President Caputova opens the conference (Photo: Stefan Voicu)

A landmark for conservation

As Slovakia’s President opens the conference, EC Director General calls for stringent new protection – and restoration across Europe

Participants were honoured by a warm welcome from Her Excellency President Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia, who provided patronage for Wild Europe’s wilderness and old growth forest conference on 20th and 21st November 2019.

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Welcome back to Erika Stanciu as Head of Policy

Erika in her natural habitat (source

Erika Stanciu is a longstanding member of our core team. 

She rejoins Wild Europe as our Head of Policy, following a role as Secretary of State for Forests in the previous Romanian government and subsequent development of the ProParks 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.

Wild Europe Programme 2017/18

Despite the uncertainties created by Brexit, 2016/17 saw further solid progress by Wild Europe.

A key focus has been the urgent need to develop a coordinated protection strategy for remaining ancient, or old growth, forests; this iconic habitat for the wilderness agenda is coming under growing threat as Europe emerges from recession, timber prices rise and illegal logging proliferates.

We have continued our support for developing model areas and national level programmes for wildlands and wilderness, alongside a range of projects designed to promote their value.

Objectives for 2017/18 have now been published. For a strategic outline of the previous year see Achievements & Objectives in 2017/18 More detailed reports are available on request.”
Despite the uncertainties created by Brexit, 2016/17 saw further solid progress by Wild Europe.

A key focus has been the urgent need to develop a coordinated protection strategy for remaining ancient, or old growth, forests; this iconic habitat for the wilderness agenda is coming under growing threat as Europe emerges from recession, timber prices rise and illegal logging proliferates.

We have continued our support for developing model areas and national level programmes for wildlands and wilderness, alongside a range of projects designed to promote their value.

Objectives for 2017/18 have now been published. For a strategic outline of the previous year see Achievements & Objectives in 2018/19 More detailed reports are available on request.

Achievement & Objectives – Summary

Wild Europe with its partners has a rolling programme. Many activities and objectives are not promoted on our website, so if you are interested in receiving more information on any particular topic, please contact:


Main achievements for 2018/19

1. Drafting of Strategy for Old Growth Forest Protection from recommendations of 2017 Brussels Conference, involving 149 participants from 28 countries

1a. Initiation of Strategy – FZS partner programme through Griffiths global primary forest initiative

Of the 550,000 euro raised as a result of Wild Europe’s October 2017 conference on OGF protection, some 320,000 euro was provided for the European element of the primary forest project funded by Griffiths, and undertaken by Frankfurt Zoological Society which has been working on the following projects:

  • Updated mapping of OGF locations with Humboldt University (Berlin)
  • Development of a forest carbon model
  • Planning and establishment of community enterprise in lieu of logging in East Slovakia as part of the Wolf Mountains initiative
  • Wood fuel bioenergy project
  • Link to Griffith University (Australia) Global Primary Forest Protection network, reference international trade and policy

FZS has also now secured representation on the IUCN Primary Forest Task Force through this project

1b. Initiation of strategy for old growth forest protection – other projects

A range of other projects arising from the conference were developed in parallel:

  • Report developed on protection incentives for OGF in non-state owned areas
  • Further consultation on a standard definition structure for old growth forest
  • Representation of OGF and protection strategy to 50 Bern Convention member state (ministry) parties, generating positive feedback
  • Development of a freehold/leasehold structure for long-term protection on privately owned land
  • Proposals for working party and best practice collation with EUSTAFOR state forest agency association

2. Large Wilderness Area programme – Ongoing input to partners’ model wilderness and wild areas:

  • Sumava National Park– Czech Republic. Agreement by the Czech government to our wild nature enterprise initiative for Sumava NP, which also proposes links to BayerischerWald NP in Germany. This is thethird, non-extractive enterprise phase of our support here.
  • Romanian Carpathians– Fagaras Mountains. As an approved organisation with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI), we provided introduction for Fundatia Conservation Carpathia (FCC) to CCI’s Endangered Landscape Programme, and input to its funding request. A grant of 5 million Euro subsequently gained. Also input to enterprise and education elements aiming at establishment of a model 250,000 ha National Park in the Fagaras Mountains
  • Bialowieza Forest– Ongoing consultation for our concept plan for significant enlargement of the core area into the UNESCO World Heritage site, first suggested in 2014 and based on community wild nature enterprise and extensive restoration
  • Wolf Mountains programme (East Slovakia, West Ukraine, South East Poland) – follow up on the non-extractive enterprise projects from the specification to Conservation Capital, initially provided and 50% funded by Wild Europe, with Aevis Foundation and Frankfurt Zoological Society as partners

3. National level

  • IUCN France– further engagement through Wild Europe’s membership of the Wilderness Group, with funding for a mapping exercise, identifying model wild and prospective wilderness areas, and strategy for addressing restoration opportunities
  • Rewilding Britain– ongoing support, including for the multi agency Pumlumon area initiative in central Wales which recently won 5 million Euro from the ELP. A new project has been identified for the Peak District National Park in Central England, and costed proposals put to government for large-scale natural habitat restoration to sequester carbon emissions
  • German government wilderness strategy– definition for Federal target at 2% of national territory reaffirms linkage to Wild Europe definition
  • Slovakia– correspondence with government, expressing appreciation of proposals for prospective transfer of national park management to the Environment Ministry

4. Development of key topic/strategy agendas

  • CAP reform proposals promoted, involving reallocation of payments towards ecosystem service provision, modification of GAEC regulations, input of Ecological Focus Area supplements tradable at regional level, and general promotion of a stronger socio-economic agenda in coordination with land user associations.
  • Definition for wild areas, now under consultation. We are seeking to parallel our 2013 wilderness definition, adopted for the EC Management Guidelines and Wilderness Register. The aim is to provide flexible criteria for wildness and its restoration with standardized application in any biogeographic and cultural circumstance.
  • Working partnership with a legal network and newly formed conservation body, developing a new form of long-term legal protection for wilderness and wild areas on private land, including those with old growth forest.
  • EC Guidelines: Phase II project developed and proposed

5. Strengthening Wild Europe’s organizational capacity

  • Wild Europe office opened at the IUCN building in Boulevard Louis Schmidt, Brussels. Wild Europe’s EU legal foundation status assessed in 4 countries for post Brexit scenario
  • Alternative national legislatures assessed for Wild Europe future constitution post Brexit

Further information is available on all these initiatives, via


Objectives for 2019/20

1. Further implementation of old growth forest strategy

  • Wild Europe OGF/wilderness conference in Bratislava 20/21stNovember
  • Launching of OGF map
  • Initial development of Early Warning System
  • Representing the model for carbon benefits of OGF
  • Support for IUCN motion on OGF protection
  • Initiative for wood fuel biomass
  • State agency project: best practice and set-aside

2. Further support for wilderness and wild areas

  • Establishment of European Wilderness Forum
  • Wild Europe OGF/wilderness conference in Bratislava 20/21stNovember
  • Further consultation on proposals for Bialowieza Forest
  • Support for next phase in FCC, Fagaras Mountains initiative
  • Funding search for Sumava/BayerischerWald NP enterprise project
  • Next phase in Wolf Mountains project
  • Trial implementation of freehold/leasehold non-state landowning structure to support very long-term protection & restoration of wild areas, including old growth forest and other habitat areas
  • Wilderness Register: Phase II to be developed. Update, expansion’ good practice, extension to non-EU states, update, expansion and usage
  • 2040 Target: Finalise 5% formulation and circulate for feedback; promote

3. Input for national strategies

  • Support for the Macron Vision in France (mapping, definition, enterprise)
  • Proposals for ongoing implementation of German 2% target
  • Support for wilderness initiatives in Slovakia
  • Rewilding Britain – through our board representation input to area projects and PES initiatives (carbon & flood management)
  • Romania: Ongoing input to address of old growth forest and illegal timber issues, linked to the OGF Protection Strategy
  • Finalisation & promotion of the definition for ‘wild areas’ in Europe, to parallel our 2013 wilderness definition, adopted for the EC Management Guidelines and Wilderness Register. The aim is to provide a flexible set of criteria for wildness and its restoration that have standardized application in any biogeographic and cultural circumstance.

4. Development of key topic/strategy agendas

  • Input to 2020 CAP programme
  • Strengthen wilderness within 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy
  • Establishment of European Social Benefit Forum
  • Provision for Restoration strategy: building on 2010 model,
  • Support for IUCN motion on wilderness

5. Strengthening Wild Europe’s organizational capacity

  • Establish legal constitution for WEI post Brexit
  • Launch of Wild Nature Support Package with Conservation Capital and others, promotion of usage
  • Implement suggestion by UNESCO for prospective use of our “Sumava model” (targeted representation, economic assessment, enterprise Definition developed for wild areas, now under consultation

Members of the WWG mapping sub-group discuss the latest techniques for a wilderness register.
Members of the WWG mapping sub-group discuss the latest techniques for a wilderness register.

Wilderness Working Group

The Wilderness Working Group (WWG) brings together leading wild area practicioners from across Europe. The Group’s remit is to develop policy and propose practical initiatives for protection and restoration.

It is chaired by Erika Stanciu (Wild Europe Head of Policy), and its work includes assessing practical definitions, mapping, support for new initiatives such as the Wilderness Register, and fund raising proposals for a Pan-European communications strategy.

The WWG is currently comprised of participants from 15 countries: Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Finland, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine and the USA. Its membership includes NGO representatives, national park directors and scientists.

Technical sub-groups have been created, to help formulate a definition for wilderness and wild areas. And, most recently, to review and propose improved approaches for mapping and monitoring – in parallel with development of the Wilderness Register.

A policy discussion at IUCN office in Brussels

Other meetings

Wild Europe develops its policies from a wide range of inputs, with a series of ad hoc meetings which discuss particular topics.

In the photo to the left, a group of NGO representatives examines proposals. Participants included, from left to right: Michael Zika (WWF Austria), Feiko Prins (Natuurmonumenten, retd), Joep van de Vlasakker (Flaxfield Nature Consultancy, Belgium), Sandra Bakker (Statsbosbeheer, Netherlands), Bill Murphy (Coillte, Republic of Ireland), Denis Strong (National Parks and Wildlife Service, Republic of Ireland), Cipriano Marin (UNESCO), Ishwaran Natarajan (UNESCO), David Morris (Caucasus Nature Fund), Monika Jacobs (IUCN Regional Office for Europe), Zdenka Krenova (Biodiversity Research Centre, Czech Republic), Ben Delbaere (ECNC/LHN). Backs to camera: Zoltan Kun (European Wilderness Society), Peter Hobson (CEEM, UK), Federico Minozzi (Europarc Federation)

The impact of Brexit

Attribution: Tom Janssen

Wild Europe was on the verge of becoming a foundation with fully-fledged legal status, back in June 2016. Then came the Brexit referendum result.

We have since been evaluating alternative ways forward, and are grateful for the highly positive feedback received during a subsequent consultation exercise.

The Endowment Fund will still be developed to provide sustainable finance for basic core costs, and initial grants have already been arranged for key initiatives.

Equally our objectives and activities will not be altered. The threats and opportunities facing natural ecosystems across the continent remain the same. And we will continue to address our agenda with colleagues in non-EU as well as EU countries.

Our overall message, that Wild Europe now has the capacity to operate as a long-term entity to champion wilderness, remains unchanged.

The one element we will need to address is geographic orientation. We will retain an office in London, but over the next two years we will progressively shift our legal and operational centre of gravity into a country with permanent EU membership.

To this end we are currently talking with a couple of partners, and further proposals will be circulated for agreement in due course.

Our Brexit objectives

Wild Europe’s three objectives in response to Brexit are currently:

  1. to encourage ongoing EU and European orientation by our associates in the United Kingdom, focused on a major role for cooperation on environmental issues in any negotiated package once Article 50 is triggered
  2. to seek full retention of the UK’s heritage of EU environmental legislation, resisting any internal “Fitness Check” which could have negative consequences beyond the UK
  3. to take advantage of new opportunities within the UK that may have wider relevance, for example CAP reform leading to greater emphasis on payment for provision of environmental benefits

Above all, we will continue with development of a core executive team to expand the range and impact of Wild Europe’s activities.


The Economic Benefits Working Group


The economic benefits group is tasked with identifying, valuing and promoting the economic benefits of wilderness and wild areas, with focus on non extractive, no-impact benefits derived from ecotourism, ecosystem services and usage for social betterment.

The group will initially include business people, economists, ecosystem specialists, landowners, farmers, social enterprise entrepreneurs – all of whom share a profound regard for wilderness as well as contributing their professional expertise.

While the true intrinsic value of the wild is priceless, there is no doubt that realization of its economic value can attract support for its protection and expansion. However, as laid down firmly in the Group’s operating principles below, our aim is to strengthen, not replace, traditional approaches to wilderness and wild areas.

Protecting wilderness can bring economic benefits


1. To identify and promote, wherever desirable and feasible, economic benefits arising from non-extractive, minimal impact activities relating to wilderness and wild areas, viz:

  • nature tourism
  • related activities: recreation, corporate events, themed retreats
  • ecosystem services: carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, pollution alleviation, others
  • social services: education, youth development, youth at risk, healthcare, peace & reconciliation
  • ancillary activities: visitor centres, guiding, accommodation & sustenance, retail, craft, transport
  • related goods and services in adjacent areas benefiting from association (wilderness image, logo, product value added, marketing, productivity and business support)

These benefits would be additional to any relating to biodiversity value, which could, where appropriate, themselves be enhanced with restoration and species reintroduction, with associated grant and enterprise opportunity.

2. To apply these economic benefits to protection or restoration aims in specific areas, and to national and organizational strategies.

Where relevant this can involve using ANEEP – Assessment of Non Extractive Economic Potential as a multi-level instrument of analysis of benefits associated with wilderness and wild areas. According to the level chosen, the ANEEP could include:

  • overview of non-extractive economic benefit potential
  • linkage to restoration and reintroduction opportunity
  • cost:benefit exercises for alternative approaches
  • identification of specific opportunities – matching with operatives if relevant
  • signposting to sources of funding, advice, marketing networks
  • assistance with planning and upgrading of local capacity

3. To input credible economic benefit content for Wild Europe’s general strategy and individual policy objectives – eg:

  • support for establishment of national wilderness strategies
  • networking for collective address of threats
  • input to individual programmes – eg Old Growth Forest strategy, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform
  • economic rationale and business enterprise development for social benefits
  • collation and dissemination of best practice
  • promoting models for Forestry Agency adoption (replicating Coillte/Nephin Ireland, FCS Scotland, Staatsbosbeheer Netherlands)
  • demonstrating wilderness benefits to European Commission and Member States – viz support for the N2000 programme, Green Infrastructure and PES, rural development programme, other (non Environment) DG objectives
  • ensuring the equivalent for non EU countries – via input to best practice sharing, Neighbourhood Agreements, Accession Treaties, trade & aid agreements

Six Principles for operation

  1. The economic benefit approach is intended to reinforce, not replace or overshadow, traditional approaches to promotion of wilderness and wild areas – namely their intrinsic, spiritual and ecological values.
  2. Any project entered into via this economic benefits approach would have the above principle enshrined in its Mission Statement to govern all strategy and activity.
  3. Any proposals for economic benefit implementation would be preceded by an Impact Assessment to ascertain that their ultimate consequence would be not inadvertently catalyse developments damaging to the underlying wilderness and wild area objective.
  4. Management and ownership controls would be adopted to assure these principles are fully enacted.
  5. Any related developments would be located with future expansion of wilderness and wild areas in mind.
  6. In identifying beneficiaries from benefit development support, priority will be given to local communities and landholders as well as key supporting decision takers.

Mode of Operation

Principally by email and phone, meeting in parallel with the Wild Europe Executive Committee.

Some 15 – 20 members including specialisms in ecology, conservation management, tourism enterprise, business finance and management, agronomics, macro economics, ecosystem services, fund raising.

Two co-chairs: Toby Aykroyd and Neil Birnie

For further information: