2019 is the year of Wilderness

55 years ago the United States was the first country to officially designate land as “Wilderness” through the Wilderness Act of 1964. This was to protect the most pristine and wildest of America’s land for future generations. For many years in Europe, Wilderness was associated with far-flung, exotic locations like the Amazon or Yosemite. It took many years for Europeans to realise that there was Wilderness in Europe, and it needed our protection. In 2009, the European Wilderness Resolution was passed. Europe now had a Wilderness definition, and a plan to protect Wilderness.

Fast forward five years, and people from all across the globe gathered at the 10th World Wilderness Congress to build on the Wilderness Resolution of Europe. There were many wild conversations, and this sparked the founding of the European Wilderness Society. For the last five years, the European Wilderness Society has been working for a wilder Europe together with more than 40 members of the European Wilderness Network.

Wilderness Timeline

March 1, 1872

1st National Park

Yellowstone became the first national park in the world. 

March 1, 1872
May 25, 1892

Sierra Club

Founded by John Muir, who argued that the conservation policies were not strong enough to protect the interest of the natural world because they continued to focus on the natural world as a source of economic production. 

May 25, 1892
January 1, 1906

US Forest Service

President Theodore Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service (USFS) and established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments. 

January 1, 1906
August 1, 1914

Swiss National Park

It was one of the first National Park in Europe. It has an area of 174.2 km² and is the largest protected area of the country.

August 1, 1914
July 1, 1935

Aldo Leopold

Leopold visited in 1935 Germany the School of Forestry in Tharandt, Dresden. Leopold´s most insistent impression from traveling in Germany was the lack of wilderness in the landscape. Aldo Leopold influenced the development of modern environmental ethics and helped to organize the US Wilderness Society. 

July 1, 1935
October 5, 1948

IUCN

IUCN has become the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. 

October 5, 1948
April 29, 1961

WWF

Founded in Morges, Switzerland, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) grew to be one of the largest conservation organisations in the world.

April 29, 1961
September 3, 1964

US Wilderness Act 

The Wilderness Act of 1964 created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States, and protected 9.1 million acres (37,000 km²) of federal land. 

September 3, 1964
July 1, 1967

European Communities

France, West Germany, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands established the European Economic Community, regional organisation aimed to bring about economic integration among its member states. 

July 1, 1967
May 21, 1992

FFH Directive

The Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora is the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy with the Birds Directive and established the EU wide Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas.

May 21, 1992
July 1, 1993

European Union

The EU was formally established by the Maastricht Treaty —whose main architects were Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand.

July 1, 1993
January 1, 1997

PAN Parks

WWF Netherlands starts PAN Parks to certify Protected Areas with a special focus on Sustainable Tourism.

January 1, 1997
May 29, 2002

1st European Wilderness

Oulanka National Park in Finland, was the first European audited and designated Wilderness according to the draft working definition of Wilderness in Europe.

May 29, 2002
February 3, 2009

European Wilderness Resolution

European Parliament passes the Wilderness Resolution to define wilderness to address aspects such as ecosystem services, conservation value, climate change and sustainable use. It also mandated the European Commission to map Europe’s last wilderness areas and to undertake a study on the value and benefits of wilderness protection.

February 3, 2009
May 29, 2009

Prague Conference 

The EC Presidency Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas, developed a series of policy recommendations for protection and restoration of Europe’s wilderness and wild areas.

May 29, 2009
October 9, 2013

European Wilderness Definition

Founded in Austria, its main objectives to identify, designate, steward and promote Europe´s last wilderness. The European Wilderness Network is created.

October 9, 2013
March 27, 2014

European Wilderness Society

Founded in Austria, its main objectives to identify, designate, steward and promote Europe´s last wilderness. The European Wilderness Network is created.

March 27, 2014
April 1, 2014

European Wilderness Network

The European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System based on wilderness principles, criteria and several hundred indicators is launched and implemented across the European Wilderness Network.

April 1, 2014
July 1, 2014

European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System 

The European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System based on wilderness principles, criteria and several hundred indicators is launched and implemented across the European Wilderness Network.

July 1, 2014
January 1, 2019

40+ European Wilderness areas

More than 40 Wilderness areas have joined the expanding network with more than 300.000 ha.

January 1, 2019

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