C.1 Enlargement of FGN farming stewardship network
Land stewardship is a set of strategies and instruments aimed at involving the owners and users of the territory in the conservation and proper use of the natural, cultural and landscape values and resources. It promotes agreements and collaboration mechanisms among owners, stewardship bodies and other public and private agents. Land stewardship bodies are public or private not-for-profit organizations. Land stewardship is embodied in voluntary agreements among owners and land managers and territory stewardship bodies to maintain or recover the natural medium and the landscape.
During the Steppes of La Mancha LIFE project, a voluntary land stewardship network will be set up for private land, mainly held by crop and cattle farmers with farms in areas of interest for steppe birds on which action plans are applied to each farm. The goal of this action is to accompany the farmers in the implementation of the measures included in this project.
C.2 Ecological connectivity and improvement of habitats for certain species: recovery of boundaries and restoration of hedgerows
Groves, boundaries and hedgerows will be recovered through the plantation of local species of herbaceous plants, scrub and low bushes with plants of local provenance.
C.3 Conservation of uncultivated land and scrub land through the re-organization of grazing
As a novel measure, work will be carried out with Local Pasture Committees in the municipalities included in the project for the re-organization of grazing in these towns. The aim is to foster the recovery of uncultivated land, now in the process of conversion to scrub land, back into pasture land as a fundamental habitat of many species of steppe birds.
C.4 Modification of farming practices for the improvement of biodiversity
In those lands where a stewardship agreement has been signed, biodiversity improvement plans will be implemented on farming plots with the intention of reducing their environmental impact by applying different agronomic measures in order to extend the experience among the rest of the farmers in the district. This will allow creating a Sustainable Production and Sourcing Code for Cereals and Legumes for the Conservation of Steppe Birds. This Code will be the basis for differentiated marketing and can be assumed as a procurement protocol for those agrifood and processing companies wishing to differentiate themselves in this sense. The goal is for these farms to show other farmers in the region the advantages and the savings implied for them by the application of the many of these measures.
C.5 One-off actions in favour of biodiversity: water points and adaptation of kestrel shelters
Pre-existing water points will be created, restored or adapted to favour steppe birds by serving as drinking areas. They will also imply an important element to encourage the conservation of populations of frogs and insects. Architectural elements such as kestrel shelters (a kind of dovecot for housing breeding colonies of lesser kestrels – Falco naumanni) will also be restored.
C.6 Signalling of fences and wires, and replacement of barbed wire
In order to minimize the problem of collisions or fragmentation of the populations of steppe birds due to the incompatibility of the presence of birds beside certain barriers, barbed wire fences will be replaced, fences will be signalled with long-lasting elements and, in particular, the tensors on espaliers used in vineyards.
C.7 Production and differentiated marketing on the basis of biodiversity indicators
In order to provide greater support to the farmers joining the land stewardship network created within the project, the pre-existing strategy of differentiated marketing for legumes already implemented by the Global Nature Foundation will be extended. The agri-environmental products from the four areas in the Natura 2000 Network included in the project will be promoted by ensuring their sustainability, traceability and transparency.
C.8 Collaboration of hunting associations
It is intended to raise awareness among the hunting collective of the interest for them of the measures undertaken in this project, not just for the steppe birds but also for game birds, currently in decline because of the same threats affecting protected species. This information and awareness-building programme will be based on holding talks and workshops with all the hunting associations operating in the project’s territory.
C.9 Extension of the Natura 2000 Network, Regional Conservation Plan for Steppe Birds and New Agri-environmental Programmes
The Regional Government (JCCM), a partner in the Steppes of La Mancha LIFE project, will extend the “SCA Laguna de El Hito” special conservation area to almost 25,000 hectares, and will draw up a Regional Plan for the Conservation of Steppe Birds and a new draft of the Agri-Environmental Programme for the upcoming programming of the CAP to be applied from 2020 on.