Private Funding Best Practices
Here at CEEweb, we have been researching and analysing the good that private funding can have in the important work of biodiversity conservation. In order to show the gap that private funding can fill in, we have collated a collection of ‘best practices’ in private funding
These examples highlight the good that private funding can have in environmental projects and the importance of incentivising further private sector funding for biodiversity conservation in the CEE region
Open Rivers Programme
The Open Rivers Programme, funded by the philanthropic organisation Arcadia, is a private funding programme focussed on the removal of old and obsolete barriers in European rivers in order to create free-flowing and healthy rivers with thriving ecosystems. The programme has been funded by a $50 million grant from Arcadia and has so far awarded fifty-two grants across twenty-one countries. By the completion of the project in 2027, the programme aims to have restored 10,000 kilometres of river across Europe.
Some key examples of dam and barrier removals include the Vrbovo Dam in Slovenia, the Beja Watermill in Latvia, and the Kopitarna Dam in Slovenia.
The Vrbovo Dam is situated on the Reka River in Slovenia, which has helped to carve the infamous Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Removing the dam would help to clear over eight kilometres of habitat, helping to protect and allow for the migration of freshwater species, such as the marble trout and stone crayfish.
The Beja Watermill is located on the Aluksne River in Latvia. The river is an essential habitat for many endangered freshwater fish, but over half of the available habitat has been blocked due to the watermill. Removal would significantly improve the habitat and increase the availability of space for many species, including brown trout, grayling, European chub, and the European brook lamprey. The project should open around twenty-four kilometres of river.
The Kopitarna Dam is on the Sevnična River in Slovenia, which is a large habitat for endangered stone crayfish and brown trout. The dam causes negative impacts on the water quality of the river, and its removal will drastically improve the connectivity and quality of the river.
Endangered Landscapes Programme
The Endangered Landscapes Programme aims to fund large-scale restoration projects focussed on Europe’s most important, yet endangered areas. The programme has collectively received $101.7 million from Arcadia, a philanthropic organisation that aims to fund environmental and cultural projects for the betterment of the world.
Some key examples of projects aimed at restoring endangered landscapes are the Mura-Drava-Danube project in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia, the restoration of ecological networks in southeast Bulgaria and the Carpathian Mountains project in Romania.
The Mura-Drava-Danube project focuses on the importance of the Danube in five core countries, as the river is vital for both habitats and the cultures of local communities. The landscape surrounding the Danube has been degraded by unsustainable practices, so the project aims to restore the Danube to being a multi-functional landscape that aids plants, animals and people. Activities within the project include the removal of vegetation and sediment, introducing native cows, and deepening the river channels.
The project in Southeast Bulgaria focuses on the regions lowlands that border Greece and Turkey, due to their extensive habitats for species such as the Egyptian Hawk, the European eel, and the European souslik. Large amounts of the nature forests in this area have been destroyed due to pine plantations, which have increased the likelihood of forest fires. The project aims to replace over three thousand hectares of plantations with native woodland and increase the area for natural habitation.
The Carpathian mountain project in Romania focuses on protecting key habitats for Europe’s brown bears, wolves and lynxes. The area has been largely degraded due to clear-felling, overgrazing and unsustainable development which has led to problems surrounding the habitats of over 66 endemic species. The project aims to purchase this land in order to create a wilderness reserve and a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Conservation Leadership Programme
The Conservation Leadership Programme is a partnership of three organisations (Birdlife International, Fauna and Flora International, and the Wildlife Conservation Society) which aims to support conservation leaders globally through funding conservation projects. The projects usually focus on individual species and methods for monitoring and protection. The programme is funded through grants from Arcadia, the De Beers Group, and Foundation Segré.
Some key examples of projects include conserving Horseshoe bats in Romania and Serbia, European ground squirrels in Romania, and completing a bat survey in Slovakia.
The population of Horseshoe bats on the border between Romania and Serbia is being threatened by multiple different factors and has decreasing populations. This project aims to build the foundations for transboundary conservation of these bats, whilst using research and monitoring methods to protect key habitats.
The European ground squirrel is endemic to Europe and yet the population is currently in serious decline. This project aimed to fulfil a key survey on the population numbers, density and distribution of the squirrels, whilst conducting educational seminars on the importance of biodiversity conservation.
The Slovensky Raj National Park in Slovakia has a huge number of caves that act as important habitats for bats. This project aims to survey these caves in order to monitor and protect key habitats for bat conservation. The project will also help to train local students and NGOs on how to continue to conserve the bat population after the completion of the project.
The European Outdoor Conservation Association
The European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) is a charitable association made of over 150 different businesses within the outdoor industry. The association aims to fund different conservation projects worldwide and has so far funded over 172 projects. The association relies on key funding from sustaining members, including the European Outdoor Group, Keen, Nikwax, Osprey, Pertex, Stanley and the North Face.
Some key examples of the EOCA’s important work include practical nature conservation in Estonia, cleaning the Ina River in Poland, and the restoration of otter habitats in Romania.
In Estonia, funds were raised by Nikwax in order to plan for the restoration and conservation of threatened areas. The project involved over 150 volunteers in over 10 camps that were tasked with the removal of invasive species and building cowpens.
The Ina River in Poland was originally used as a commercial shipping river but has now become an essential habitat for many animals. This project will re-wet over fifty hectares of floodplains and plant trees along over seventeen kilometres of the river. This restoration will provide new key habitats for the salmon, kingfishers, beavers and many other animals that call the river home.
The Putna River in Romania has long been an important habitat for otters, yet they are under threat due to the degradation of the riverbed and water-quality. This project aims to monitor the existing otter population, build new otter holts, and encourage new otters into the area. The project will also plant over a thousand new trees along the river bank and aid in the removal of many invasive species.
ClientEarth is an organisation of legal experts that aims to protect biodiversity in Europe through providing access to legal tools and expertise that can be used to legally protect certain important areas. ClientEarth functions through environmental-law experts enforcing pre-existing environmental laws through strategic litigation, political advocacy, and campaigns to promote public participation. ClientEarth is partially funded by Arcadia, receiving a grant of $4.7 million between 2011 and 2023.
A key example of ClientEarth’s important work can be seen in the Blałowleza Forest in Poland. The forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of over 140,000 hectares and has the largest population of free-roaming European Bison, yet it is under threat from extensive logging allowed by the Polish government. ClientEarth, funded by Arcadia, aided in the preservation of the forest by intervening and urging the European Court of Justice to find Poland’s actions unlawful.
Flora and Fauna International
Flora and Fauna International (FFI) is the world’s first international conservation organisation that was founded in 1903, which operates in over forty countries. FFI receives most of its funding from private donations and philanthropy organisations, such as Arcadia, and has helped to restore over 60 million hectares of critical habitats and conservation sites. FFI has also received key funding from institutions such as the European Union.
Some key examples of FFI’s work in the CEE region are the conservation of the Zarand Landscape Corridor and the protection of high-value farmland in Romania.
The Zarand Landscape Corridor in Romania is an incredibly important ecological area for the conservation of large carnivores in mainland Europe. This area is under direct threat from large-scale infrastructure and intense agriculture practices, and so FFI has funded projects that have restored the connectivity of the region. This has enabled the restoration of key habitats and increased local biodiversity.
In Transylvania, Romania, there are many key areas of high-value farmland that are extremely biodiverse and provide livelihoods for many local communities. These areas are under threat due to the recent move away from traditional agricultural methods and towards high-intensity farming. FFI has funded the purchase of these farmlands and key biodiversity areas in order to protect and restore them.