How much wilderness is needed in Europe?
People asking this question probably expected a modest answer, which one might call a realistic target, but I don’t want to be realistic now. Our ambition is to be a European leader on wilderness protection, and to be more visionary. What size or territory would be needed from moral point of view? For instance the Federal Government of Germany made a pledge of protecting 2% of its territory wilderness by 2020, but we the, European Wilderness Society, want more. We have a new wilderness vision for Europe! We argue and fight for 5% wilderness in order to compensate our human footprint on the continent.
How would this be put together?
The core of the 5% is the network of existing wilderness protected areas, which is often cited as being around 1%. There are also protected areas which can be turned into wilderness with non-intervention management with small changes in management practice. I believe these two types of areas will make up at least 3%. The other 2% can be made up by the 200,000 km2, which was argued in the 3rd Global Biodiversity Outlook report as areas to be restored as wilderness.
What would the 5% mean in practice?
With 5% wilderness, we would only compensate our human footprint on Europe’s land territory. We have already managed to cover(houses, industry and infrastructure) by 2006. Between 2000 and 2006 the annual land taken by artificial surfaces was over 100,000 hectares per year! Based on this tendency, we are getting close to covering 5% of Europe with artificial surfaces. Without using any economic arguments, we – Europeans – have a moral obligation to compensate the artificial surface with 5% wilderness in our continent!
Is this 5% vision hard to reach? – Not really!
Although it requires a lot of change in the current management practices of protected areas, but we should recognise the followings: the Natura 2000 network covers roughly 20% of land and we also have the Emerald network and a network of protected areas in Europe. The European governments as parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity committed themselves to reach 17% of terrestrial and inland water protection by 2020. The 5% wilderness we want to achieve would mean less than 1/3 of this 17%! We do not argue for any new or a parallel system next to for instance the Natura 2000 network. We argue that the 5% wilderness – areas with non-intervention management and no extractive use – can and must be accommodated within the current system. And the current targets support our arguments!
So the European Wilderness Society sets a new wilderness vision for Europe! We want to see 5% wilderness which will form the European Wilderness Network. And we are constantly looking for partners who share and like our vision and are willing to cooperate with us for raising up the protection of Europe’s last remaining wilderness.