Growing rapidly since it was founded in 2013, the European Rewilding Network has played an important role in the development of Europe’s rewilding movement. Updated admission criteria for members will shift the focus from network expansion to support for practical, result-oriented rewilding.
The European Rewilding Network (ERN) is about to enter its second phase, with far more emphasis on practical, result-oriented rewilding. New, more diversified admission criteria, aligned with Rewilding Europe’s main objectives, will underpin the transition.
Designed to connect and support Europe’s burgeoning collection of rewilding initiatives, the ERN’s pan-European membership has grown rapidly since 2013, with the recent addition of its 70th member.
As part of Rewilding Europe’s recently approved growth scenario (Outlook 2025), the ambition going forwards is to develop it from a virtual network into a functioning rewilding community, with Rewilding Europe playing a coordinating role. This will involve boosting the ERN’s level of interaction, scope and online presence.
“With these new, stronger criteria we really want to engage the fantastic array of rewilding-related initiatives that are now developing across Europe, and to help them deliver tangible results more effectively,” explains Raquel Filgueiras, Rewilding Europe’s Head of Rewilding. “In addition to regular ERN webinars, the aim is to organise far more site visits and training sessions.”
The new ERN criteria are classified into five categories, corresponding with Rewilding Europe’s core objectives – wilder nature, wildlife comeback, nature-based economies, interest in the wild, and scaling up rewilding.
Each category contains multiple sub-categories, which will make it easier to evaluate the suitability of a broader range of rewilding initiatives, from those involved in policy work right through to rewilding-related communications initiatives.
To simplify the evaluation process for applicants, the new criteria have been phrased in the form of questions. For example, rewilding initiatives involved in habitat connectivity will be asked to rate the extent to which they are restoring connectivity between core biodiversity areas.
The first stage in the membership evaluation procedure is self-assessment. This not only applies to potential members going forwards, but ones that have already been admitted, with all existing ERN members currently re-assessing themselves according to the new criteria.
This is then followed by internal assessment by Rewilding Europe. This consists of reviewing and rating all the information provided in the membership application form, carrying out online research, and in some cases, conducting interviews on Skype. Most of the evaluation at this stage involves scoring potential members on the extent to which they are applying rewilding models, such as the rewilding of peatlands, rivers or trophic chains.
Scores for the self-assessment and internal assessment stages are expressed in percentages. Rewilding initiatives applying for ERN membership will be accepted if they reach 60% in at least one of five core objectives in the first stage, and 50% in the second, internally assessed stage. At this point the evaluation matrix and scores are shared with the Rewilding Europe Head of Rewilding for review and final approval.
A living network
Today rewilding is gaining momentum as a progressive and effective approach to conservation in Europe. Bolstering this trend, the burgeoning ERN continues to foster collaboration and amplify results.
“The overall goal of the ERN is to support the mainstreaming of rewilding as a conservation approach in Europe, and to raise the awareness of a broad European audience about the initiatives already taking rewilding action on the continent,” explains Mei Elderadzi, Rewilding Europe’s ERN Coordinator.
Rewilding Europe extends a warm welcome to all European rewilding initiatives and encourages them to apply for ERN membership. Members who are nature-based businesses can also apply to Rewilding Europe Capital, Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility.