European Investment Bank – a major player for wilderness?

European Investment Bank sign
European Wilderness Bank?

Our response to the consultation on EIB’s road to becoming a “Climate Bank” stresses its great potential opportunity to underpin major natural ecosystem conservation.

True protection principles must be safeguarded, given greater need to rely on private sector participation as COVID undermines official funding sources. There will also be a need for a more ‘balanced portfolio approach’ to include softer loans and grants. And projects funded must genuinely support the Paris Agreement in addressing climate change, with no more scope for image-tarnishing subsidised wood burning bioenergy.

However, if these issues are addressed, EIB could have a highly important potential role to play in achieving ambitious targets old growth forest protection, and restoration of large no-extraction natural ecosystem areas (AKA wilderness).

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New Slovakian government unveils potent support for wilderness

The Slovakian government, newly elected on 29th February,  has announced strong protection for wilderness, forests and conservation generally.

Gerlachovsky stit in the High Tatras – Slovakia’s precious heritage deserves the respect of conservation

The programme presented by Prime Minister Igor Matovic introduces three measures of particular importance:

  1. In national parks at least 50% of land will be left unmanaged, promoting fullest re-establishment of natural ecosystem processes and resilience through a land use zonation system.
  2. Administration of protected areas will be unified under the Ministry of Environment, a move long requested by the conservation movement
  3. Increased public scrutiny of forest operations will be encouraged. A mobile phone app will be available for mass use to monitor logging and timber transport, and full forest management programmes with logging data are to be publicly available.
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Wild Europe input to Consultation on EU Climate Target

Wild Europe’s feedback on 15th April welcomed the more ambitious target of a 50%+ drop in the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

However it warned that, if subsidies for wood biomass continue, this target would be at risk – as would the EU’s continuing credibility as a respected proponent of best environmental practice.

Payment of these subsidies is a burden on productive business and personal livelihoods. As economies slowly rebuild post COVID-19, proponents of wood bioenergy subsidy will not be lightly forgiven for supporting the wastage of scarce capital on an expensive myth of renewable energy that actually worsens the climate change it claims to mitigate.

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TEG report calls for sharp curb to wood biomass burning

An independent EU Technical Expert Group (TEG) report just published recommends that only residues, thinnings and stumps should qualify as wood bioenergy fuel, along with separate “advanced bioenergy” feedstocks under the new Sustainable Finance Taxonomy (see technical annex for feedstocks). 

This in turn will determine eligibility for “green investment” status, counting towards renewable energy targets and involving literally hundreds of billions of Euros.

The recommendation is in sharp contrast to the broad leeway given for “whole tree” wood use by the EU’s Renewable Directive II. 

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Wild Europe online submission to EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy

Our input to the consultation exercise stressed the key importance of large natural ecosystem areas to the Strategy for adoption at the October 2020 UN Kunming conference.

This provided a brief summary, with input to follow in a Message from Bratislava containing recommendations from our conference in Slovakia on 20/21 November, and from partners in the Wild Europe network.

For climate change and biodiversity loss to be effectively tackled, and the failures of the 2010 Strategy not to be repeated, a quantum change in the capacity of the conservation sector, NGOs and EC alike, will be essential.

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Brexit – still time to influence UK environmental policy

Our suited Briton has finally sawn off his branch

The Shakespearean theatre of Brexit completed its final act on 31st January 2020.  Accomplishment of a damaging misrepresentation or a visionary “taking back of control”, according to your viewpoint. We now need to move on.

Wild Europe marked the occasion by funding the latest stage of a wild nature mapping and strategy programme by our partners in France.

There is scope for us all to influence the consequences for environmental policy, from within the UK and – for a short while – also through pan European representation to EC negotiators

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Support the IUCN Motion on old growth forest

A Motion calling for improved policy and funding support for old growth/primary forest is now proceeding.

Based on the Protection Strategy from Wild Europe’s 2017 Brussels conference and associated consultations, the Motion for this Resolution was developed by Daniel Vallauri of WWF France. It is currently being discussed online: (https://www.iucncongress2020.org/motion/125).

The Motion will be proposed for adoption online in late March (online), or in June during the IUCN Congress in Marseilles. The resulting Resolution will provide a significant platform at the 2020 IUCN Marseille Congress for promoting stringent protection and extensive restoration across Europe.

ACTION: Please comment online, support – and forward this information to your networks. Deadline 11th of March!

Final stage for mapping wild France

Wild Europe signed an agreement on 31st January to fund the third and final stage of this initiative title “CARTNAT” to identify and map actual and potential wild and wilderness areas. 

France: Mapping for a vision of true nature

The exercise is undertaken by IGN (Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestiere), Nantes University and the Wildland Research Institute at Leeds University

Phase 1 ending in October 2018 developed methodology appropriate to project objectives and geographic criteria.

Phase 2 ending in October 2019 mapped ten test sites, of which seven contain significant wild or even prospective wilderness areas. The remainder provided a context of different land uses.

Phase 3, now starting, will extend the exercise to remaining areas across FranceAlong with its partners IUCN France and WWF France, Wild Europe has provided funding for all three stages.

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Give your views on wood bioenergy for an IUCN motion

Use of wood as bioenergy worsens climate change, is an expensive and inefficient form of energy generation and causes huge damage to forests across Europe and in the USA (see below).

Fighting for forests? IUCN Marseilles 2020

If you represent an IUCN member organisation or are a member of WCPA or any IUCN commission, you can comment on submitted motions for the IUCN 2020 Marseilles conference. 

Motion # 038 ‘Promoting biodiversity preservation through energy transformation measures’

Representations could include (a) end subsidies for burning wood for bioenergy (b) burning wood is not carbon zero (c) safeguards are needed to protect forest biodiversity. If you have a chance to comment the document, please do so before 26 February (and encourage other allies eg. European Paper Network network to do so too).

ACTION: Log into the conference website using this procedure

Need more information on wood fuel bioenergy?

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Latest stage in primary forest mapping completed – further funding needed

The updated mapping research for Europe’s last remaining primary forest, presented at Wild Europe’s conference in Bratislava on 21st November, represents the next stage in a programme to record all areas  

Dr. Francesco Sabatini presenting the results of the updated old-growth/primary forest mapping work in Bratislava (Wild Europe)

Conducted by Francesco Sabatini and his team from Humboldt University in Berlin, with input from 56 new experts, this update includes a further 700,000 hectares. 

It brings the total so far covered to 2.1 million hectares, or just over 1% of forested area – plus European Russia (up to the Ural Mountains) which holds a gigantic 35.5 million hectares.  

Countries added include Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Yet to be published, this update was funded by the Griffith programme of Frankfurt Zoological Society in conjunction with Wild Europe.

Next steps to address a growing threat

A further 3% of European forest cover is thought to exist in primary condition (outside Russia) – with more in Turkey and the Caucasus.  Adding this would bring the total of primary forest to just 4% of total forest cover.

Even though the majority of primary forest is nominally under some form of protection, only half is strictly protected.  The remainder is under threat, particularly from illegal logging and the rapidly growing use of wood for bioenergy.

With only around a quarter of primary forest so far mapped in Europe (outside Russia), further mapping and recording of status is a vital first step in establishing full protection.

Funding for this third stage is now being sought.

Definitions

Primary forests have no clearly visible indications of human activity, should have no current intervention and are subject to natural ecological processes. They represent an overall category encompassing old growth forest – a late successional stage – and, where applicable, virgin forest. Generally small and fragmented, they tend to occur in remoter areas and on steep slopes where logging is difficult.
The definition used in the mapping exercise is from FAO (FRA 2015 Forest Resources Assessment Working Paper 180).

The original mapping exercise

The original mapping exercise for primary forest was unveiled at Wild Europe’s Brussels conference in 2017, and published in 2018 by Francesco Sabatini and his Humboldt University team. 

Known primary forests in 2018 – the original map

The mapping covered 1.4 million hectares in 32 countries (0.7% of Europe’s forest area). 

Protection levels for forest mapped in 2018

The mapping exercise determined that, even though 90% of primary forests are nominally under some form of protection, over half (54%) do not have strict protection.

European Natural Forest School project cancelled

Yet another victim of the Coronavirus pandemic, the inaugural programme of this pioneering educational project has been cancelled.

Due to run in Lubeck, Germany from 30/08/20 – 10/09/20 the Summer School was designed for advanced students and young professionals in conservation and forestry.

Involving a partnership between Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Natural Forest Academy together with Wild Europe, the programme covered natural forest ecology, protection and management from those with a practical understanding of the challenges involved.

There has been great interest, and the programme should be re-established soon. 

POSTPONED India welcomes you to the World’s premier wilderness gathering

WILD 11, the World Wilderness Congress, will be held in the city of Jaipur, in the Rajasthan province of North West India from 19th to 26th March.

In what has become the premier global wilderness gathering, some 1500 participants from 60 countries are expected.

Birla Auditorium
The magnificent Birla Auditorium at the Convention Centre, opened in 1963 by Pandit Nehru

Based at the Birla Convention Centre, the Congress provides an opportunity to shape policies and actions on wilderness, in time to influence ambitious wild nature targets at the seminal UN CBD Kunming Congress in October 2020. Surrounding this focus is a vibrant array of talks, specialist symposia, workshops, youth programmes, training sessions, exhibits and expeditions.

Jaipur and its surrounding province, with its palaces and forts, lush tiger forests of Ranthambore and arid Thar Desert, is steeped in history of the British Raj and Maratha and Moghul empires before it – stretching back thousands of years to the most ancient Indus civilizations.

See https://wild11.org/the-congress/#2020 for WILD 11 objectives, programme detail and ancillary activities.

Germany unveils large Wilderness Fund

The Federal Environment Ministry announced a massive boost for wilderness on 9thJuly 2019 – a 10 million euro per year “Wildnis in Deutschland” initiative aimed at stopping loss of species and habitats. 

This is intended to catalyse the 2% national target for wilderness, announced in 2007, of which 0.6% has so far been achieved. The mission statement for each area is cited as compatible with the Wild Europe definition in the BfN Federal Agency wilderness criteria.

More landscape like this, please…
(CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org)

The funding will be used by conservation organisations to purchase land and land use rights, with particular focus on securing large integrated wilderness landscapes. 

A clear precedent for France, and elsewhere in Europe

This represents spectacular success for a campaign by a network of German NGOs, coordinated by Manuel Schweiger of Frankfurt Zoological Society. 

With President Macron of France recently outlining what could become even more extensive 10% national targets for areas “in full naturalness”, there is huge encouragement and a clear precedent for wilderness advocates in France and elsewhere to follow.

Update shows wide use of the wilderness definition

A recent review of Wild Europe’s definition of wilderness, originally produced in 2014, shows its use is widespread and expanding. The intention was to create a set of criteria that produce uniformly high standards for protection and restoration, regardless of biogeographical or cultural circumstance.

Below are some of the applications:

  • The Wild Europe definition has been adopted by the European Commission for its Wilderness Register, and for its Guidelines on wilderness and wild area management in the Natura 2000 network – reference: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/wilderness/pdf/WildernessGuidelines.pdf
  • The German Federal government is using linkage to the definition within a broader approach for their 2% wilderness target, albeit tied to a smaller minimum size in order to be able to achieve this ambitious national objective within a reasonably short timescale – reference: https://www.bfn.de/themen/biotop-und-landschaftsschutz/wildnisgebiete/qualitaetskriterien.html 
  • The Austrian National Parks Association has adopted the Wild Europe minimum size along with its other criteria because the definition is seen as offering a credible and practical instrument. It has already been used as the basis for designation of wilderness areas for Kalkalpen and Hohe Tauern National Parks.
  • Fundatia Conservation Carpathia (FCC) Romania, aiming to assemble the largest privately funded wilderness reserve in Europe, is using the definition as the basis for planning its acquired landholdings, negotiating community land use agreements where purchase is not possible.
  • The European Wilderness Society has developed the EWQA (European Wilderness Quality Assessment), a programme of certification based on the Wild Europe definition, which it is rolling out in a number of countries across Europe.
  • The definition has a key role to play in long-term wilderness planning for Sumava National Park (Czech Republic), alongside a model programme of ‘wilderness support’ which Wild Europe has run since 2012 in conjunction with local NGOs, involving international representation, economic feasibility assessment and enterprise implementation

Valley Head of Krimmler Achental, Hohe Tauern NP

December 2019

Rewilding in Britain – significant opportunities emerging

Brexit Britain to be greener?
(Wikimedia Commons)

One of the few positive aspects of Brexit is the opportunity it offers for a wholesale rethink on using nature-based solutions to address climate change.

In its consultation document “rewilding and climate breakdown” (May 2019), the Rewilding Britain initiative where Wild Europe has trustee representation lays out a costed proposal for massive restoration of natural habitats and processes as a key route to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Promoted under the “public payments for public goods” agenda, this advocates spending 2.1 billion euro per year – 30% of the current 6.6 billion UK CAP budget – to restore over 6 million hectares including woodland, peatland, species rich grassland and salt marsh. This would sequester some 47 million tons of CO2 annually, more than 10% of the UK’s emissions. The report cites carbon taxes as a source of funding, although there is also potential related to flood alleviation – and of course the CAP budget itself.

Massive public support

These proposals are paralleled by a public petition that has now secured over 100,000 signatures, and will trigger a debate in the Westminster Parliament. 

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IUCN ‘Rewilding’ Task Force meeting in Brussels

IUCN offices
IUCN offices at 64 Boulevard Louis Schmidt, where the meeting took place.

The recently established IUCN Task Force on Rewilding was unveiled on 8th of October in Brussels, at a meeting hosted by Wild Europe.

Taking place in the IUCN offices on Boulevard Louis Schmidt, the meeting was attended by representatives from DG Environment and DG Clima, with participation and written inputs from conservation NGOs and land user organisations.

Steve Carver, Co Chairman of the Task Force, explained the objectives and operating principles of the Task Force. There was some debate on the extent of the overlap between rewilding and restoration, and feedback included the suggestion of a collation of existing rewilding experience. Clear objectives and targets were also recommended.

As ‘rewilding’ gains momentum in Europe, there is a need for a formal definition of the concept, together with a standardised framework which the various initiatives can reference.

Any requests for further information via info@wildeurope.org please.

President of Slovakia to participate at Wild Europe conference

President Zuzana Caputova. Photo credit: Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79831552
President Zuzana Čaputová. (Photo credit: Jindřich Nosek)

Her excellency Zuzana Čaputová, recently elected President of Slovakia and Goldman Prize winner, has provided her patronage for a conference in Bratislava on 20 – 21st November which she will also be attending.

The conference will be attended by government ministers, MEPs, senior figures from the EU, Council of Europe and UNESCO together with leaders from conservation, forestry, landholding and other sectors.

Addressing the challenges and opportunities facing wilderness and old-growth forest, its two main objectives are:

  • To produce new initiatives aimed at strengthening the protection agenda and supporting larger scale ecological restoration, on the 10th anniversary of our involvement in the 2009 EU Parliamentary Resolution on wilderness, passed by a massive and enduring 538 vote mandate.
  • To determine and develop next steps for the old growth forest protection strategy, building on the projects initiated with the 550,000 euro raised since our Brussels conference in 2017
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Wild Europe funds for mapping of France’s potential wild nature areas

A meeting of the IUCN’s Wilderness Group in Paris in March, Chaired by Christian Barthod from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, discussed progress with mapping wild and potential wilderness areas in France. This is now supported by funding from Wild Europe, a member of the IUCN Group.

IUCN France Wilderness Group meeting in Paris (Thierry Lefebvre, IUCN France)

The project engages cartographers from IGN (Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestiere), Nantes University and the Wildland Research Institute at Leeds University.

Its current stage involves identification and mapping in a dozen regions of France – of which seven contain significant wild or even prospective wilderness areas. The remainder provide a context of different land uses, and the dozen areas together effectively represent a ‘continuum of wildness’.

The outcome can lay the basis for development of an overall strategy to protect and restore large natural ecosystem areas (wild and wilderness).With her significant spatial and biogeographic assets, her expertise in applied ecology and excellent nature tourism offer, France is well placed to take a leading role in Europe for this agenda.

New IUCN Task Force on Rewilding established 

As the momentum of rewilding gathers pace, IUCN has set up the Rewilding Task Force to provide a framework of supporting principles and scientific standards. 

This will have a global remit, but with specific relevance to Europe as the number of projects multiplies, and with it the variety of interpretations.

Chaired jointly by Ian Convery from the University of Cumbria and Steve Carver of the Wildland Research Institute, its initial two year work plan involves collecting inputs from a range of organisations to develop a working definition, accompanied by guiding principles and a series of case studies to collate existing experience.

The continuum of wildness (Erwin Van Maanen and Ian Convery, University of Cumbria)

At the heart of the initiative will be the application of ecological restoration within the context a ‘continuum of wildness’, with heavily modified landscapes at one end, ranging through progressively purer naturalism to wilderness at the other. 

Rewilding involves scale, naturalness and integrity of habitat and process. It can bring powerful environmental, social and economic benefit. But it also has – and requires – strong cultural, philosophical and spiritual roots that are often overlooked.

New protection for ancient English woodland

Amid the gloom of Brexit with its uncertain outlook for environmental legislation, new planning rules in July 2018 offer highly welcome extended protection for ancient woodland in England.

Epping Forest, an ancient wood …… in Greater London. Photo by David IliffEpping Forest, an ancient wood …… in Greater London. Photo by David Iliff

This habitat, under pressure from new infrastructure and housing schemes across the country – with only 2% of original cover remaining – will now benefit from equal status to listed buildings and scheduled monuments.

Ancient woods, defined principally as existing continuously on maps since 1600AD, may now only be damaged by development for ‘wholly exceptional reasons’ – a phrase yet to be tested in law for this context, but its equivalent already provides stringent guardianship for built heritage property.

The next step will be a campaign to extend this protection to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with devolved jurisdiction over woodland issues.

Wild Europe is liaising on the Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy with DEFRA, the English Environment Ministry which also represents the United Kingdom as a contracting party to the Bern Convention.

Large Carnivore Management Best Practice

 

A study collating best practice on protection management of wolf, bear, lynx and wolverine in EU member states has been produced by the EC DG for Internal Policies (February 2018).

It was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the EP Committee on Petitions (PETI).

The legal framework for protection is reviewed under conditions of derogation, along with measures to promote coexistence and implications for management.

While populations are recovering, the Study concludes that significant further endeavour is required to recover fuller functionality across former ranges where ecological and spatial conditions remain favourable or can be restored.

Key findings:

  • Lethal control has little effect as a management measure
  • Hunting worsens the impact of intolerance, eg poaching
  • Wider dissemination of successful livestock management practices to mitigate conflict is crucial
  • Compensation must be linked to such practices, and not operated in isolation, to produce sustainable outcomes
  • More focus needed on promotion, communication and engagement of all stakeholders

President Macron announces 10% natural habitat vision for France

President Macron has pledged commitment to protect 10% of France’s land and sea area “in full naturalness” (en plein naturalité). 

He announced this objective in a speech at the Elysée Palace on 4thMay, as part of a wide-ranging vision to combat climate change and restore biodiversity that would see protected areas expanded to cover 30% of the nation’s territory.

President Macron announces the 10% natural habitat vision for France in the Elysee palace
A visionary President for wild nature in France (source: Elysee.fr)

Consultation will now occur to establish more specific objectives and plan their implementation. France’s IUCN Wilderness Group, where Wild Europe is represented and currently funding a mapping exercise, has discussed our definition of wilderness (espace à haute naturalité) which is used in the EC’s Management Guidelines for the Natura 2000 Network and the EC Wilderness Register. Together with the wild area (zone sauvage) definition it has potential to play a key part in this vision. In addition to environmental value, these definitionsproffer the practical potential of economic and social benefits for local communities and landholders.

President Macron’s vision, suitably focused on wild nature, is a powerful step alongside Germany, where the Federal government has designated 2% of the country to be natural wilderness: encompassing 5% of all forests and 10% of state forests. Wild Europe’s wilderness definition is cited by the German Federal Agency as compatible with the mission statement for the areas involved (Wild Europe’s wilderness definition in French).

Further 5 Million funding secured for FCC in Romania

Wild Europe has helped facilitate a further 5 million euros of funding for Fundatia Conservation Carpathia, the pioneering conservation initiative that seeks to protect a large wilderness area in the Southern Carpathians.

A spectacular vision for Carpathian wilderness
(Carpathia Foundation)

So far FCC has purchased over 22,000 hectares of forest, much of it old growth, along with Alpine pasture in a remote part of Romania that harbours significant populations of wolf, bear and lynx along with many endemic species.  The ultimate intention is to create a national park in the Fagaras Mountains, providing a world class conservation and tourism destination already being dubbed “The Yellowstone of Europe”. 

The 5 million grant, from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s visionary Endangered Landscapes Programme, will help fund restoration of logged and degraded forest, and reintroduce missing species such as bison and beaver while enhancing FCC’s local community enterprise programme.

Wild Europe, a member of the FCC board of trustees, is also on the list of CCI’s approved organisations, and was able to introduce and support FCC’s funding application.

Welcome back to Erika Stanciu as Head of Policy

Erika in her natural habitat (source https://propark.ro/en/echipa.html)

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.

CEEweb joins Wild Europe

We warmly welcome our latest new member to the Wild Europe partnership.

CEEweb is a network of nature conservation organizations from Central and East Europe, working together to protect the natural heritage of the region.

Founded in 1994, the network aims to influence policies for enhancement of biodiversity, to promote enforcement of conventions for conservation, and to further the principles of sustainable development.

Some of the largest remaining areas of relatively intact natural ecosystem are located within CEEweb’s geographical remit, and we look forward to liaising with their many experts.