Wilderness in Europe?
15 years ago, something like Wilderness would be unthinkable. Today it is reality. Since then the European Wilderness Society build a European Wilderness dream. Already for 108 months (since 2014).
It becomes reality since the moment, when the team of several enthusiasts decided to take a risk and invite committed wilderness advocates from all over Europe. They were asked to support the very first steps of this ambition plan, to protect remnants of Wilderness in Europe. The first step was to set up European Wilderness Society. Legal follow up of PAN Parks Foundation where European Wilderness adventure begun.
European Wilderness Society
To formally establish the non-profit European Wilderness Society (EWS), was however the task of the most committed 3-4 wilderness lovers. Their likely would not do it without previous experience with Wilderness and kind of slowly growing Wilderness Momentum in Europe.
Strong support of that step came also from bunch of Wilderness friends and small network of protected areas audited and certified in the previous years from the perspective of management effectives. All this helped overcame uncertainty which obviously accompanied reborn of Wilderness in Europe.
European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System
The very first task of the European Wilderness Society was clarification of the Wilderness definition, Wilderness Quality Standard and Wilderness Audit System and develop concept of European Wilderness Network.
These first steps were built on the previous experience. The European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System was several times updated and finally introduced also four new Wilderness categories. Besides Wilderness were added WILDIsland, WILDForest, WILDCoast and WILDRiver. Further on, to the European Wilderness Quality Standard also principle of “Wilderness and Visitors” was added.
European Wilderness Network
The European Wilderness Network become a reality in 2014. In a following years 42 audited areas become a skeleton of Wilderness Network. Currently network consist of Wilderness from 17 countries with more than 350 000 ha of audited Wilderness.
This network represents the best Wilderness across Europe. Since then, the main objective of the European Wilderness Network has been to implement a unified Wilderness Stewardship approach. Last but not least, it represents European Wilderness and its challenges at the international level.
Difficulties if the first steps
In the past, very few people believed that the time will come when the Wilderness become an interesting subject throughout Europe. This assumption was based on the fact that in the past Wilderness in Europe was not considered a relevant topic. People believed that it is a topic relevant to other continents, but not to Europe.
Few enthusiasts were aware that Wilderness used to be in Europe in historical times. However, they could not imagine that after a long and turbulent human history in Europe, Wilderness could become a pan-European theme. They knew that in some European countries there are strict nature reserves. That some protected areas are targeted for strict protection. But even in these territories, exceptions from protection were very common and the last but not least non-interventional management did not have a uniform European standard.
A good example was the Swiss National Park, which was based on the concept of a strict reserve. A similar example was the Muddus National Park in Sweden and few others. Such kind of examples illustrated the fact that even in densely populated Europe there are small territories where management focused on strict protection.
Motivation was born
It was a time when those Europeans who wanted to experience the Wilderness had to travel outside of Europe. Many returned enthusiastic, with a sparkle in their eyes. This experience many times changed their professional and personal lives.
The basic feature of the experience in the wild was the desire to repeat it. With such awareness, they could not even in their most secret thoughts imagine that in the near future a group of people would start talking about the Wilderness in Europe.
It was unthinkable to them, that one day there would be group of individuals who reveal their own dream and contribute to the development of the Wilderness momentum.
Fragments of Wilderness
Finding, that small fragments of Wilderness are also in Europe was fine but simultaneously revealed threat. Threat, that these fragments are disappearing day by day. Many time fragments of Wilderness in the protected areas.
Group of Wilderness activists hit the wall build up by European society during previous centuries. Sayings, “nature is here to satisfy our needs”, was too strongly embedded in people mind and their mind opened only slowly.
Gradually, however, they began to understand that non-interventional management can become part of their personal beliefs. Those were the first steps that formed in their minds. Furthermore, the belief that it is still possible to save the remaining fragments of Wilderness in Europe grew.
In the last moment
This conclusion came likely in the last moment. The speed of the society development is continuously increasing and so the speed of deforestation, the accumulation of ecological problems, the desire of society to massively and intensively use every free piece of land. At the same time, while actively taking care of the protected area, reconstructing it in the belief that it needs active, species-oriented management.
The long, slow but successful story of Wilderness in Europe was completed after several attempts on 26.3.2014 with the creation of the European Wilderness Society. A non-profit organization that has been the engine of its protection since then. The creation of European Wilderness protection system is the most striking proof of this
Happy birthday to the European Wilderness Society!
European Wilderness Society is the child of many Europeans. It is supported by many people all over the world. They know our vision and keep their fingers crossed for us. We have Wilderness, but we want more. We want more Wilderness in Europe…