Ten years ago, the nations of the European Union agreed to create Natura 2000, a continent-wide network of conservation areas designed to protect 200 habitats and 600 species. The network was supposed to be in place by 1998, but foot-dragging and local resistance gummed up the works. Now, Natura 2000 is finally becoming a reality. Yesterday, the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira became the first nations to set aside Natura 2000 lands, which will be subject to strict conservation rules, including restrictions on industrial activities. The Canary Islands — one of the most biologically diverse areas of Europe — will move to protect the habitat of the endangered giant lizard of Hierro, the continent’s rarest reptile.

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