Located on the edge of the Greater Côa Valley in northern Portugal, the Vale das Lobas Nature & Health Sanctuary is working to reconnect people with restored nature and stimulate the local economy. Its addition to the European Rewilding Network takes membership to 62 across 27 countries.
As part of scaled-up rewilding efforts in northern Portugal, the Rewilding Portugal team are working hard to establish a network of rewilding-related enterprises in and around the Greater Côa Valley. This will allow local people to benefit from the ongoing return and recovery of wild nature.
One of these businesses is Vale das Lobas (“Valley of the She-Wolf”), a nature-based tourism resort focused on wellbeing, discovery and biodiversity that is scheduled to open in 2021. At the end of 2019, Vale das Lobas received a loan of 600,000 euros from Rewilding Europe Capital – Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility – to contribute to its development. The loan was backed by the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), a joint initiative of the European Investment Bank and European Commission.
Better rewilding outcomes
Vale das Lobas will now also receive valuable support from the European Rewilding Network (ERN), of which it has just become the latest member (and the third from Portugal). This takes network membership to 62 across 27 countries, including Rewilding Europe’s own rewilding areas.
“We are really looking forward to exchanging expertise and ideas about best practice with other ERN members,” says Vale das Lobas CEO and co-founder Tony Conway. “The philosophy of the network aligns perfectly with our approach of working together to overcome challenges and create better outcomes.”
Vale das Lobas is located on the edge of the Greater Côa Valley rewilding area, close to the Serra da Estrela National Park, which is also a member of the ERN. Developmental work at the resort, which integrates ancestral traditions with innovation, is focused on sustainable construction, regenerative farming, natural medicine, artisanal crafts and the protection and rewilding of natural ecosystems.
Over 50 hectares of the Vale das Lobas site was declared a no-hunting zone in 2013, including a 15-hectare, 300-year-old chestnut forest. This, together with additional land, is being converted into a biodiversity park. This community-driven initiative will repurpose abandoned land and create a haven for wildlife and nature, based on measures that include groundwater management, reforestation, soil biome enhancement, rewilding, agroforestry and natural fire protection. The resort itself is expected to directly employ more than 40 people by 2026.
“The Vale das Lobas venture really is a showcase initiative,” says Rewilding Europe’s Head of Enterprise Timon Rutten. “It demonstrates how nature-based tourism can contribute to rewilding at a landscape scale, while also providing jobs and regenerating a rural area.”
A rapidly growing network
Founded by Rewilding Europe in 2013, the aim of the European Rewilding Network is to enhance the efforts of each member by facilitating the exchange of skills, insight and experience. Members meet regularly, usually via webinar, while nature-based businesses can also apply to Rewilding Europe Capital.
The criteria for ERN membership were revised at the end of 2019, with the network shifting its focus from expansion to support for practical, result-oriented rewilding. Rewilding Europe extends a warm welcome to all European rewilding initiatives and encourages them to apply for ERN membership.