Wilderness Working Group

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.

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.

Chaired by Erika Stanciu (Wild Europe Executive Committee) the Group meets two or three times a year. 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.


Other meetings

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

A policy discussion at IUCN office in Brussels

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

Wild Europe was on the verge of becoming a foundation with fully-fledged legal status, back in June. 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.

Attribution: Tom Janssen
Attribution: Tom Janssen

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: tobyaykroyd@wildeurope.org