Forest with large areas of cut down pine trees
There are widespread threats to wilderness across Europe. Attribution: Horatiu Hanganu, Wild Europe Carpathia programme

Wilderness Register developed

The Wilderness Register identifies and records the most important sites in the EU. It thus lays the basis for monitoring and addressing prospective threats, as well as developing individual strategies for protection.

Bearing in mind targets for strictly protecting 10% of the EU’s terrestrial area in the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, the Register also provides a key stage in creation of a Europe-wide network of linked areas.


The concept for the Register was originally developed by Wild Europe and promoted to the European Commission in a proposal document.

The go-ahead for this initiative was announced in November 2010 at Wild Europe’s EC Presidency Conference on Restoration by Stefan Leiner, then Head of Unit for Natura 2000 at the European Commission.

Areal photograph of lakes and forests
Karelia – one of Europe’s most valuable remaining widerness areas

Following its development by Alterra Consultancy, the Wildland Research Institute and PAN Parks Foundation, the Register was launched in 2013.

Creation of the Register has highlighted these unique elements of Europe’s natural heritage”, said Toby Aykroyd who coordinated the initial drafting for the Register. “Further extension of the network can bring multiple benefits from carbon storage, flood mitigation and ecotourism. We need to build a consensus among for this all parties, so local landholders and communities can gain.

The next step will be to develop a Stage II Register to include non-EU countries which contain some of the largest, most relatively pristine wilderness areas remaining in Europe. Additionally it can provide signposting for capacity building to secure funding benefits from sensitively managed non-extractive enterprise; these will in turn enhance protection.

Addressing the threats

Many areas of wilderness or wild land across Europe are under threat from inappropriately located logging, extraction for bioenergy burning, infrastructure development, over-grazing and other farming impacts, mining and climate change.

Damaged and logged pine trees
…..yet the destruction of old growth forest continues

Before effective plans can be drafted for their protection, it is important to have accurate and updated information on the precise location of these areas, together with all their relevant characteristics – including threats and opportunities for addressing these.

A wide welcome

Since the Register was developed it has been widely welcomed, as providing de facto recognition for the qualities of those areas so far recorded.

Just having the Register can help provide protection” according to John Loof Green of the Swedish conservation group Nordic Forests. “Many timber interests are responsible and practice sustainable logging. But where companies are still logging priceless old growth forests to make cardboard and nappies, as is still happening in parts of my country, they ……. now think twice”. 

For further information on the Wilderness Register please visit the EC website.