The Message from Prague

Produced by participants at the May 2009 EC Presidency Conference on wilderness, ‘The Message from Prague’ contains 24 recommendations for a wilder Europe, both in EU and non EU regions.

These break into four main sections: policy development, awareness building, further work & information needs, and supporting capacity:

A. Policy development

  • 1. Provide guidance on how wilderness qualities could receive legal protection both under the Natura 2000 regime and outside the EU, without compromising concrete protection of species and habitats in Europe
  • 2. The management of the Natura 2000 network should take account of the need to protect ecological processes as well as habitats and species.
  • 3. Guidance should be developed concerning the protection of wilderness areas in the context of the EU nature legislation, addressing issues such as natural changes to sites, response to climate change, the maintenance of specific succession states and non-intervention.
  • 4. Assessment and implementation of means by which links with neighbouring countries can more effectively support protection of wilderness and wildland areas outside EU boundaries.
  • 5. In the light of a clearer definition of wilderness and wild land in different parts of Europe, and the extent to which this is protected by existing legislation and policy, consider and promote the action needed to ensure existing legislation protecting wilderness and wildlands is monitored and enforced effectively by all responsible authorities and steps are taken to fill the gaps in protective cover that are identified.
  • 6. Promote connectivity of existing protected areas, restoration of degraded areas, and the setting up of corridors and ecological networks.
  • 7. To identify and promote opportunities within the 2012 Common Agricultural Policy review that can benefit protection and restoration of wilderness and wildlands, especially in relation to abandoned agricultural land and ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change.

B. Awareness building

  • 8. In the short run, to incorporate recommendations from the Conference into relevant reports (including TEEB), government meetings (upcoming EU Presidencies), international conferences (CBD/Nagoya, UNFCCC/Copenhagen) and other events – facilitated by compilation of a relevant schedule and production of appropriate policy documents.
  • 9. To further develop awareness in the conservation sector of the contribution wilderness and wildland areas can make to halting biodiversity loss and supporting Natura 2000 and the Emerald Network.
  • 10. To develop a programme promoting the values of wilderness and wildlands to organizations and decision-makers in all relevant sectors, including landholding, agriculture, forestry, business, local and national government, health, institutions, media and education, so as to ensure that these values are reflected in appropriate sectoral plans, including the EU Forestry Action Plan, EU Fisheries policy, EU Agricultural policy. Differences in natural bio-geographical regions should be taken into consideration.
  • 11. To invest in mass communication to the wide European audience about wilderness and wild values.

C. Further work and information needs

  • 12. Finalisation of a definition of wilderness and wild areas, taking into account the globally agreed definitions, criteria and characteristics and the continuum of natural habitats and ecological processes, the range of ecological and cultural interpretations of these terms and their application in different parts of Europe.
  • 13. Compilation of a Register of Wilderness using existing databases, such as the EEA and WDPA, identifying in tandem with appropriate interested parties the remaining areas of wilderness and wildlands, the threats and opportunities related to these, and their economic values, with practical recommendations for action.
  • 14. Completion of mapping wilderness and wildland areas in Europe, involving appropriate definitional and habitat criteria and level of scale to effectively support plans for protecting and monitoring such areas.
  • 15. Identification of key opportunities for prospective restoration of wild natural habitats and processes, involving mapping, biodiversity design and benefit assessment for relevant parties including local landholders and communities.
  • 16. Further investigation into the scientific rationale underpinning the linkage between wilderness, wildlands and delivery of societal benefits in support of social programmes – eg for youth development, youth at risk, conflict reconciliation and healthcare.
  • 17. Quantification of the value of non-extractive economic, social and environmental benefits of wilderness and wildland, identifying key beneficiaries.
  • 18. Identification and promotion of how ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, water purification, erosion control, and pollution alleviation can be linked to specific payment mechanisms, via landholders, communities and other beneficiaries, for protection and restoration of wilderness and wildland. The public goods benefits of wilderness will require public funding.
  • 19. Review of how to secure opportunities for gaining of value from social benefits (eg healthcare, youth development, youth at risk, conflict resolution) – linked to proactive development of new markets (eg probationary and health services) and delivery infrastructure.

D. Supporting capacity

  • 20. Further development of the Wildland Support Network, especially to support implementation of recommendations from the conference.
  • 21. Establish a website and network based Wildland Information Exchange to collate and disseminate good practice and model projects to demonstrate the value of wilderness benefits, link initiatives and enable coordinated response to threats and opportunities.
  • 22. Develop examples, based on best practice, of how local communities and landholders can secure value from recreation, tourism and other initiatives.
  • 23. Undertake a full assessment of government, institutional and private sector funding opportunities for protection and restoration, as part of broader conservation programmes.
  • 24. Build inter-sector consensus and support by developing initiatives for joint approaches based on common ground with other sectors including: landholders, forestry, agriculture, business.
  • These recommendations are now being implemented through an Action Agenda