Protection for several of Europe’s largest remaining wilderness areas is now within reach, thanks to a new mapping initiative. This has been undertaken by Icelandic cartographers in tandem with the Wildland Research Institute of Leeds University, directed by Steve Carver.
Based on Wild Europe’s definition and zonation criteria, itself linked to IUCN Category Ib, the initiative was launched on 22nd March 2022 in Reykjavik with Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Environment.
Wilderness still covers over 40% of Iceland’s terrestrial area, and this exercise provides a valuable model for identifying large natural ecosystem areas that are suitable for restoration and protection in Europe generally.
It is particularly relevant given the consensus among conservationists for non-intervention to play a significant role in the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy as the default interpretation of “strict protection” applying to 10% of EU terrestrial and marine areas.
As of 2nd February 2022 Wild Europe is designated as a Stichting, registered in the Netherlands
Our objectives remain unchanged, although our new structure will significantly enhance our ability to secure these across a broad range of activities. While we are based in the European Union, our remit will still cover the whole of Europe: from Ireland in the West to the Urals and Caucasus in the East.
The Foundation will be chaired by Erika Stanciu, former Secretary of State for Forests in the Romanian government and President of Europarc Federation, now Vice Chair of WCPA for Europe. She is also founder / director of Propark Foundation, providing training and consultancy services, and Coordinator for Wild Europe’s Wilderness Working Group.
Construction or extension of roads and other ‘artificial interventions’ has been banned across large areas in an Untrodden Mountains initiative announced by Prime Minister Kryiakos Mitsotakis.
This will cover six areas under Natura 2000 designation across Greece, totalling some 97,000 hectares.
Of course nobody disputes the overall value of roads, but ever denser networks in Europe are a key factor behind landscape degradation and biodiversity loss: causing direct mortality, fragmenting habitat and often promoting its deterioration, disturbing wildlife, encouraging invasive species and undermining tourist experience.
COP 26 Climate Change Summit – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Billed as a last chance saloon to avert profoundly damaging climate change before the 2030 target date, COP 26 in Glasgow from 1-13 November 2021 was characterised by a spate of pronouncements and initiatives.
What did it really achieve for climate and biodiversity, and how can this be built on strategically?
A few bullet points set the scene towards COP27 in Cairo.
By a landslide 674 votes, with only 1 against, IUCN members called for strict protection of primary/old growth forest in Europe.
Furthermore this protection is based on prohibition of timber extraction – and was backed by 93 Category A members, which includes governments.
The vote, at IUCN’s Marseille Congress in September 2021, was in response to Motion 125, “Strengthening the protection of primary and old-growth forests in Europe and facilitating their restoration”. The Motion wascoordinated by Daniel Vallauri of WWF France and based on Wild Europe’s Old Growth ForestProtection Strategy (2018) and sequel.
Perfect storm for a forest bioenergy crisis – and how to address it
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that forest bioenergy worsens climate change, with higher emissions than any other fuel including gas or coal, elements within the EC currently considering reform of RED II continue to give it their strong support.
There are however crucial opportunities, currently underexploited, for addressing this issue.
Wild Europe’s Action Plan for large natural ecosystem areas – in EU and non EU countries – was launched on 11th January.
Described as ambitious but thoroughly practical, the Plan is strongly supportive of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and many of its key targets run in parallel:
Such targets are underpinned by recognition that adequate compensation must be paid to private landholders, alongside full activation of the Payment for Ecosystem Services agenda and significant support for carbon rich ecosystems from the Climate Fund. It is important to build common ground with inter-sector consensus to achieve this.
Slovakian wilderness protection targets re-affirmed
President highlights targets at UN Summit
Major targets for non-intervention in national parks in the 2019 Greener Slovakia strategy were highlighted in a speech by President Caputova on 30th September at the UN Biodiversity Summit.
50% of NP area as non-intervention will be achieved by 2025.
75% will be achieved by 2030.
This clear re-affirmation should animate action to implement these protection targets in Slovakia itself, and be a useful catalyst for European governments generally. Another objective should, wherever possible, be attainment of IUCN Category I: complete non-intervention status.
President Caputova’s speech follows the unveiling earlier this year of a series of measures to strengthen environmental protection.
‘Model’ wilderness area in Alps based on Wild Europe definition
Author: Bernhard Kohler, WWF Austria
A wilderness area covering 6,700 hectares has been unveiled in the North West of Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria, following formal designation in 2019.
This is based on criteria from the Wild Europe definition and comes under the aegis of the Salzburg municipality.
The wilderness area has great promise as a model for the restoration strategy to implement targets in the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy – echoing Wild Europe’s own objectives of strict protection for at least 10% of EU and non-EU terrestrial areas.