Rewilding Europe aims to:
- Rewild 1 million hectares of land in Europe by 2020, creating 10 magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas which may serve as inspirational showcases all across Europe.
- Help turn the problems caused by the on-going land abandonment into opportunities for man and nature alike, providing a viable business case for wild nature in Europe.
- Launch a new conservation vision for Europe, with wild nature and natural processes as key elements, where rewilding is applicable to any type of landscape or level of protection.
1. Rewild 1 million hectares of land in Europe by 2020, creating 10 magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas (“European Serengetis or Yellowstones”) which may serve as inspirational showcases all across Europe.
Rewilding Europe focuses on rewilding at least 10 areas with restored functioning natural processes in Europe by 2020, each of at least 100,000 ha/1,000 sq km in size, five of which will be started before 2013. We will use a forward-oriented, ‘learning by doing’ approach, through which we establish a set of best practices.
The project sites will have core areas that ideally should be wilderness areas without any consumptive/extractive practices or construction works, in order to retain areas with wild integrity. There also needs to be a range of other natural areas and buffer zones connected, which are also turning wilder than before, even if maybe not quite as wild as the core areas, but still very rich in wildlife and biodiversity, somewhere on a scale from sustainable use to completely wild. The ambition is as wild as technically, economically and politically possible for all involved lands. All these rewilded areas should preferably also try to connect with other existing natural or protected areas, establishing larger ecological corridors.
The aim is a full range of the original native wildlife species in the project areas. We want the wildlife to come back in optimum natural numbers in as many areas as possible, helped, if necessary, by reintroductions.
2. Help turn the problems caused by the on-going land abandonment into opportunities for man and nature alike, providing a viable business case for wild nature in Europe. Several areas have the potential to become world-class wildlife tourism attractions, alongside the many other ways of reaping economic benefits from the wild. We will work hard to make this a reality.
Rewilding Europe is the first Europe-wide initiative that uses the ongoing land abandonment as a unique and historical opportunity for creating large, new wildland and wilderness areas all across Europe, so that natural processes again can shape landscapes and vegetation.
Land abandonment has taken place, is taking place and will continue to take place, risking the loss of possibly thousands of animal and plant species that are dependant on these open, grazing landscapes in Europe that are so valued by our citizens. Predictions point at up to 30 million hectares of abandoned land in Europe till 2030. The abandonment comes from shifts in values and attitudes among people, as well as of a loss of economic opportunity in parts of the countryside. There is a clear risk of an even more “digital” Europe, with intensive farming on the most fertile soils, and with industry forests, biofuel plantations or low-biodiversity bushland dominating the less productive regions.
Rewilding Europe will assist with business development expertise in the project areas to show that there is a viable business case for wild nature. A sustainable economy based on natural products and services from the land, wildlife watching tourism and payments for different ecosystem services. Some areas will be completely wild, others used for more organised wildlife watching where wildlife populations are given the chance to become less afraid of man, and again other areas where at the same time carefully controlled sustainable hunting and/or fishing can take place.
3. Launch a new conservation vision for Europe, with wild nature and natural processes as key elements, where rewilding is applicable to any type of landscape or level of protection. Especially important is natural grazing by native large herbivores. Just let it be!
Widening the perspectives towards a more development oriented approach, with wild nature and natural processes as key elements. Using a reference point that is no longer only based in the past but also in the future. This calls for a large-scale shift in land use in Europe, creating much more space for functioning natural processes where our natural heritage is allowed to bring new economic, emotional and social value to people.
Rewilding Europe recognizes natural grazing as one of the key factors to maintain open and half-open landscapes, upon which a large part of Europe’s precious biodiversity is dependant. Therefore we work to let our native large herbivores return in significant numbers to the lands where they once belonged – amongst them the bison, the red deer, the ibex, the chamois, the wild horse, the wild boar, the moose, the wild reindeer and hopefully soon again also the aurochs.
- Rewilding Europe will work side by side with local communities, landowners, land managers, traditional land custodians, NGOs and other important stakeholders in order to reach these targets. Around 80% of all land in Europe is privately owned and the land owner group is in most locations the most important of all groups to work together with.
- Naturally functioning ecosystems also have great intrinsic economic value – clean water, carbon storage, wellbeing/recreation, flood protection, climate etc.
- Ever increasing numbers of people are looking for opportunities to escape their frenetic city lives during their free time and are seeking to explore large natural areas for peace, quiet and adventure. Consequently nature travel is growing exponentially, world wide. This is a tangible economic opportunity for many European rural areas.
- Wildlife needs to become more valuable in society as a whole. A clear economic value could be placed on wildlife species. Well controlled and natural breeding of original wildlife species on private lands is encouraged - for sale, for use in further reintroductions or on hunting estates.
- Pure wilderness and less wild but still very natural lands represent two of many different stages on a scale from completely wild to completely urbanised. All these stages can reach a wilder state with more wildlife and more natural processes in function. We are in favor of all such rewilding.
- We want to create a network of rewilding initiatives all over Europe, that share experiences and best practices, forwarding the rewilding agenda across the continent.
- The attractivity of European nature for travellers is not only about nature and wilderness, but also about our cultural heritage. This very European mix of nature and culture will forever be a Unique Selling Point for most European nature tour activities.