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
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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Sign the Petition for resilient forests

 

90 signatures

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

**your signature**

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