Alfred Toepfer Medal

What is the Alfred Toepfer Medal?

The Alfred Toepfer Medal, named after the founder of the EUROPARC Federation, Dr h.c. Alfred Toepfer (1894-1993), is awarded annually in recognition of a particular individual who has made a significant contribution to nature protection in Europe.

More information on the history of Alfred Toepfer is available here

Those who have made a contribution to nature conservation in Europe through an experienced body of work, are recognised with the Alfred Toepfer Medal. Nominated by EUROPARC members this gives an opportunity, to the work done, to be praised and valued by peers.

Who can receive the Alfred Toepfer Medal?

The Alfred Toepfer Medal is awarding people who made a contribution to nature conservation in Europe through an experienced body of work. This should be specifically related to protected areas and to sustainable development. Access here the list of the Alfred Toepfer Medal holders.

Who can nominate?

Only EUROPARC members can nominate candidates for the Alfred Toepfer Medal.


When will the Alfred Toepfer Medal be given?

The award is given publicaly at the annual EUROPARC conference.

Criteria for nomination

The Alfred Toepfer Medal is awarding people who made an exceptional contribution to nature conservation in Europe through an experienced body of work. In particular, the work related to protected areas and sustainable development are being considered.

Not eligible and exclusion criteria

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Nominations will be excluded for:

  • Active council members (elected & co-opted);
  • Section representatives in a running mandate;
  • Staff members.

Previous winners

2023 – Prof. Dr. Hans Köpp

Michael Hošek awards Dr. Matthias Köpp the Alfred Toepfer Medal honouring his late father at the EUROPARC Conference 2023. Picture: PDF-Grafie

As 2023 marked the 50th Anniversary of the EUROPARC Federation, our Council agreed the 2023 Alfred Toepfer Medal should be awarded to someone whose work has been fundamental to our organisation. That is why it was clear that the Alfred Toepfer Medal should be awarded to Prof. Dr. Hans Köpp, who worked alongside Alfred Toepfer in EUROPARC’s formative years in the 1970s. It was with great sadness, that EUROPARC was informed of the passing of Herr Köpp in June 2023. However, we were fortunate enough, to be able to invite his son Dr. Matthias Köpp to accept the award on his fathers’ behalf during the Award Ceremony at the EUROPARC Conference 2023 in Leeuwarden.

Read the full article, detailing Herr Köpp’s work, as well as the wonderful acceptance speech of his son here.

2022 – Purificació Canals i Ventín

Puri Canals represents the commitment to nature conservation through scientific knowledge and activism. Her work has been carried out on a local, national and international scale. Her drive for marine conservation, particularly in the Mediterranean, is outstanding.
Her social commitment to environmental issues and especially to nature conservation is evident in her frontline activist CV: President of DEPANA (association created in 1976 for the defence of Catalonia’s natural heritage), vice-president of IUCN (2005). Currently, she is president of MedPAN, the Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas Network, which aims to facilitate exchanges between Mediterranean marine protected areas in order to improve the efficiency of their management. Additionally, she is the Associate Professor of Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.
Moreover, she was the team leader of the EU project “Transatlantic partnership for MPAs” (2016-2019) and in particular coordinator of the twinning of networks of MPA managers. She is currently the team leader of the EU Ocean Governance project (2021-2023) that is related to cooperation between networks of MPA managers, resilience, marine mammals, restoration in South-East Asia.
An impressive CV, well-deserving of this recognition.

2019 – Kaja Lotman

Kaja Lotman, the Estonian champion in management of traditional semi-natural biotopes and conservation in a broader landscape. Among others, especially the idea of grazing on and restoring coastal meadows is attributed to Kaja Lotman as one of her most significant achievements. Next to her outstanding achievements in nature conservation in Estonia, she also enhanced conservation activities in various projects across Europe, including through the EUROPARC Federation network or as a member of UNEP/EUROBATS. She was the President of the EUROPARC Nordic-Baltic Section in 2012-2014 and member of EUROPARC Federation Council in 2014-2017. She currently works as a nature conservation advisor in Estonian Environmental Board.

Kaja played a key role in changing Matsalu Nature Reserve into a National Park, and with her excellent communication skills, she has been instrumental in the development of Estonian nature conservation system, especially promotion of participatory approach and cooperation networks. Read the full article about her inspiring achievements here.

2017 – Rauno Väisänen

Rauno Väisänen, alfred toepfer medal

Rauno Väisänen received the Alfred Toepfer Medal in 2017 at EUROPARC Conference in the Magic Mountains, Portugal

“Best practice through international cooperation” could be the motto of Rauno Väisänen. From Finland to the world, Rauno was for two terms member of EUROPARC Council and the first President of the EUROPARC Nordic-Baltic Section; had an important participation in the IUCN WCPA; and a member of the World Heritage Council. With a PhD in biology and a career dedicated to nature conservation in Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland, Rauno has helped in the development of the IUCN Management Categories and pioneered in the Management Effectiveness Evaluations, and was a great support to all protected area managers within the Nordic-Baltic Section, helping to build day-to-day connections and find common project ideas. Read a short bio of Rauno here.

2016 – Giuseppe Antoci

alfred toepfer medal, giuseppe antoci

Giuseppe Antoci was awarded the Alfred Toepfer Medal 2016 at EUROPARC Conference that took place in Parc jura Vaudois, Switzerland

Giuseppe Antoci, Director of the Nebrodi Regional Park in Sicily, Italy, was awarded the Alfred Toepfer Medal as a recognition of his strong courage in defense of nature against organised crime. Antoci is fighting the local mafia system that has spread in recent years and that allowed to receive European funds for the support of fake farmers and shepherds pretending to manage large areas of agricultural land. Therefore, he has adopted a specific legality protocol, the so-called “Antoci’s protocol”, that is now recognised as a successful model that has been signed by all Prefects and the President of the Region, and extended to the entire island. More about Antoci here.

2015 – Jane Hodges

Jane Hodges, receiving the Alfred Toepfer Medal at EUROPARC Conference 2015 © Jakub Kaspar

Jane Hodges has been recognised for her work with the  Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority,  National Park Authority and her contribution to nature conservation. A defining moment in Jane’s career came about in 1996 with the Sea Empress oil spill. Jane was a key member of the environment team in the Response Centre and the also task groups set up by the Sea Empress Environmental Committee in the aftermath. Jane was appointed an MBE in 1999 for Services to Ecology in Pembrokeshire.

2013 – Erika Stanciu

Erica Stanciu receiving the Medal at the 2014 Conference Ceremony in Hungary © Gábor Nagy

Thanks to the kind support of the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. (DE) the Alfred Toepfer Medal has been awarded in 2013 at EUROPARC 2013 Conference to Ms Erika Stanciu.

For her outstanding achievements in furthering nature conservation in Europe, and as a female role model to many in the Protected Areas community, the EUROPARC Federation in cooperation with the Alfred Toepfer Foundation F.V.S. awarded the Alfred Toepfer Medal 2013 to Erika Stanciu, former president of EUROPARC for six years, trainer and Protected Area expert in capacity building issues.

The achievements of our 2013 Alfred Toepfer Medal winner are numerous. As one of Europe’s leading conservationists, Erika Stanciu’s drive and vision for nature conservation contributed to the mobilization of NGOs and individuals for the designation of part of the Protected Areas that are now covering over 22% of the home country’s territory.  Moreover, the Protected Areas of the nominee’s country are covering some of the last remains of Europe’s wilderness.

Building environmental activism was not an easy feat in Romania, Erika Stanciu´s home country, due to the little tradition in political lobbying. Building a consortium of support had to include scientific credibility as well as community cooperation. Being able to straddle both aspects with educational background, our nominee was able to identify the opportunity to align with European community requirements and persuade those with an interest in nature to agree around this task.

Furthermore, Erika Stanciu understood perfectly the need for sufficient trained professionals and managers to sustain and coordinate the Protected Areas in Central Europe and thus, she created and developed ProPark Foundation, which is dedicated to strengthening Protected Area management, by providing professional training and support, in the same time encouraging and inspiring a new generation of young people, hungry for new ideas, training and networking in order to maintain the environmental activism.

2012 – Dr. Arthur Mitchell

One man makes a difference: Northern Ireland revealing a groundbreaking approach for Europe

Honoring his long-term commitment, participatory approach and success in the conservation of protected areas, the EUROPARC Federation in cooperation with the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. awarded the Alfred-Toepfer Medal 2012 to Dr. Arthur Mitchell of Mourne Heritage Trust.
At the heart of Dr Mitchell´s mission stands local ownership. Peoples´participation is the core of the community networks he initiated to protect and enhance natural landscapes, with income-generating opportunities through sustainable tourism and other activities. It was his unstinting commitment and dedicated approach that serve many as best practice example. Now, as an Alfred-Toepfer Medal holder, Arthur Mitchell´s strategy will reach out to even more people who combine nature conservation and landscape-based sustainable development.

As a General Medical Practitioner in one of Europe’s most beautiful areas, the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Dr Mitchell’s empathy for the local population and his awareness of the connection between people and landscape, led him into being a tireless campaigner for his beloved Mournes. In an exemplary way, he brought together many different stakeholders from the public and private sphere using his European connections and contacts to foster advocacy for designated areas in his home country. As a result, in 2003 Mourne Heritage Trust became the first area in the United Kingdom or Ireland that be awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST), the prestigious internationally recognized sustainable tourism system of EUROPARC. Dr. Mitchell also initiated the ground-breaking Mourne Homesteads Scheme, a community based project that encouraged local people and tourists to connect and won renowned awards from the UK Civic Trust and Europa Nostra (2007). His local development projects go hand in hand with the principles of emphasizing positive socio-economic impacts through sustainable development based on landscape qualities.

Dr. Mitchell´s rural development focus culminated in £10 million of the EU peace fund for Northern Ireland in 2004 being dedicated to sustainable tourism in five high quality landscape areas – a landmark achievement in challenging political circumstances. With his clear commitment, determination and vision, Dr. Mitchell has ever since been active in campaigning for enhanced investment in community based landscape management services by the government in Northern Ireland. His home region is one of – if not the only – jurisdiction in Western Europe yet to have a National Park or the equivalent.

The EUROPARC Federation and Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. recognize Dr. Mitchell´s outstanding contribution to connecting conservation with sustainable social, economic and environmental development which is intrinsic to the EUROPARC mission. His life-long efforts have now culminated in the EUROPARC´s Council decision to award Dr. Mitchell the Alfred Toepfer Medal 2012. Tony Gates, CEO of Northumberland National Park presented at the Gala dinner of the EUROPARC 2012 Conference in Genk (Belgium) Dr. Mitchell´s life journey with images from the greatest moments of the awardees’ work life.

Thomas Hansson, EUROPARC Federation president, proudly awarded the Alfred Toepfer Medal with the words: “With your continuous and most successful social and environmental vision are you stepping in the footprints of Dr. Alfred Toepfer. A connecting vision like yours proves to be of major importance in today´s times, and I am most honoured to award you in the name of the EUROPARC Federation and Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. We can think of no other person to receive the medal in 2012”.

2011 – Hans Biebelriether

At the EUROPARC Conference 2011 in Bad Urach, Germany, the prestigious Alfred Toepfer Award was won by Mr. Hans Biebelriether, who was nominated by the Bavarian Forest National Park (DE) and Czech Protected Areas. The laudation speech at the conference was given by Eberhardt Henne who has worked with Hans Biebelriether for a long time. The award went to Dr. Biebelrieter for his work in international relations in the field of nature protection and his work in shaping Protected Areas across Europe and at home in Germany.

The National Park Bavarian Forest is Dr Hans Bibelriether’s PhD life’s work.  Since its foundation in 1969, he initially headed the national park authority in charge of building up the national park; from 1979 up to his retirement in 1998 he led the newly formed National Park Administration. In those three decades, this forester PhD has worked hard and successfully for his vision to restore this largest protected forest area in Germany to primal forest.  It was under his leadership that this first German national park developed to be an outstanding and well known international nature reserve.

Dr Biebelriether has also worked intensively in the field of European protected area management and has had a considerable impact on many functions of the development of large protected areas in Europe. He was the Vice-President of EUROPARC from 1984 – 1988 and continued his work for the Federation as its Secretary General from 1988 – 1995 when he set up the headquarters. From 1986 to 1994 he was also the European Vice-Chairman of the National Parks Commission of IUCN (today World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)). In 1991 he played a lead role in the foundation of EUROPARC Germany and was its first chairman from 1991 to 1996. On top of that Dr Biebelriether was President of EUROPARC from 1996 to 1999.

Dr. Hans Bibelriether’s outstanding merits and his work in the following areas is commended with the Alfred Toepfer Award:

  • realising the idea of national parks under the motto he devised „Leave nature to be nature “ in Germany, advancing the idea of
  • national parks and the quality of protected area management on a European level,
  • developing the concept and setting up national parks in the former East of Germany,
  • high profile communication of natural history knowledge,
  • the exemplary development of structurally weak areas through large protected areas
  • the development of transboundary cooperation in the spirit of international understanding
  • initiating the programmes for exchange of experience and personnel between Europe, Asia and South America as well as the
  • development of partnerships between the protected areas,
  • this dedication as a consultant to the IUCN and the European Council in the field of nature protection, as  scientific advisor of
  • WWF Deutschland, as the member of the expert advisory board of Bund Naturschutz in Bavaria, Germany and evaluator of
  • projects for the German Federal Environment Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt) and being the author of numerous textbooks and the magazine NATIONALPARK first published in 1974

2010 –  Lassi Karivalo

The Alfred Toepfer Medal of the EUROPARC Federation was awarded at the Europarc 2010 Conference held in Abruzzo National Park in Italy to Senior Advisor Lassi Karivalo of Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services. Mr. Karivalo retired from the Finnish agency in the summer 2010.

Lassi Karivalo received the medal for a long and successful career in transboundary cooperation of Protected Areas. He helped develop the European certification system for transboundary parks called Transboundary Parks – Following Nature’s Design which was launched in 2003. He also helped initiate the network of certificated transboundary parks called the TransParcNet.

The Council of the Federation thanked Lassi Karivalo for his activities in launching the Nordic-Baltic Section in the early 2000s. The cooperation between Nordic and Baltic protected area professionals has evolved as a result of that. The section has also helped them learn good practices from each other and enhance the management of protected areas of their own. The Nordic-Baltic Section has also improved the flow of information within the area. The voice of the Nordic and Baltic protected areas is now better represented within the Europarc Federation.

“I am still very surprised, but at the same time proud of this distinction. I feel that the Medal is also a mark of appreciation for Finland’s Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services and its active role in international cooperation in nature conservation” said Lassi Karivalo.

2009 – Gordon Millar

2009’s successful nominee for the Alfred Toepfer Medal was Mr Gordon Millar who was nominated by Thomas Hansson from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Mr Hansson listed a number of Mr Millars achievements some of which can be seen below:

  • Mr Millar started his National Park career at the age of 12 whilst on a school trip two years after the establishment of the UKs first national park in 1952.
  • In 1968 get a full-time post with the Peak District National Park Warden Service, buys a house in Edale, in the heart of the National Park
  • During the 1970sMr Millar became an active member of the Association of countryside rangers. Promoting the value of ranger services coming together to exchange expertise and ideas.
  • He had a famous discussion with rangers from Scotland, United States and Denmark on a boat trip on Loch Lomand that led the following year to the formal inauguration of the International Ranger Federation
  • In 1992 he represented the Contryside Managers when the International Ranger Federation (IRF) was founded with a signed agreement between the Countryside Management Association (CMA), representing rangers in England and Wales; the Scottish Countryside Rangers Association (SCRA); and the U.S.Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR).
  • At 6:30 on the evening of Sunday, May 21, 1995, as chairman of the International Ranger Federation, officially opened the First World Ranger Congress with the raising of IRF’s flag – the green, blue and white ying-yang symbol.

2008 – Walter Frank

In 2008 the winner of the Medal was the retired Romanian forester Mr. Walter Frank who was nominated by EUROPARC Germany for his fantastic work with Romania’s ancient beech forests.

More information on the medal can be obtained from our directorate team.

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