One of the programme goals of Rewilding Europe is “by 2020, rewild 1 million ha (10,000 km²) across 10 places in Europe covering different regions and biomes, including areas of both land and sea”. The rewilding concept was introduced at the “EC Presidency Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas” in May 2009, and the participants were invited to submit nominations for potential model areas.
As a result, we received more than 20 nominations of which 5 were finally selected to serve as the first five model areas: Danube Delta, Eastern Carpathians, Southern Carpathians, Velebit, and Western Iberia.
To fulfil our objective, we aimed “to identify an additional five model areas covering northern, western and southern Europe, including the marine environment” and launch them at the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WILD10) in Salamanca, Spain in October 2013.
To promote the submission of new areas, an invitation for new nominations has been advertised on Rewilding Europe’s website since its launch in late 2010. By March 2012, ten new nominations were received for nine areas, with two partly overlapping nominations for north-western Spain. The areas included Sumava (Czech Republic), Relict Carpathian Forest (Poland/Ukraine), Albanian Alps (Albania/Kosovo & Montenegro), Thracian Mountains (Bulgaria/Greece), Central Apennines (Italy), Cantabrian Mountains (Spain), North Iberian Mountains (Spain), Stettiner Haff (Germany/Poland), Greater Laponia (Sweden/Norway), NW Caucasus (Russia) and Balearic Islands (Spain). In addition, two areas have been considered for nominations, although not yet with formal applications.
Following a detailed review of each proposal, a decision was made to shortlist the following four areas for more in-depth field assessments: Central Apennines, Greater Laponia, Stettiner Haff and Thracian Mountains. Eight main selection criteria were used (not in order of priority): (i) geographical spread, (ii) biodiversity uniqueness, (iii) funding potential, (iv) local capacity, (v) strategic links (political, business community, banking sector, media, etc.), (vi) marketing opportunity, (vii) legal land tenure options and (viii) business prospects.
The final inclusion in the list of 10 projects depends on the outcomes of the feasibility studies. The shortlisting is therefore not a guarantee that these four projects will become part of the final list. Feasibility studies to more areas will follow, and results announced at WILD10 in Spain in October 2013.
NW Spain, Sumava and Albanian Alps areas are seen as very important and have, therefore, been invited to join the development of a wider Rewilding Europe Network to be launched later this year. The prospects for rewilding in NW Caucasus and Balearic Islands are seen as less favourable and the nominations were declined.