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.

Read More …

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

Read More …

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.

Read More …

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?

Read More …

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. 

Read More …

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
Read More …

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 M 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.

Global management guidelines published for wilderness protected areas

The IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, in tandem with the Wild Foundation, has published a comprehensive set of guidelines governing all key aspects of management for wilderness areas.

These are applied under all forms of governance – public, private, local community. They also address a range of management instruments, including rewilding and restoration.

A range of case studies are examined, including the Natura 2000 network, where EC guidelines for management of wilderness areas are based on a definition of wilderness developed by Wild Europe.

Read more: Wilderness protected area management guidelines

Overview of 2% wilderness target in Germany published

A key overview of the German Federal government’s target for wilderness on 2% of national territory has been published in the Journal for Nature Conservation. Other aims include 5% of all forests and 10% of state forests.

Germany is setting an important lead for Europe through this strategic framework, and the overview document titled More wilderness for Germany: Implementing an important objective of Germany’s National Strategy on Biological Diversity (JNC 42/2018) provides an authoritative insight into the rationale behind the target.

The definition of wilderness used in the target incorporates Wild Europe’s approach, also adopted by the European Wilderness Society. It is assessed along with consideration of the scale & location of areas which could be involved.

The task of reaching this target is regarded as achievable – a message which, alongside the good management practice that increasingly underwrites it in Germany and elsewhere, provides an important catalyst for other countries assessing a wilderness strategy.

500,000 Euro raised for old growth forest protection

Caption: Frankfurt Zoological Society – playing a key role in conservation of old growth forest

We are happy to announce a significant funding success for European old growth forest conservation following the September 2017 conference. 

Some 500,000 Euro has since been raised, through participants at the conference, for various projects.

Within this total, a grant of over 300,000 Euro has been awarded for a mapping, ecosystem service and protection project involving a multi-country approach with particular focus on key areas in Central & Eastern European. It will also enable work on policy impact, benefits of non-extractive enterprise for local communities, exchange of best practice and new funding models.

Wild Europe submitted an initial project proposal to the organisers, based at Griffith University, Australia, in November. We then handed this over to the Frankfurt Zoological Society (see footnote), one of our key partners who provided an application that built on the Wild Europe version and adapted it to their specialist capacity and fieldwork.

Close links to the OGF Protection Strategy for Europe

The FZS project will be closely linked with the wider Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy currently being circulated by Wild Europe. 

It is part of a wider international initiative to support primary forests – highlighting threats to their existence and raising their profile as major providers of ecosystem services. A separate grant in excess of 300,000 Euro, within the same initiative, is being awarded for work on old growth forest in Russia. 

Footnote:  Wild Europe’s current constitution precludes the holding of contracts, in line with our key operating principle agreed with our partners, to support rather than compete with them. 

Old growth forest conference launches key elements for protection strategy

The Wild Europe conference on 13/14th September 2017 to develop a Protection Strategy for remaining old growth forest in Europe has been hailed as a significant success by those attending.

Kindly hosted by the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels, this had 149 registrations and attendance from 28 EU and non EU countries.

The conference included representatives from the European Commission, UNESCO, Council of Europe, national and local governments. A key theme of the programme was the need for a multi-sector approach to developing the Protection Strategy. Participation by a balance of foresters, state agencies, enterprise specialists and landowners as well as conservation NGOs proved of considerable help in identifying common ground to underwrite the Strategy.

Conference participants in the opening session
Conference participants in the opening session

A welcome was provided by the Director General of DG Environment at the European Commission, Daniel Calleja. Speaking by video (he was in Beijing), he declared “Old growth forests are icons of Europe’s natural heritage… We are committed to protecting and restoring them”.

See VIDEO of Daniel Calleja

The conference was opened by Humberto Delgado, Head of Natural Capital for the European Commission, who stressed the multiple benefits of the forests, in particular their importance to the ecosystem services agenda (biodiversity, nature tourism, carbon, hydrology) – with much greater levels of ongoing carbon capture for mitigating climate change than was often appreciated.

Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel, Chief of the Europe and North America Department for UNESCO World Heritage, welcomed the conference and strategy. She underlined the importance of old growth forest benefits for local communities as well as biodiversity, and pointed to the potential for securing them through stronger links between Natura 2000 and World Heritage networks.

See VIDEO of Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel

Key elements of protection strategy launched

In addition to its declared aim of raising the profile of old growth forest with policy makers, the conference introduced a range of practical proposals, including:

  • A Europe wide definition structure providing a standardized approach to identifying virgin, primary and old growth forest (OGF) – vital for effective protection and restoration
  • An interactive mapping instrument to locate and monitor old growth forest sites across Europe
  • An ‘early alert system’ designed to provide early notice of prospective threats
  • Assessment of new forms of long-term protection structure
  • Funding sources: traditional and innovative, including proposals for improving cash flow opportunities from the Payment for Ecosystem Services agenda
  • Proposals for set-aside of state agency forest
  • Focus, for the first time, on potential for coordination between UNESCO World Heritage and Natura 2000 networks, as cited by Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel. Implementation of the protection strategy is proposed as an initial trial

The resulting Protection Strategy will be informed by specialist reports, also introduced at the conference: by Conservation Capital on Incentives for Landholder Protection of Old Growth Forests in the non-state (private) sector, and the ClientEarth lawyer network on Legal and Policy Aspects of Protection.

Consultation for a consensus approach

The conference was held at the EU Committee of the Regions, reflecting the importance of support at regional and local level
The conference was held at the EU Committee of the Regions, reflecting the importance of support at regional and local level

The location of the conference was highly relevant to the proceedings. As pointed out by Roby Biwer, speaking as a Council Member for the Committee of the Regions at the very start of the conference, the success of the Protection Strategy will be determined substantially by actions at local level.

The conference itself is rooted in three years of consultation involving many inspirational protection initiatives already established across Europe. This resulted in production of a guidance document “Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy” (PDF).

A full account of the conference, together with further information on the protection strategy with a proposed action plan, will follow shortly.

See conference programme

Biography of speakers, session chairs and workshop coordinators

Many thanks are due to the Committee of the Regions and all our sponsors for their generous support of this event.

‘Re-wilding’ – a wind of change gathers strength in Western Europe

Whilst wilderness is mainly associated with Northern and Eastern Europe, where the prime objective is protection of remaining great areas of natural ecology, this is increasingly complemented by re-wilding of habitats and reintroduction of species in Western Europe.

A growing number of countries are now adopting national strategies for restoration of large-scale natural ecosystems, amid increased awareness of their benefit to conservation objectives and society in general.

Kalkalpen National Park in Austria – a wilderness core (Credit: "Hintergebirge 01" by Herbert Ortner, Überraschungsbilder - Self-published work by Herbert Ortner, transferred by Überraschungsbilder. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)Kalkalpen National Park in Austria – a wilderness core (Credit: “Hintergebirge 01” by Herbert Ortner, Überraschungsbilder – Self-published work by Herbert Ortner, transferred by Überraschungsbilder. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Austria has led the fray. In December 2014 it set a 2% target in its 2020+ National Biodiversity Strategy for wilderness and areas with wilderness characteristics. This also called for the extension of wilderness areas in National Parks.

The Wild Europe definition forms the basis for wilderness in the Austrian strategy for National Parks, two of which will have core areas designated to Wild Europe criteria in 2015/16.

Furthermore development of a management strategy for bark beetle based on an all-important consensus between conservation and forestry interests, provides important support – of relevance across Europe.

France is also moving ahead. A specialist group has been formed within IUCN (from 2012) to assess potential for a wilderness strategy. Also based around the Wild Europe definition, this brings together a range of experts. Wild Europe is a member of the group and has provided input to meetings in Paris, a conference in Chambercy and via media such as the Naturalité publication. Prospective opportunities are currently being identified through preliminary mapping.

More recently, but gaining momentum rapidly, Rewilding Britain was established in December 2014 from a coalition of NGOs, with Wild Europe as a trustee. Scotland has greatest geographic potential, with Wild Europe (as Wild Scotland) originally developing a joint study on the benefits of wild areas in 2005.

In Wales Wild Europe is also partnering a project to reintroduce beaver , a keystone species for rewilding, into one of only six countries in Europe where this has yet to occur.

There is even substantial scope for rewilding in England, with initiatives such as Wild Ennerdale in the Lake District and the Great Fen in East Anglia. A strategy for Northern Ireland is pending once the main Rewilding Britain group has become established.

Germany has set a 2% national target, for wilderness and wild areas with wilderness qualities, through its Federal government. This represents some 5% of forest areas and 10% of those in state ownership.

Restoration of former military training areas, BrandenburgRestoration of former military training areas, Brandenburg

In April 2015 Frankfurt Zoological Society co-facilitated a meeting with Wild Europe to discuss opportunity for underpinning this through adoption of a standardized approach and common definition.

A growing number of individual projects

These emerging national strategies are supplemented by a growing number of individual projects, their implementation backed by Guidelines on wilderness management issued by the European Commission in 2013 and based on the Wild Europe’s definition.

The Netherlands contains perhaps the best known longstanding restoration initiative in the pioneering Oostvaardersplassen area, managed by Statsbosbeheer, the state forest agency.

This stunning example of wild nature on land originally reclaimed for industrial development that hosts white-tailed sea eagle, spoonbill and free roaming herds of feral ungulates, is only 30 km from Amsterdam city centre. It is hoped that plans to double the area, extending it Eastwards in partnership with the Province of Flevoland for the mutual benefit of urban dwellers and wild nature, will be revived. This forms part of a Green Network that is eventually envisaged to cover 17% of the country, although progress is currently stalled.

Equally well-established are ventures such as wolf-focused tourism in Abruzzi National Park, Italy, proving how economic benefits from rewilding can offer better livelihoods for communities than traditional land use, in this case sheep farming.

Abruzzo National Park - transforming economic as well as physical landscapes (Credit: "PNAbruzzo2" by Lucius - Transferred from it:wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)Abruzzo National Park – transforming economic as well as physical landscapes (Credit: “PNAbruzzo2” by Lucius – Transferred from it:wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Highly significant though less well known, in the Irish Republic there is ongoing progress with restoration of natural processes and species in the Nephin Mountains, County Mayo, where former commercial forestry plantations have been linked with adjoining bog and grassland in Ballcroy National Park. This visionary venture so far involving some 12,000 hectares was conceived and developed by Coillte, the Irish state forest agency, in tandem with Ballycroy, in 2012 and promoted internationally at a conference co-chaired by Wild Europe in 2013. It is partnered by the local authority and regional development organizations, and will see uneconomic timber extraction replaced by wilderness tourism.

There is important potential here for application across Europe, particularly relevant to loss-making areas owned by state forest agencies. At a time of slow economic recovery, the venture offers triple benefits: savings to taxpayers, sounder livelihoods for local communities – and enriched biodiversity through restoration of natural processes and reintroduction of lost species to large areas of ‘rewilded’ former commercial forest.

Wild Europe is developing an international State Agency Forest programme, based around this opportunity, which will be profiled in 2016.

Of course, restoration projects are by no means merely confined to countries in Western Europe. In Romania, Fundatia Conservation Carpathia (FCC) where Wild Europe participates through a trustee, is undertaking extensive restoration of degraded former forest and riparian habitat.

Repairing the damage: large-scale felling erodes hillsides and silts up streams in the Carpathians of Romania (Photo credit: FCC)Repairing the damage: large-scale felling erodes hillsides and silts up streams in the Carpathians of Romania (Photo credit: FCC)

There is also a collective endeavour by the Rewilding Europe organization to reintroduce species and establish a network of wilderness-based enterprises as a means of securing income and employment opportunities from non-extractive activity, thus cementing support among local communities and landholders for protection and restoration of wilderness areas.

Right across Europe there are opportunities for enterprise-based rewilding, with abandoned and marginal farmland and forestry offering particular opportunity.

From West to East and back, a powerful message

At a time when benefits of wilderness in addressing climate change, providing sustainable income and employment for local communities is increasingly realized, there is of course a strong message here.

If Western countries are striving to restore large natural ecosystems, for economic and social as well as conservation gain, that should send powerful signals Eastwards to governments and institutions where preservation of much larger, richer areas of wild nature can be undertaken at much lower cost with very significant gains for conservation and society in general.

Wide welcome for Wild Europe’s old growth forest protection strategy

A significant proportion of this most fragile element of Europe’s natural heritage lacks protection.

Beech forest, Gargano National Park, Italy (Daniel Vallauri, WWF France)
Beech forest, Gargano National Park, Italy (Daniel Vallauri, WWF France)

Rising timber demand, fragmentation from new transport routes and general development pose threats which are intensifying as the recession ends. Yet all too often these are tackled piecemeal by conservationists at local level where it is difficult to muster support. Above all, there is insufficient awareness of the value of this habitat.

Wild Europe has assembled a strategy to address these issues. It covers five key areas: policy framework, protective action, management practice, long-term opportunities and funding.

The strategy is currently in its consultation phase. Feedback from forest specialists in 12 countries has so far been highly positive. We are currently seeking national champions to implement the strategy in their country. Already IUCN together with WWF are doing this in France.

Please give us your feedback on the strategy:

  • Are there aspects that should be added?
  • Do you know areas that are under threat?
  • Would you or your organization be able to help with implementation?

All communications please in the first instance to tobyaykroyd@wildeurope.org.


Options for building a strategy for old growth forest protection in Europe

Introduction

The purpose of this document is to catalyse development of a strategy for protection of remaining old growth forest areas in Europe.

A significant, if as yet undetermined, proportion of this most vulnerable and precious element of Europe’s natural heritage lacks adequate protection – both within and outside the European Union. It is central to the wilderness and wild area agenda.

Recent moves to redesignate and develop core parts of Sumava National Park have shown how rapidly even the most seemingly secure areas can fall under threat. At the same time, wider challenges are occurring across Europe: with rising timber prices and usage, impact of land restitution, fragmentation from new transport routes and pressure for measures to combat bark beetle as climate change takes hold.

Against this backdrop, there is a need to secure effective strategy for protection of remaining areas of old growth forest. Strong threats are often still being addressed piecemeal, and there is a lack of general awareness of the value of this resource and alternative means of ensuring it is preserved for posterity.

However, wilderness forest is, for the first time, recognized in the 2010 EU Biodiversity Strategy (Target 3B Action 12) and this can provide a useful basis for improved support along with a number of emerging initiatives and opportunities.

Focus should be placed on seeking consensus between conservation, landholding, forestry, local community and broader public interests.

Feedback requested on this document

The following summary suggestions are intended to establish an initial framework of reference.

They form a menu of options, and interested parties are invited to provide comments, amendments and additions for development of a working strategy.

Possible key elements of the Strategy

  1. Preparatory work: what, where and how
    1. Establish an Old Growth Forest Protection Forum, comprising representatives from key organizations in conservation, forestry, landholding and other sectors – a mainly online entity enabling collation of expert advice and development of a joint approach on specific actions
    2. Secure agreement on a practical definition of undisturbed, old growth (ancient), wilderness forest with uninterrupted habitat tradition, encompassing its interface with other habitat types (see ACT Report on Undisturbed Forests for EC, 2010) and the new EC validated definition of wilderness (produced by Wild Europe 11/2012)1
    3. Catalyze completion of a comprehensive map of old growth forest across Europe showing location and protective status. Identify priority areas with incomplete protection
    4. Use appropriate implementation of EC Guidelines on non intervention management in wilderness and wild areas for the Natura 2000 network, published in August 20132 and EC Wilderness Register3 (scheduled from Autumn 2013), along with HNV and other appropriate mapping and cataloguing initiatives, to underpin this mapping exercise
    5. Identify, wherever possible in quantifiable terms, the non-extractive multiple benefit values of old growth forest: including ecotourism4 , education – and ecosystem services5
  2. Promoting a policy framework – the EC and beyond
    1. Promote implementation where relevant of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, viz Target 3B Action 12 – which calls for Member States to ensure that forest management plans or equivalent instruments include preservation of wilderness areas. This should involve proactive assessment of plans at relevant MS level (national, local authority). Catalyse identification, promotion and implementation of next steps towards full protection
    2. Link to key elements of European Forest Strategy, Natura 2000 species categories, UNESCO World Heritage, regional initiatives (2011 Carpathia Convention; the European beech OGF inventory initiative) and individual country opportunity so far as feasible – eg Germany wilderness & forest targets, Romania (WWF initiative), UK forestry review
    3. Promote the non-extractive multiple benefit value of old growth forest to the European Commission’s DG Environment: Natura 2000 and the EC Green Infrastructure Programme – biodiversity, ecosystem and socio-economic services
    4. Link to relevant DGs: DG Environment, DG Clima, DG Reggio, DG Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Wild Europe CAP reform proposals), DG Science & Innovation, DG Social & Employment Affairs (social benefits) etc
    5. Incorporate calls for OGF protection into EU Parliamentary Questions and Resolution. These follow the successful Resolution in February 2009 passed by 538 votes to 19 which also endorsed the Wild Europe initiative
    6. Promote the non-extractive multiple benefit value of old growth forest to key forest, landholding, local community and other institutions
    7. Ensure old growth forest is well profiled in promotion and implementation of the new EC guidance on Non Intervention Management in the Natura 2000 Network. Identify key opportunity sites (Section I above), promote direct and indirect benefits for biodiversity.
    8. Correlate with input of key areas to the first edition of the EC Wilderness Register currently under development, and promote infill of the remainder with maximum speed – with linkage where relevant to appropriate individual protection plans.
    9. Assess potential for leverage in non EU states: Neighbourhood Agreements, transition arrangements, trade and aid agreements, exchange of best practice, linkage with local NGOs etc to determine strategy
  3. Protective action
    1. Support creation of an Early Warning System, for identifying and addressing new threats as soon as they emerge, before resource is invested by loggers or developers in influencing planners and decision takers. Promotion of support & capacity building for local campaign groups.
    2. Build support for appropriate collective lobbying where old growth forest and its wilderness principles are under threat – viz Sumava National Park6 , Romanian OGF petition – and link to decision taker targeting and multi media campaigns. Disseminate best practice here.
    3. Catalyze opportunities for development of appropriate protection plans linked to individual areas identified in the future Wilderness Register but not yet adequately covered, based on multi-sector consensus approach underpinned by incentives where feasible.
    4. Legal protection – no new legislation is feasible presently at EC level, but promote better implementation and enforcement of existing law, collate and disseminate information on best practice legislation at MS and local authority levels. Identify weaknesses in existing protective legislation. Link to current initiative assessing wilderness legislation at Tilburg University7 , including assessment of effectiveness of existing Natura 2000 legislation for protecting identified wilderness areas, particularly where highlighted by implementation of new EC guidance (also assess possibility for including new species/habitats).
    5. Ensure existing legal instruments are supported by appropriate research – including collection of investigative information as necessary to achieve practical results: support for full disclosure of timber sourcing in corporate accounts, liaising with investigations of timber industry where appropriate. Ensure protective coverage in HCVF and FSC and other systems.
    6. Identify existing incentives for protection – eg: subsidy best practice at EU, national and local level. Identify requirement for further incentives for OGF protection and restoration.
    7. Collate information on models for securing funds for landholders and communities for forest protection (avoided deforestation) and restoration from ecosystem services: carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, pollution alleviation. Identify in particular EC measures that could help facilitate payment for ecosystem services (PES).
    8. Develop a practical project to illustrate the value of OGF to private landowners (PES, tourism etc), identifying what further incentives may be required (consultant and format identified)
    9. Assess impact on OGF of renewable energy, including biomass, wind farms, HEP. Role of perverse subsidies.
  4. Management practice
    1. Ensure old growth forest is well profiled in promotion and implementation of the new EC guidance on Non Intervention Management in the Natura 2000 Network at field level. Identify key opportunities for enhanced protection, promote direct and indirect benefits for biodiversity.
    2. Promote a strategy to address the impact of climate change – bark beetle, fire and wind throw – in tandem with the forestry sector (institutions, government agencies and private landholders) and other interested parties.
    3. Promote effective approach at EC and national level to disease management generally where relevant – viz: ash dieback, sudden oak death, alder canker
    4. Promote best practice in management planning– eg the TENT project with BSPB in Bulgaria for District Authorities8 .
    5. Profile forest agencies that change structure from 100% timber production and develop protection strategies as model organizations: Coillte (Republic of Ireland)9 , Staatsbosbeheer (Netherlands)
    6. Ensure linkage to protective coverage by FSC and other certification systems.
  5. New opportunities for long-term protection, linkage and restoration
    1. Highlight examples of new wilderness forests creation: through protection and restoration of existing near natural forest (CCF Romania, Durrenstein Austria10); natural or assisted regeneration on marginal farmland – with reference to Target 2 of EU biodiversity Strategy in tandem with CBD GBO Report (2010).
    2. Catalyze restoration, expansion and linkage of old growth forest areas. Promote individual projects – eg Bialowieza Poland/Belarus.
    3. Assess and promote alternatives for landholding in perpetuity – land purchase: eg the Danish model for purchase, input of restrictive covenant and resale of key areas; opportunities for REDD+ support or purchase of boreal forest.
    4. Promote concept for land purchase fund11, identifying multiple sources
    5. Assess and promote model projects for forest protection and restoration in N2000 network: takeover of N2000 area management, identifying wilderness areas with zonation system, inputting benefit based incentive systems and securing lasting protection through National Park designation.
    6. Assist and catalyze development of national wilderness strategies12
    7. Implement ‘business support packages’ (see Wild Europe proposals for Green Infrastructure programme and CAP reform13)
  6. Funding and implementation of plan
    1. Canvass the ability of Wild Europe partners and other organizations to implement elements from the above strategy
    2. Assess opportunities for funding support: EC DGs, LIFE+, institutions, philanthropy, individual project partners
    3. Secure finance for a small secretariat: 1 FT coordinator within the Wild Europe structure, supported by Wild Europe promotion and administration
    4. Develop an EC backed conference for 201414 to publicly launch and promote the OGF Protection Programme (see separate document)
    5. Assess opportunity for developing a communications strategy – website based initially – encouraging a culture of old growth forest awareness in a wilderness/wild context: targeting key programmes such as N2000 and sharing information on best practice initiatives at national and local level.

Suggested objectives for the Strategy

Short-term (18 months)

  • All key OGF areas recorded and recognized
  • Natura 2000 management recognizes and plans for ‘OGF’ forest protection within its network
  • Improved protection promoted for key OGF areas external to N2000 network
  • Greater awareness of OGF benefits and threats among key interests
  • ‘OGF’ protection included in EU Parliament Resolution
  • Credible policy leverage programme in place for non EU OG forests
  • Effective Early Warning System in place for addressing key threats
  • Stronger populist political mandate for OGF protection (Europarliament etc)

Medium term (3-5 years)

  • Key OGF areas recognized and protected
  • Facilitation of funding opportunities from low impact, non-extractive benefits of OGF
  • Credible incentivized protection initiatives in place for private sector
  • Designation of new protected OGF areas, with restoration and connectivity
  • Next stage of EU Biodiversity Strategy OGF support (implementation of Target 3B, Action 12) under way
  • Network for land purchase fund established
  • Opportunity considered for targeted protection legislation, if needed

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[1] Document available on request

[2] Promoted by Wild Europe http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/wilderness/index_en.htm

[3] Initial proposal prepared and lobbied by Wild Europe, to provide a base-point for protection planning

[4] New market led approaches are being developed to allow more effective value added to local communities

[5] Model initiatives being trialed using carbon credits to fund protection and restoration –for forest habitat (hence the proposal to FCC in Frankfurt July 2013) and peatlands (foundation of PPL Ltd by European Nature Fund)

[6] Further information on the Wild Europe coordinated petition and current situation is available on request

[7] Currently led by Kees Bastmeijer

[8] A model project promoting recognition and protection of wilderness forest in the planning process. Further information available from the European Nature Trust.

[9] Collaborative project between Irish Forest Agency and BallycroyNational Park to create 11,000 hectares declared as forest and wetland wilderness in County Mayo, North WestIreland, personally supported by Irish PM while EU President, and launched at conference co-chaired by Wild Europe in May 2013.

[10] Where the wilderness, non-intervention area was protected through a one-off LIFE+ payment, and more recently extended through annual funding from national sources

[12] For example, Wild Europe is currently liaising closely with IUCN France on development of a national strategy for wilderness, including forests

[13] CAP reform proposals from Wild Europe developed during Danish EC Presidency – document available on request

[14] Modeled on Wild Europe’s EC Presidency conferences on wilderness in Prague (2009) and Brussels (2010)