Exciting Wilderness Academy Days 2019!

Last week the European Wilderness Society organised the European Wilderness Academy Days 2019. A great 3-day conference with many international speakers and Wilderness Advocates from all around the world. There were many inspiring presentations, for example on the topic of climate change impact and tourism development. Furthermore, all participants explored one of the characteristic peat bogs in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Lungau, with all their senses!

Inspiring sessions and keynote speakers

There were 24 speakers from 11 different countries during the Wilderness Academy Days. An impressive line-up, covering the stories and challenges for the protection of Wilderness in Europe, and even beyond. John Hausdoerffer and Garry Oye from the USA shared their visions on how Europe and the USA can still learn a lot from each other regarding Wilderness. Other speakers represented a wide range of National and Nature Parks, including Kalkalpen, Gesäuse, Gorgany, Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Carpathian National Nature Park, Cepkeliai, Majella, Küre Mountains, Bavarian Forest, Sumava, Thayatal, and Podyji. Interested to learn about their presentations? We will be dedicating separate postings on the thematic sessions over the next days, or you can read the ‘Book of Abstracts‘ below.

Tackling challenges

Wilderness is facing many different challenges in the era of climate change. Together with speakers from the USA and Germany, the participants dove into the effects and impacts of forest fires. Protected Area managers from Ukraine and Italy showed how a stewardship approach allows natural processes to fully develop into Wilderness in different circumstances. Yet, the many threats that protected areas are facing were also discussed, for example the destruction of primary forests, and unsustainable tourism in Turkey and the Carpathians.

A special session focussed on the biodiversity in forest ecosystems, on how forest deal with climate change, the important role of large carnivores, and other pressures impact on healthy forest ecosystems.

I have seen with my own eyes how 40 years of strict protection can transform habitats, which were previously affected by forestry and extensive grazing. The Wilderness Academy Days provided a great opportunity for knowledge exchange, sharing common challenges in Wilderness areas across Europe as well as for discussing future perspectives of the European Wilderness Network.”

Mindaugas Lapele
Čepkeliai Wilderness – Dzūkija National Park, Lithuania

Feeling wild

In between the many rain showers, the group of participants did a field excursion to one of the larger peat bogs in the Lungau. It surrounds the lake Prebersee, which provided a great place to discover environmental writing. US Wilderness writer Sean Prentiss took all participants on a journey through the local nature, using their senses one by one. It was great to see, hear, taste, smell and feel the peat bog, and transform those experiences into words. As a result, participants created great poems, capturing their personal experiences.

Wilderness Advocates

The participants of the Wilderness Academy Days represent the many Wilderness Advocates around the world that follow and support the work of the European Wilderness Society. They are not only Protected Area managers, but also rangers, tourism experts, youth workers, and people that are just interested in nature. This shows that Wilderness is open for anybody with a passion for it! All the participants received a Wilderness Advocate Certificate, as the Wilderness Academy Days were concluded with a final group session on the last day.

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