Vaclav Havel (centre) opens the 2009 EC Conference. To his left, Toby Aykroyd (Director, Wild Europe), Ladislav Miko (Environment Minister, Czech Republic). To his right, Mike Hammell (Acting Director, European Commission, DG Environment), Luc Marie Gnacadja (Executive Secretary, United Nations CCD)

About Wild Europe

Originally established in 2005, the Foundation promotes a coordinated strategy for protection and restoration of large natural ecosystem areas (wilderness and wildlands), addressing the threats and opportunities facing them.

Wild Europe was formally launched in 2009 at an EC Presidency conference in Prague with Vaclav Havel, former Czech President and author of the ‘Velvet Revolution’.

We became a Foundation in 2022, registered as a Stichting under Netherlands law at the IUCN offices in Amsterdam.

We are a partnership providing joint representation, rather than a membership body, aiming to support existing bodies and initiatives but not duplicate their activities.

The partnership is currently comprised of agencies, NGOs, other institutions and key individuals. Its links reach beyond conservation to seek consensus with farming, forestry, business and urban social interests.


Executive Committee meeting

Wild Europe’s Objectives

  1. To promote the protection, restoration and extension and linkage of large natural ecosystems (wilderness and wild areas) in Europe, according to principles of non-intervention, with management by natural process
  2. To develop and support initiatives for this work, in liaison with a broadly based trans-European network of organisations and individuals having similar objectives
  3. To support a range of wilderness area models for non-intervention, to be protected in perpetuity  
  4. To promote the multiple values of wilderness and wild areas in support of these objectives, through advocacy and other forms of representation, incentive, best practice sharing, training and general support
  5. To encourage, on an occasional non-financial basis, initiatives that seek to uphold Europe’s positive influence in protecting wilderness areas elsewhere in the world 

More information can be found on these aims in our 2020 Summary Action PlanThey are derived from the original strategy document A Towards a Wilder Europe from our EC Presidency launch in 2009.

Main activities 

The Foundation has five key areas of activity:

1. Advancing wilderness interests in key policy areas

  • Old growth/primary forest protection: promoting coordinated strategy since 2013. Our 2018 Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy forms the basis for the IUCN Congress Resolution (2021) on improved protection, restoration in Europe 
  • EU Biodiversity Strategy, EU Forest Strategy, EU Restoration Law: general inputs, including participation in the EC Working Group on Forests and Nature
  • Common Agricultural Reform: proposals for resource reallocation, input of a socio-economic support programme and establishment of consolidated Ecological Focus Areas
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: reform proposal
  • Innovative funding potential: input to activation of PES (Payment for Ecosystem Services) and NBS (Natural Based Solutions) agendas
  • Social benefits – promotion of wider use

2. Promoting key supporting instruments for wilderness & wild areas

  • Promoting our practitioner’s definition as a standard framework for protection and restoration of wilderness – adopted by the EC, now used in some protected areas for 15 countries, in national strategies and new area designations
  • Producing a new practitioner’s definition for wild areas, used as a basis for promoting rewilding in the UK and elsewhere
  • Promoting phase II of the EC Wilderness Register, to include new areas, connectivity and non-EU countries 
  • Supporting a wilderness mapping concept and strategy for establishing further areas in response to EU Biodiversity Strategy targets
  • Seeking wider adoption of EC Guidelines on wilderness and wild area management in the Natura 2000 network, with an update including collation of best practice
  • Inputs to reforms of the 2015 EC Guidelines for Natura 2000 & Forests
  • Production of a Renewable Energy and Climate Change Strategy (RECCS) as an alternative to wood bioenergy use
  • Promoting closer coordination between fossil fuel and forest bioenergy campaign networksfor addressing climate change
  • Promoting legal framework for long-term protection for private sector owners in tandem with Lifescape and Clifford Chance

3. Inputs to wild area/wilderness strategies eg

  • Austria – general inputs: our wilderness definition adopted by Austrian National Parks Association
  • Bulgaria – proposal of “Threefold support approach” (protection advocacy, economic assessment and enterprise implementation) for protection of Pirin NP (See 5 below)
  • Czech Republic – “Threefold support approach” implemented for Sumava NP with wider application 
  • England – promotion of rewilding; inputs on strategy, Payment for Ecosystem Services and national tree strategy via Rewilding Britain and other entities
  • France – promotion of rewilding; inputs through IUCN France Working Group and Coordination Evolution Libre network 
  • Germany – general inputs; our definition in NP planning strategy
  • Iceland – our definition and criteria used in mapping initiative for legislative implementation
  • Ireland – Inputs to Nephin wilderness initiative
  • Scotland – promotion of rewilding; development of socio-economic benefits strategy via SNH (now NatureScot), support for our partner European Nature Trust at Alladale and elsewhere
  • Slovakia – support for wilderness strategy and National Park non-intervention targets
  • Wales – promotion of rewilding; input to beaver reintroduction project and other projects; a socio-economic community benefit approach for rewilding

4. Providing input and promotion for large model area projects, examples:

  • Carpathia Wilderness Reserve in the Romanian Carpathians, being developed for National Park status by Fundatia Conservation Carpathia (FCC)  
  • Clima Carpathia – input to multinational trans-Carpathian protection concept being developed by FCC 
  • “Wolf Mountains” – spanning 200,000 hectare potential linking East Slovakia/SE Poland/SW Ukraine with our partners Frankfurt Zoological Society
  • Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria – wilderness area designed around our definition and launched in 2021
  • Sumava/BayerischerWald National Park – promotion of a programme for protection advocacy, economic assessment and enterprise implementation
  • Bialowieza Forest – in Poland and Belarus, building on proposals for significant extension within Poland and trans-frontier to Belarus

5. Developing non-extractive socio-economic and enterprise approaches:

  • Proposals for full activation of Payment for Ecosystem Services funding potential, including closely moderated incentivized private sector support
  • Proposals for innovative funding: identification and access to new sources, reform of existing instruments, codes of conduct
  • Support for reform of protection grants: adequate levels, simple administration, clear promotion
  • “Threefold support approach” to protection: targeted representation, economic assessment, enterprise implementation 
  • A long-term legal protection mechanism for land tenure in the private sector
  • ANEEP (Assessment of Non-Extractive Economic Potential) consultation facility for assessing and securing protected area income potential for conservation [under assessment]. 

Who we are

The Wild Europe Foundation is based on a partnership of institutions, NGOs and key individuals. It is chaired by Erika Stanciu (see below), who took over this role from Ladislav Miko former Head of Natural Environment at DG Environment in the European Commission. Participants provide pro bono support and funding contributions.

An Executive Committee – now renamed a Consultative Group under the new Foundation – provides advice and expertise for development of Wild Europe’s objectives and activities.

EU Parliamentary endorsement

The Wild Europe initiative was directly endorsed by a European Parliament Report in February 2009:

“European Parliament calls on the Commission to accept the Wild Europe Initiative, a partnership of several nature conservation organisations including IUCN, IUCN-WCPA, WWF, Birdlife International and PAN Parks, with a strong interest in wild lands or nearly wild areas” (Report 2210 Section 16)

The initiative was recommended, in its present form, by an EC Presidency conference held in Prague in May 2009, attended by 238 participants from 36 countries.

Map of Europe
Wild Europe spans the full range of countries in the European arena

Organisations participating in the Foundation include:


Welcome back to Erika Stanciu
as Chair of Wild Europe

Erika in her natural habitat (source

Erika Stanciu has been a longstanding member of our core team since Wild Europe’s former launch in 2009.

She now chairs the Foundation alongside her role as Chair of WCPA Europe.

She rejoined Wild Europe as our Head of Policy in 2020, following a role as Secretary of State for Forests in the previous Romanian government and subsequent development of the Propark Foundation training organisation, which she founded and chairs.

Before that, she was President of the Europarc Federation and Director of Retezat National Park in Romania, among other roles.