Austria launches biodiversity protection scheme

Environment ministry, provinces join with WWF to protect habitat, conserve endangered species

The Austrian environment ministry and five of the country's nine provinces have joined with the World Wide Fund for Nature in a programme to slow down the degradation of habitat and prevent further losses in biodiversity. Over the coming months, the ministry, the provinces of Vienna, Upper- and Lower-Austria, Salzburg and Burgenland and WWF will develop a series of national and local campaigns. Most of the funding is expected to come from the provinces. Projects will include resettlement of bearded vultures and protection of wild bears. WWF will also publish information about the arrival and breeding of storks on the internet when the birds arrive in a few weeks' time. Austria has about 67,000 species of flora and fauna, one third of which are regarded as endangered. Unveiling the initiative last week, environment minister Martin Bartenstein stressed the threat that projects such as road construction pose for national parks and other protected areas. He said once this protected status had been awar ded it would be regarded as "an absolute priority." Local observers say this indicates he will oppose plans for a motorway through the 9,000-hectare Danube national park that stretches from Vienna to the Slovak border.

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