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Notes from across the pond

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Paper presented at 50th Anniversary of the US Wilderness Act conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 15-19 October 2014

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Notes from across the pond

  1. 1. Notes from Across the Pond: Shared approaches to wilderness science between the US and Europe Steve Carver Wildland Research Institute
  2. 2. Outline • Two continents with a shared history? • Or two parallel approaches? • Developments in Europe • Wilderness and science: complementary bedfellows USA Europe
  3. 3. “What avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?” Aldo Leopold (1949) HC SVNT DRACONES – “Here be Dragons”
  4. 4. TERRA INCOGNITA - “Parts unknown”
  5. 5. A shared history? • Europe as net exporter of the wilderness idea – The Age of Discovery... from Old World to New “of ungodly places inhabited by wild animals and wild people” – Romantic Period... “state of nature and the sublime” • North America as net importer – National Parks – 1964 Wilderness Act • Europe today? – Re-importing the wilderness idea – Bringing wilderness home!
  6. 6. “The parks are the Nation's pleasure grounds and the Nation's restoring places... The national parks... are an American idea; it is one thing we have that has not been imported.” (J. Horace McFarland, president, American Civic Assn., 1916) “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” (Wallace Stegner, 1983)
  7. 7. Parallel tracks? • USA – Landscape aesthetic...“a source of inspiration and recreational activity, having a spiritual, aesthetic and intrinsic beauty, whose species and natural systems had an inherent value that was not created by human beings” • Europe – Strong scientific approach to conservation... “less tempered by the aesthetic, and which sought the preservation of unique assemblages of species rather than necessarily of landscape values”
  8. 8. Developments in Europe 1. Early history and links with USA 2. Existing environmental legislation 3. Wilderness in Europe 4. Poselství (message) from Prague 5. Definition and guidelines 6. Register and map
  9. 9. Early history • 1914-2014: 100yrs of the Swiss National Park – Undisturbed nature as a long term, open air laboratory – Characteristic approach to wild nature similar to other protected areas across Europe – Visited by American botanist Harvey Hall in 1928 • Carnegie Institution • need to have "complete reserves" in the core areas of NPs and National Forests • a more scientific approach should be taken
  10. 10. Existing European legislation • Bern Convention (1979): – conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats – increase cooperation and regulate exploitation of species listed • Habitats and Birds Directives (1992) – EU mechanism for meeting obligations under Bern Convention – maintenance of biodiversity – maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species at a favourable conservation status (FCS) • Water Framework Directive (2000) – framework for protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater – ensure that all aquatic ecosystems meet 'good status'
  11. 11. Natura 2000 • The centrepiece of EU nature & biodiversity policy. – EU wide network of nature protection areas established under the Habitats Directive – Assure long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats – Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the 1979 Birds Directive. – However… Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded
  12. 12. (re)Birth of Wilderness in Europe • February 2009: Members of the European Parliament backed a report calling for further protection of Europe's wilderness (538:19) • May 2009: EC Presidency Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas (Prague) – Hosted by Czech Presidency and EC – Organised by Wild Europe partnership – 240 invited delegates drafted agreement on a coordinated strategy to protect and restore Europe’s wilderness
  13. 13. Poselství (message) from Prague “The remaining pristine areas in Europe should be regarded as a unique asset and benefit from the highest level of protection. They should not be diminished or degraded.” Ladislav Miko Environment Minister in the Czech Republic and former Director of Natural Environment at the European Commission
  14. 14. A strategy • Agreeing the definition and location of wild and nearly wild areas; • Determining the contribution that such areas can make to halting biodiversity loss and supporting Natura 2000; • Recommendations for improved protection of such areas, within the existing legal framework; • Review of opportunities for restoration of large natural habitat areas; • Proposals for more effective support for such restoration; • Identifying best practice examples for non intervention and restoration management; and • Defining the value of low impact economic, social and environmental benefits from wild areas.
  15. 15. European wilderness definition “A wilderness is an area governed by natural processes, it is composed of native habitats and species and it is large enough for the ecological functioning of natural processes and the shaping of natural structures. It is untouched, and appears to be primarily affected by the forces of nature. It is undeveloped without settlements, roads or visual disturbance.” (After Guidelines for the management of wilderness and wild areas in Natura 2000 07.0307/2010/576314/SER/B3)
  16. 16. European wilderness register
  17. 17. Core zone The core zone measures at least 3,000 hectares, with the objective of at least 10,000 hectares to be achieved within a stated timescale; there can be two or more cores in the area (adding up to a surface of at least 3,000 ha), if linked and with a plan for full amalgamation; Undeveloped No habitation, no permanent settlements No infrastructure No roads or a plan for removal of existing infrastructure; except traditional gathering sites required by indigenous people to practice their traditional reindeer herding; in Finland wilderness legislation already exists to permit certain activities, and these cannot thus be legally excluded. No motorised access Only free to public access on foot; no wheels or motorised access for recreational use; only access is allowed in cases of emergency for safety reasons or for law enforcement (ranger service) No habitat management No interference that affect natural habitats and processes. Wildfire control Only if needed for e.g. public safety. No wildlife management None, except by exceptional agreements under existing wilderness legislation in Nordic countries, so long as there is no significant impact on biodiversity. No re-stocking except for restoration purposes. No grazing by domestic stock None, except in exceptional circumstances for indigenous people (only in Nordic countries; traditional reindeer herding). No extraction of natural resources None including collecting of berries, nuts, mushrooms, wood, fish etc.; except by special agreements for indigenous people in Nordic countries; in any case there should be no significant impact on biodiversity. Tourism and recreation Activities allowed if not requiring built infrastructure. Tourism activities permitted under strict ‘leave no trace’ rules. There should be no ecological impact. Measurable criteria used for qualifying protected areas as ‘wilderness’
  18. 18. Wilderness and science: the view from Europe • Spatial – EU/EEA Wilderness Register • Traditional knowledge – Research into “integrative” approaches – TK, TEK, TPK, etc. • Climate change – Barometers of climate change – Natural labs – Increased resilience to change
  19. 19. Rewilding • Opportunities and vision – Abandoned farm land in marginal areas – Replace domestic grazing with wild grazers – Role and challenges of large predators? – Connectivity issues? – Future directions... • Wilder or safari park Europe? • Back to food production? • Return to wilderness?
  20. 20. European Wilderness Society • Pan-European, wilderness and environmental advocacy organisation – Mission is to identify, designate, manage and promote European wilderness – Target of 5% wilderness – Network of wilderness areas across Europe • Common standards • Wilderness Standard Quality and Audit System • Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum membership – PEGNet http://www.wilderness-society.org
  21. 21. Conclusions • Import-export – USA as net importer of wilderness – (Re)exporting the idea across the globe – Europe as (original) exporter, now reimporting • Science is key to understanding • GEOGRAPHY... The spatial key – Spatial (WQI and connectivity) – Social (well-being, recreation and TK) – Physical (Climate change, habitats and species)
  22. 22. “Science provides knowledge upon which to make informed decisions about the protection and management of wilderness... wilderness provides opportunities for scientific understanding that is not often available in other, less well protected areas. Thus, science is important to wilderness and wilderness is important to science.” David Parsons (2000, 34)

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