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Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature

Member: NGO Premium
Since: 25.09.2013

20, Nikis Street, GR-105 57 Athens, Greece
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The Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN), founded in 1951, is the oldest Greek environmental NGO which operates throughout the country for the protection of nature. Since its founding it has been at the forefront of efforts to establish National Parks, to protect habitats and threatened species of fauna and flora, and to modernise and implement environmental legislation. 

Since 1958, the position of General Secretary was held by the late Byron Antipas, who was the driving force of the HSPN for the next 35 years. His pivotal role in the early environmental movement in Greece was illustrated by the fact that he was sent as an official representative of the national government in 1971 to sign the Ramsar Convention for Greece. Antipas’ seminal work in nature protection was widely recognised and he received numerous awards from international organisations. In recognition of his great contribution, the HSPN has established the “Byron Antipas Prize”, which is awarded regularly to non-public organizations or individuals who have contributed significantly to the protection of nature and the environment, and have done so in an un-self-interested way over many years. Among the recipients are Luc Hoffmann (2005), and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (2011). 

The HSPN functioned as a kind of nursery too, mainly through the encouragement Antipas gave to young Greeks to promote nature protection: from it developed other more specialised organizations such as the Hellenic Ornithological Society, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, and the Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk seal (MOM). 

In Greece, the HSPN represents the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a worldwide, private educational organisation, and operates five of its international programmes for environmental education and awareness raising. It is also a member of important environmental organizations such as the IUCN, the European Centre for Nature Conservation (ECNC) and the European Union for Coastal Conservation (EUCC). 

It works with many other NGOs for common goals, and cooperates with many national and regional state agencies. For its work it has received awards from the Academy of Athens, the Council of Europe and the Ford Foundation.

The HSPN funds its activities from the annual fees and donations of its members and friends, as well as sponsorships given by the private sector. Its financial records are regularly audited by accredited auditors. Today the HSPN is active in 4 main areas:

1. Environmental Intervention,
2. Conservation and Nature Protection
3. Environmental Education  
4. Ecological Management and Public Awareness Raising


In addition to its permanent staff members, the HSPN utilises for many of its actions an extensive network of volunteers, including academics and specialist scientists.

1. Environmental Intervention The HSPN intervenes with the public services and with various governmental agencies when it observes violations of national or European environmental regulations and laws, or serious threats to the environment. This is done through direct contact, letters, or press releases, or, in cases of serious infringement of laws, through legal action usually in the Council of State, or the Supreme Administrative Court of Greece. Examples of this latter form of intervention are the cases against the state over the illegalities in the water-diversion project of the Acheloos and Nestos rivers, the non-compliance with EU regulations requiring the creation of a forest registry, or over. These important cases are usually undertaken with other environmental NGOs. 

2. Conservation and Nature-Protection 

The HSPN has implemented, alone or in cooperation with other NGOs, a variety of conservation projects including: 
  • Management of the Constantio Lagoon in the Amvrakikos Gulf, (2003-2004): This was a project for the general management of the Constantio Lagoon undertaken in cooperation with its owner, the Monastery of Prophet Elijah of Preveza. Actions included the management of fisheries, the development of ecotourism, and the publication of leaflets on the birds and the fish of the Amvrakikos Gulf. 
  • Promotion of the Natura 2000 network in Greece, (2004): This project produced a detailed description of the habitats and of the important flora and fauna species found in the, then, 262 sites of the Natura 2000 network, later published in a book produced by the HSPN in cooperation with the, then, Ministry of the Environment, Urban Planning and Public Works.
  • A LIFE Project for the Nestos River, (2004-2006): The HSPN participated in a 3-year LIFE Project for the protection of birds of prey in the Nestos Gorge, for the re-flooding and the reforesting of areas in the Nestos delta, the construction of nesting platforms in the lagoons and the general development of eco-tourism.
  • Creation of the “Otter Trail” along the Arachtos river, (2008-2009): This was a project to clear, restore and signpost traditional footpaths along the banks of the Arachtos River, including research on otters, so that their habitats could be protected.
  • Programme for the Protection and Management of the Oak Forest of Foloi in the Peloponnese, (2008-2011): The HSPN, originally in cooperation with the General Secretariat for Youth and local youth organizations, undertook to selectively reforest areas of the ancient Foloi oak forest destroyed during the fires of 2007. After 2010 the project was sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, Hellas. Actions of the project included reforestation, regular garbage removal and educational seminars on the protection of the forest and on fire-fighting for local young volunteers. The project also included the purchase of fire-fighting equipment for the local volunteer team and the establishment of an Information Centre in the village of Foloi.
  • Re-planting of the Communal Farm of Arachamita, in the Peloponnese, (ongoing since 2008): The HSPN, in cooperation with the local community, as well as local NGOs and volunteer organizations, is selectively reforesting and setting up a watering system in an area burnt during the fires of 2007. This project is supported by Edding Hellas.
  • LIFE+ for open forests - Conservation of priority forests and forest openings in "Ethnikos Drymos Oitis" and "Oros Kallidromo" of Sterea Ellada, LIFE11 NAT/GR/1014 (2012 and ongoing): HSPN is the coordinating beneficiary. The main objective of the project is to implement management in forests and forest openings for the conservation of biodiversity at species, habitat, and landscape level. The project area are Two mountainous Natura 2000 sites of Central Greece, in the Region of Sterea Ellada: "ETHNIKOS DRYMOS OITIS” (GR2440004) and “OROS KALLIDROMO” (GR2440006). 
3. Environmental Education. 

Since 1995 the HSPN has coordinated five Environmental Education Networks, approved by the Greek Ministry of Education. During the past years, up to 1,500 schools (kindergarten, primary and secondary levels) have participated in these networks, with thousands of students and teachers taking part throughout the country. Active cooperation with the local communities is required in these programmes, and the students through their “hands-on” activities learn how to interact with and how to influence adults and officials of their communities. The HSPN produces the appropriate educational material for all its programmes, with the voluntary assistance of experienced teachers specialised in Environmental Education, and distributes this free of charge to all the participating schools. It also organizes training sessions for the teachers involved. (www.education@eepf.gr
  • “Eco-Schools” (FEE international programme). Each school studies problems that have to do with energy, water, waste management, resource conservation, etc., and comes up with practical solutions. (www.eco-schools.org)
  • “Young Reporters for the Environment” (FEE international programme). The students analyzed a serious environmental problem, most often one which concerns the community where the school is located, and frequently in cooperation with students from other European countries. The students have to write up and present these themes, like reporters, and communicate them from one school to the other using the Internet. (www.youngreporters.org)
  • Learning about Forests” (FEE international programme). The students receive information about forests, their biological functioning and their uses, and practical applications of this knowledge are demonstrated. Students are then called on to implement what they have learnt, frequently in the forest itself. (www.leaf-international.org)
  • “Litter-free Nature” (national programme). Teams of students work with local authorities to make public opinion in their areas more sensitive to better ways of handling waste and combating all forms of pollution.
  • “Green Neighbourhoods” (national programme). The students are given educational material about wildlife within urban environments, and then are called upon to observe and interact with nature in the field, in all its little refuges in their towns and cities. 
4. Ecological Management and Public Awareness Raising 

The following two international Programmes of FFE aim at the sustainable, ecological management of beaches and tourist facilities, while promoting environmental education and awareness raising among the staff, the visitors and the local societies. They also enhance the environmental «image» of Greece. 
  • “The Blue Flag”: The HSPN is, since 1992, the national operator of this programme, aiming at the ecological management of beaches, including environmental protection, education and awareness raising. To receive the Blue Flag, an internationally acclaimed quality standard, all participating municipalities, hotels and marinas must implement some 33 strict criteria. These include, among others, the quality of water and cleanliness of the beaches, the provision of life-saving and other facilities, the undertaking of educational activities related to marine and coastal habitats, and the protection of the beach area. In 2014, 408 beaches, and 10 marinas were awarded the Blue Flag. (www.blueflag@eepf.gr
  • “The Green Key Programme”: The HSPN operates this programme in Greece since 2009. It awards the ‘Green Key’ eco-label to those hotels that successfully meet the required environmental standards. In 2013, 138 hotels received the eco-label. (www.greenkey@eepf.gr
Every year, the HSPN organises specialised training seminars for the managers of beaches, marinas and hotels participating in the two programmes. 

The Ministry of Tourism, recognizing the great importance of the two, programmes and the key role of them in developing sustainable tourism practices in Greece, has signed a memorandum of cooperation with HSPN in order to promote the Blue Flag and Green Key in Greece. 

5. Conferences, Seminars and Excursions: 

Over the years the HSPN has organized many local and national conferences, seminars and workshops on environmental subjects. Examples of these are:
  • 2006: 1st National Student Conference on “Reducing garbage in an effort to save Nature”. 
  • 2007: National Conference on “Education – Protection of the Environment – Waste Management”. 
  • 2008: 2nd National Student Conference on “Clean, living, protected Greek shores”. 
  • 2009: National Conference on “Our Natural Heritage; its Value and its Protection”. 
  • 2011: 3rd National Student Conference on “Human Values and the Environment – Some waste, others starve”.
  • 2012: Conference to celebrate the 20 years of implementation of the Directive 92/43/ΕC and the status of Natura 2000 network in protected areas in Greece. 
The HSPN has organised seminars for the corporate staff of large companies on environmental subjects within the “Corporate Social Responsibility” framework of the latter. 

It also participates in events related to environmental issues, such as the Micropolis Exhibition (Athens, 2010, 2011), with educational workshops for families with young children, photographic exhibitions, etc. 

Finally, the HSPN organizes educational excursions for its members and friends to all parts of the country, guided by experts in a number of fields such as botany, zoology, ornithology, etc. It also organises presentations and addresses for its own members as well as for the public. 

6. Periodicals, Publications and Website: 

The HSPN has regularly published the quarterly periodical “I FYSI” (Nature) since 1975. The periodical features articles on a variety of nature and wildlife subjects and conservation issues, as well as reports on the Society’s activities. It also publishes a bi-annual periodical entitled “Filaraki” (Small Leaf), which is written for and distributed to the educational community. Nowadays the latter is distributed in computerized form. 

In addition to these regular publications, it also publishes many books on various nature themes and issues newsletters about its educational programmes. 

The HSPN details its activities and concerns on its website (www.eepf.gr).