Twelve months ago today, the European Young Rewilders was set up to empower young Europeans looking to become involved in rewilding. A year of growth has seen the network blossom into a well-connected community of passionate and skilled young Europeans, eager to drive the rewilding movement forwards and scale up nature recovery.
A productive first year
Young people are already key actors in efforts to make Europe wilder, and have huge potential to accelerate the scaling up of rewilding across the continent. With the aim of bringing together young professionals and enthusiasts and helping them to get involved in rewilding, Rewilding Europe established the European Young Rewilders a year ago today.
By engaging and empowering the so-called “Generation Rewilding”, the network is increasingly harnessing the skills, creativity, drive and passion of European youth to take rewilding to the next level.
“I would say the first year of the European Young Rewilders has been a great success and I’m really happy to see there are so many skilled and motivated young people driving the network forwards,” says Giulia Testa, Rewilding Europe’s European Young Rewilders Coordinator.
“We have provided an active platform for young people to meet and inspire each other, and to find what they need to engage in practical rewilding. We have not only created a productive community, but given young people a unified voice so that their views on and knowledge about rewilding can be heard. Young people are future rewilding practitioners, teachers and ambassadors – by empowering them we can scale up rewilding and, ultimately, make Europe wilder.”
Over the last twelve months the European Young Rewilders has evolved rapidly, with a membership now approaching 600 across 29 European countries. Many of these members are already involved in practical rewilding. On the back of a strong communications and social media strategy, the European Young Rewilders Instagram page now has nearly 2300 followers. The fact that the network has come so far is in large part due to its well-established team of 15 motivated volunteers – this includes eight national ambassadors, who each organise in-country activities.
The European Young Rewilders has established two key partnerships in the first year of its existence. The first is with the EUROPARC Youth Community, which enables young people to become active in their local protected areas and strengthens their voice in various EUROPARC programmes. This complements the recently signed partnership between Rewilding Europe and the EUROPARC Federation to promote wilder parks in Europe. Moving forwards, Giulia Testa will join EUROPARC’s Erasmus+ Youth Worker Mobility Project as a facilitator. This will see her share her experience in building up EUROPARC’s Youth+ programme, which helps young people in protected areas learn about conservation, network with peers, and develop a range of skills.
In July, the European Young Rewilders was admitted into Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) – the largest independent European network of environmental youth organisations. Membership will help the European Young Rewilders reach out to, inspire, and empower more young people and organisations as they take their own rewilding journey.
“In general we have strong relationships with all the major European youth organisations involved with biodiversity at a European level,” says Giulia Testa. “This has put the European Young Rewilders firmly on the map, which is really important as rewilding is becoming mainstream in the discussions and capacity building of these organisations. At the same time, our national contacts are engaged in local partnerships as well, such as the one between Portuguese members and Sylvester Rewilding.”
Events and advocacy
The outreach of the European Young Rewilders has been boosted by a number of online and real-world events – both to the general public and specifically aimed at young people. In May, for example, Giulia Testa was involved in two events in the Central Apennines rewilding landscape – the first, a workshop, focused on Rewilding Apennines volunteers, while she also gave a presentation on rewilding and human-wildlife coexistence to a wide-ranging audience in the city of Sulmona, as part of a Rewilding Open Day. Giulia also talked recently about young people and rewilding at a national-level rewilding seminar in the Central Apennines, and at a gathering of leading European rewilding organisations in Vienna.
The European Young Rewilders has also been involved in drafting a youth joint letter to the European Commission regarding the protected status of the wolf in Europe, and advocating for an ambitious and enforceable Nature Restoration Law, which is in the final negotiation stage. Advocacy on the latter will continue until the law comes into effect.
To celebrate the one year anniversary of the European Young Rewilders, the network will co-host Rewilding Europe’s social media platforms for the afternoon. A video will be shared with messages from young rewilders, to showcase their efforts and desires for the future of conservation, and there will also be a quiz.
The development of the European Young Rewilders in its first year has built a great platform for further growth in the years ahead.
“Looking to the future, I want to consolidate the network and enhance the benefits it offers members, with the goal of enabling them to become rewilding leaders. Through the European Young Rewilders, the huge enthusiasm and knowledge of young people can be turned into practical rewilding action,” says Giulia Testa.
“I do have goals in terms of numbers, but I want to focus on the quality and the catalysing role of the network. I think we now have a great opportunity to further structure the network as a high-quality tool that empowers members and makes them feel part of a community, which includes making tools such as online courses and manuals easily accessible. I would like to make our communications even more engaging, and to organise more meet-ups, workshops, and trips to Rewilding Europe’s portfolio of rewilding landscapes, because they really are inspirational for young people.”
As the future of rewilding, young people of all backgrounds are invited to join the European Young Rewilders. Membership is free, while members need to be:
- between 18 and 35 years old
- located in Europe
- pursuing a career or study path related to rewilding, and/or have a desire to contribute to the rewilding movement