EUROPARC Federation and Rewilding Europe to promote wilder parks

October 3, 2023

Europe’s extensive network of protected areas play a vital role in conserving the continent’s natural beauty, flora and fauna. An exciting new partnership between Rewilding Europe and the EUROPARC Federation will help many to create the enabling conditions for wilder nature, delivering essential benefits for people, biodiversity and climate.

A new partnership agreement entitled “Wilder Parks” has just been signed between Rewilding Europe and the EUROPARC Federation – the largest network of European protected areas.
Piet Douma


Protection and restoration

Protected areas are the backbone of European nature. With more than 120,000 sites designated across Europe, including the 27,000 sites of the Natura 2000 network, such areas cover nearly 1.2 million square kilometres, equating to an area the size of France and Spain combined.

Many of Europe’s protected areas contain unique and frequently awe-inspiring repositories of biodiversity. Yet simply protecting the nature they currently contain isn’t enough. It’s not enough to halt and reverse biodiversity decline, and it’s not enough to slow and stop climate change.

With the geographical extent of such areas so large, there is now a fantastic opportunity to build on the conservation efforts being carried out within them, enhancing the invaluable nature they already contain through rewilding. By focusing on the restoration of natural processes, and working to support and scale up the comeback of European wildlife species that is already happening in many parts of the continent, we can really amplify the benefits such areas deliver, such as clean air, fresh water, and the locking up of atmospheric carbon.


Europe’s protected areas contain unique and frequently awe-inspiring biodiversity.


Towards wilder parks

In fantastic news for European nature, and for Europeans, a new partnership agreement entitled “Wilder Parks” has just been signed between Rewilding Europe and the EUROPARC Federation – the largest network of European protected areas. It will enable Rewilding Europe and the EUROPARC Federation to work together to support and showcase the work of protected areas that are already making great progress in restoring nature, and to inspire others, in the wider landscape, to follow their lead. The initiative will help to make the protected areas of the EUROPARC membership, which account for around 40% of the Natura 2000 network, wilder.

“This new partnership has hugely exciting potential,” says Rewilding Europe Executive Director Frans Schepers, who co-signed the agreement with Michael Hošek, President of the EUROPARC Federation, at a conference celebrating EUROPARC’s 50th anniversary on October 4. “Many European protected areas are already doing a great job in rewilding, but there is wide-ranging scope for others to follow suit. This is where Rewilding Europe can help.”

“I’m delighted to establish this professional cooperation with Rewilding Europe,” adds Michael Hošek. “EUROPARC, thanks to its broad and diverse membership base, has significant experience in protected area management. We always aim to support our members, and to use measures that are best for protected areas, in collaboration with communities and stakeholders, to enable natural processes to thrive. The cooperation and exchange of experience with Rewilding Europe will benefit both parties.”

Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, an ambassador and special advisor to Rewilding Europe since our foundation, gave a wonderful opening speech at the EUROPARC anniversary conference. She explained how rewilding can help everyone in society to reconnect with wilder nature, and welcomed the Wilder Parks initiative as a potentially transformative way of restoring nature at scale across Europe.


Speaking at the EUROPARC conference, Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands underlined the power of rewilding to reconnect society with wild nature, and expressed her enthusiasm for the Wilder Parks initiative.
Piet Douma


Letting nature lead

There are a wide range of rewilding measures that Europe’s protected areas can employ to create the right conditions for nature recovery. These include allowing forests to naturally regenerate, removing dams and restoring natural water regimes, more natural wildlife management, enhancing natural grazing, leaving carcasses in nature, improving connectivity, reintroducing keystone species, and many more – all with the aim of restoring natural processes and food webs.

In conjunction, these measures help to enhance the health, connectivity, functionality and resilience of natural ecosystems. Working with communities and stakeholders across such areas, the overall aim is to create spaces where nature manages itself to the fullest extent possible, a cost effective approach with beneficial outcomes for nature, climate and people.


The reintroduction of keystone species – regardless of their size – is one way that Europe’s protected areas could become wilder.
Neil Aldridge


The work carried out under the new agreement will include learning from EUROPARC members that are already carrying out rewilding measures, and enabling them to share their knowledge with others. Additional protected areas which are keen to apply Rewilding Principles will be identified, with Rewilding Europe offering them training, resources, and opportunities for knowledge exchange. Access to Rewilding Europe’s European Wildlife Comeback Fund, for example, could help some to start or scale up the reintroduction of keystone species.

Specific activities will be agreed and laid out in a shared work plan which will be finalised next year. These will include the development of joint fundraising proposals, which will aim to secure additional funding for the Wilder Parks initiative.


Meeting commitments

In December 2022, leaders of European countries agreed to adopt the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which includes a global target to restore 30% of degraded ecosystems globally by 2030. This commitment will contribute to the EU’s own restoration agenda, and obligations of EU Member States under the new Nature Restoration Law, which was approved by the European Parliament in July and is currently in the final negotiation stage.

“It’s clear that protected areas play an important role in fulfilling the commitments nations made to nature in 2022,” says Rewilding Europe’s Head of Upscaling Amy Duthie. “This new partnership, with Rewilding Europe and EUROPARC working together to enable the development of wilder parks, will help to realise a wilder Europe where each country fulfils its biodiversity and climate commitments, for the benefit of both people and nature.”


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