simplified approval of the documents: management plans and target programmes will be approved by the SSTT and action plans by the directorates of the protected areas (except where these documents are approved by the municipal authorities or the Ministry of Culture, in accordance with their competence);

– documents have no expiry date and are only amended when necessary, in the event of changes in natural or other relevant conditions;

– more emphasis on publicity and participation of the interested public: the drafted, approved documents will have to be published on the websites of the approving authority and of the relevant protected area management, and the public will have the opportunity to consult them and submit proposals.

Giedrius Vaivilavičius, a nature conservation expert and GIS analyst, presented the principles and the process of development of the integrated system, which includes the assessment of the habitat status, the conservation objectives to be set and the management measures based on them. “The approval of the description of strategic planning documents for protected areas does not in itself mean smooth development and implementation of the planning documents – databases such as SRIS (protected species information system), Biomon (database for conservation objectives, nature management, monitoring), BIGIS (database on the distribution of habitats of European importance), and others have to be integrated in a qualitative manner. In turn, these databases will only be as effective as the quality of the work of the specialists collecting the data, so all parts of the process need to be further improved in parallel”, noted Vaivilavičius.

The new SPD inventory is expected to simplify the process of preparation of nature management plans, target programmes and action plans, and to make the implementation of nature management measures even more efficient.