Last week, Environment Minister Simonas Gentvilas signed an order approving 15 new sites included in the network to protect forests, grasslands, lakes and wetlands of various habitat types.

A total of 31 new Lithuanian sites have been added to the European Union's Natura 2000 ecological network this year, bringing the total area of the network in Lithuania to more than 22,000 ha. There are now 665 Natura 2000 sites selected in Lithuania.

Natura 2000 is a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and some rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. It stretches across all 27 EU countries, both on land and at sea. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats, listed under both the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.