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: