Skip to content
The content on this page has yet to be rewritten for GOV.WALES. It is still correct and up-to-date.

The birds and habitats directives

The content of this page is not being updated. Get up to date information on Wildlife and habitat conservation at


Protecting and conserving Europe's wildlife and habitats.

The European Union Wild Birds Directive and Habitats Directive (external links) establish a legislative framework for protecting and conserving Europe's wildlife and habitats.

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (external link) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) (external link) bring the requirements of these Directives into national law.

At the centre of the policy is the creation of a coherent ecological network of protected areas across the EU. This is known as the Natura 2000 network (external link). These protected areas are for habitats and species considered to be of outstanding international significance. Their purpose is to maintain or restore the habitats and species at a ‘favourable conservation status’ in their natural range. The network comprises:

  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs) - classified to protect rare and vulnerable birds and regularly occurring migratory species
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) - designated for their important contribution to the conservation of natural habitats and species of the plants and animals they support.

In addition Natura 2000 sites some species of plants and animals are given additional protection. These are known as ‘European Protected Species’.

For more information visit Forestry Commission website - European Protected Species (external link) and Natural Resources Wales website - European Protected Species Licensing (external link).