The Council of the European Communities (Union) has a Directive (92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992) on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as the [Habitats Directive]. Each member state must compile a list of areas containing the habitat types and species listed in the Directive. These areas are to be protected for the purpose of conserving Europe's rarest flora and fauna species and habitats, and may be designated both on land and at sea. Most of these areas will in due course be designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to ensure that they are protected from deterioration and damage. For example, there are 178 proposed SACs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The [Habitats Directive] complements the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds, known as the [Birds Directive], and covers species other than birds.