The Bern Convention celebrates its 40th anniversary

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Today, the Bern Convention turns 40 years old. To celebrate this remarkable date, a new campaign was launched to highlight the most inspiring results of 4 decades working for the preservation of nature.

Healthy nature for healthy Europeans

The Bern Convention, first signed on 19th September 1979, was the first international treaty to protect both species and habitats. Today, it celebrates its 40th anniversary with a slogan “Healthy nature for healthy Europeans” and a big awareness campaign.

The initiative reviews the achievements of the Convention through 40 inspiring stories which highlight the essential value this treaty brings for the conservation of our natural heritage.

40 inspiring stories of nature conservation

From helping save the few remaining leopards in the Caucasus to fighting invasive alien species or actively involving citizens in the protection of the environment, the actions of the convention have been turned into engaging stories that are available through the interactive website www.bernconvention40years.com. This initiative highlights the wide reach and long-term objectives of the convention, which has 51 Contracting Parties in 2019.

The campaign encompasses four main pillars of action:

  • Protecting biodiversity to maintain the delicate balance between the species in our ecosystems. This is exemplified by results such as the Plan for the Conservation and Recovery of the Osprey, which is helping to bring back this bird to the skies of Southern Europe.
  • Tackling environmental challenges such as climate change, invasive species and harmful human activities. The Convention contributes to this ambitious mission with initiatives like Not Alone, a campaign to raise awareness about the key role of biodiversity in counteracting climate change.
  • Raising public awareness and actively involving citizens in the protection of our natural heritage. An example of this is the complaint system of the Convention that allows every citizen to raise their voice and report harmful actions against the environment. Since the implementation of this system in 1984, nearly 200 signals and complaints have been processed.
  • Preserving our natural habitats and their vital role in hosting numerous species of animals and plants. As a remarkable example, the Emerald Network is an ecological network put forward by the Convention that includes over 3200 areas of special conservation interest in fifteen countries.

#HabitatHeroes Pioneers from the Bavarian Forest National Park

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Meet our #HabitatHeroes: Junior Rangers of the Bavarian Forest National Park

The Bavarian Forest National Park is the oldest national park in Germany. It is a largely forested medium-range mountain landscape which is highly characteristic for Central Europe. Thanks to the Park management that aims to protect natural processes, the forest has seen a successful reintroduction of the ural owl.

Tell us all about your “natural treasure”: Which is the species or habitat you learn and work with the most in your Protected Area?

Founded in 1970, the Bavarian Forest National Park has the task of preserving this valuable region as well as its natural and near-natural ecosystems as a place of natural heritage for current and future generations. The National Park is covered by around 98 percent forest. This includes mixed mountain forests, mountain spruce forests and alluvial spruce forests. In addition, the Bavarian Forest National Park also contains peatlands, open rock faces and historic high-level pastures. In the National Park, the aim is to protect the natural process of genesis, growth and decay. This also includes allowing trees fallen by storms or bark beetles to remain part of the natural cycle. This not only offers extra light, it also adds valuable structure to the forest. As a result, many sometimes highly endangered species can enjoy improved living conditions and/or more abundant sources of food. The gaps in the canopy also ensure that the next generation of forest flora can develop according to its own ancient laws – in turn allowing the pristine forest of tomorrow to emerge.Therefore, the National Park is home to thousands of species.

What is special about it?

One of these species is the ural owl (Strix uralensis). In the area of the Bavarian Forest, the ural owl went extinct in 1925. Thanks to the reintroduction attempts in the Bavarian Forest National Park since 1975, several breeding pairs are again native in the park with numbers steadily increasing. The administration also installed large nesting boxes. The loss of natural breeding opportunities and hunting were the main reasons for the disappearance of the species in the Bohemian Forest. Ural owls need large broken and decomposing tree trunks in mixed mountain forests. Today, these can only be found on a small scale in areas with very old trees. Within the park area, these structures are emerging again and in 1989, the first breeding pair nested on a broken tree trunk. Nevertheless, the national park administration still installs nesting boxes for ural owls which are also used by other bird species.

Describe to us what you and your fellow Junior Rangers are doing/will do to learn more and protect your natural treasure. Do you even teach others?

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the EU Birds Directive. To mark this anniversary, several events took place. The National Park hosted an event specially dedicated to the ural owl and the Junior Rangers prepared information material for the guests and politicians.

To do so, we had several meetings before the big event. We started in spring with a calling survey. We met in the evening and discussed the various owls living in the national park and listened to their calls. When it got dark, we drove to various places in the park and played their calls over a loudspeaker, listening for answers. And we were lucky! An ural owl answered.

In the next meeting, we discussed their habitat and built a nesting box for ural owls. The nesting box features three holes one to the front and two at the sides of the box so that the adult owl can look for potential dangers. It also features a mirror on the ceiling of the box so that researchers can have a safe look into the box without disturbing the animals.

Next up, we even got to participate in the ringing of young ural owls! Ringing them helps us identify the individual owls later on.

In the last meeting, we prepared some information material and a plan for the big event.

At the event, we had four stations where we showed the guests the nesting boxes and bird preparations as well as loudspeakers with their sounds and explained about the ural owl and its habitat. We were honoured as NATURA2000 ambassadors and received a certificate for our efforts to inform and protect NATURA2000 habitats and species.

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How to learn more and keep track of #HabitatHeroes campaign activities?

Since 2018 we are “mapping the field” and raising awareness for the great work Junior Ranger groups are currently doing for threatened flora, fauna and habitats in Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites in particular.

  • Visit the “Habitat Heroes” campaign website: For now, we are thrilled to introduce you to our Habitat Hero campaign pioneers – groups already taking action. You will find a growing map and overview of Junior Ranger groups.
  • Besides, you will meet our “Habitat Heroes” in dedicated articles – make sure you follow our news!
  • Keep an eye on social media – the #HabitatHeroes will provide you with exciting updates from our Junior Ranger groups that take part in the campaign. Don’t forget to share their actions!

Want to join the campaign? We are happy to learn about your conservation action – just drop us a mail: [email protected]

‘A Sustainable Journey’ by EUROPARC needs your votes at the ART&TUR Festival!

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A Sustainable Journey, film on sustainable tourism produced by EUROPARC Federation in the framework of the CEETO Interreg Central Europe project, has been nominated for the Best Documentary at the ART&TUR Festival.

Vote for ‘A Sustainable Journey’!

This year, the International Tourism Film Festival implemented a public voting system in order to select the winners in 3 different categories: Best Tourism Film (International Competition), Best Tourism Film (National Competition) and Best Documentary.

EUROPARC’s film is nominated for the Best Documentary, and we count on you to vote for us!

To vote, the process is simple: access the link “Public Voting” and choose one of 3 ways to enter: Facebook, Google or Twitter. After entering, select the category – Documentaries. A Sustainable Journey is the first on the list, and you vote by clicking “like”. The voting is open from September 9th and it will close on October 9th!

A Sustainable Journey – The Film

The 9 minutes short film portrays the story of a traveler seeking to escape the pressures of everyday life to a different kind of tourism that he believes will be good for nature and good for him too. The objective of the film is to raise awareness among travelers and local communities on the importance of sustainable tourism.

For the production of this movie, sustainable industries and local producers certified with the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism were meticulously selected and recorded in order to lead with the example for future sustainable destinations.

The full movie was released on the European Parliament in November 2018, with parallel screenings in the different regions that take part in the CEETO Interreg Central Europe project. You can see the movie and download a copy of the Promotional Material adapted for web distribution in 5 different languages (English, German, Italian, French and Spanish) on CEETO webpage A Sustainable Journey – The Film.

12º ART&TUR

Since its 1st edition in Barcelos in 2008, the ART&TUR Festival follows the mission of making known to the world the best audiovisual productions in Portugal and in the world. This year, the 12th edition of the Festival will take place from 22nd to 25th October 2019 in Torres Vedras, Portugal. Read more about it here.

Stronger with Youth: EUROPARC Youth+ Camp 2019

International Youth+ Camp 2019

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The 3rd edition of the International Youth+ Camp was kindly hosted by the Kullaberg Nature Reserve, in Sweden. Over a week, 20 youngsters from across Europe came together to put in practice their conservation skills, but also to gain new communication & advocacy techniques and, together, further develop the Youth+ Programme. This is their story.

The wild treasures of Kullaberg

On the 3rd August, a sunny Helsingborg welcomed the youth participants, coming from the UK, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Estonia, and Germany for an unforgettable week. Between hugs and smiles – as many participants knew each other from past International Junior Ranger Camps – and shy hellos amongst those who were joining such event from the 1st time, the youth headed to Kullaberg Nature Reserve.

Kullaberg is simply an amazing place: imagine an entire peninsula protected, covering many inland and marine Natura 2000 sites, with a large community of porpoises living in its waters, and biodiverse forests. The first day was dedicated to discovering its wildest secrets: hiking, swimming and going on a porpoise Safari! Tor Larsson, the leader of Kullaberg’s Junior Rangers, was a great help locally, making the connection with the Park authority and guiding them through incredible places in Kullaberg.

>>>>>> See the full photo album here <<<<<<

Parks are #StrongerWithYouth!

An important component of each international Junior Ranger or Youth+ Camp is to give a direct contribution to nature… This means, joining a specific conservation-related activity with the Park authority. In Kullaberg, they have built a stone wall from scratch in less than 4 hours! Yes, they are strong…and have a huge will to work!

The stone wall was needed to smoothly conduct visitors towards an alternative path recently created, as a tranche of it was hardly eroded, and could put visitor’s safety at risk. According to Jimena Castillo, project manager at the Kullaberg Nature Reserve authority, “the identification of problematic tranches and the establishment of alternative paths was one of the measures of our Visitor Mobility Plan, a key component of our Sustainable Tourism Strategy”.

Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Sweden, suatianble tourism, sustainable destination

Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Sweden

Since 2017, the Reserve is part of EUROPARC’s network of Sustainable Destinations with the implementation of the Charter for Sustainable Tourism methodology.

With the new stonewall, visitors are now naturally directed to the alternative path, giving nature a chance to regenerate and providing visitors a safer, and more comfortable, hiking experience. After many (heavy) stones lifted and moved, bushes removed and a new drainage waterway dug, they’ve returned to the base camp happily exhausted. Mission accomplished!

Empowering Youth

Becoming a nature ambassador requires some soft skills too… Within the Youth+ programme, EUROPARC is preparing a set of guidelines to help Protected Areas engaging youth and provide them training opportunities.

Besides the conservation technical background, leadership, communication, and advocacy skills are fundamental for our future – and present – nature stewards.

One of the afternoons, provided with the proper gear to (safely) capture sea animals, they spent an afternoon catching and identifying marine species. The objective? Widening their knowledge on the local fauna and flora, but also a chance to engage with the curious visitors and put their nature advocacy skills into practice.

Although they’ve spent much of their time outdoors, there was also time to learn new communication skills, indoor. Thea Peters from IVN facilitated a Storytelling workshop where their creativity was challenged… They created their own stories, wrote, drew and even performed!

Later, Bárbara Pais, our communications and marketing manager, led a Communications training session. The practical challenge was to define a communications plan for the Youth+ programme, a task that the participants took with great dedication. A good range of ideas and tools where discussed, and we have now a group of committed youngsters willing to support communication activities.

But more people are needed! So if you feel like giving your time and contribution to the Youth+, drop us an email to youth @ europarc.org.

Meanwhile, you can keep up with the programme updates following the Youth+ on Facebook.

Youth+: where did it all start?

When a whole generation of very committed Junior Rangers turned 18 (the Junior Ranger programme runs from 12 to 18), they wondered “why can’t I keep involved with my Park?”. After they’ve expressed their will to continue engaged with their Park, EUROPARC decided it was time to give them a voice…

In 2013, the first Youth Conference ran side by side with the EUROPARC Conference, in Hungary, and the yoputh message was clear “we wanted to be heard!”. Later, in 2015, the first Youth+ Camp took place in Aiguestortes National Park (Spain) and the principles of the Youth+ Programme were founded. In 2016, the EUROPARC Council invited a youth representative to join the Council, bringing the perspective of young people into the strategic decisions of EUROPARC. Laura Peters has been the Youth representative at EUROPARC Council since then. Together with her peers, she formed the Youth Council, which is aimed to be a network of young people committed with the implementation of the Youth+ programme from all over Europe.

Then, in 2018, EUROPARC launched the Youth Manifesto, a call for change in rural communities and protected areas to consider the needs of young people, and provide them opportunities to be more actively involved in the community. The Manifesto, made by youth from across Europe, is now being implemented by Protected Areas authorities who have, for instance, started Youth Councils like in the Prealpi Giulie Nature Park, or created steering committees to have young people involved in the governance structures of the Park, as they did in the Cairngorms National Park.

Besides giving voice to young people across Europe and promoting the implementation of the Manifesto, EUROPARC’s biggest contribution to its implementation is the establishment of the Youth+ Programme across European Protected Areas.

Meanwhile, our youth have already taken the lead… Laura and the EUROPARC Youth Council, have put into practice their leadership skills with the organisation of this International Youth+ Camp 2019. The activities were organised by them, with great logistic support from IVN, our member from the Netherlands responsible for the implementation of the Junior Ranger programme there.

A huge thank you to IVN for all the support, and to the Kullaberg Nature Reserve team for hosting the Camp. A special thank you to Tor and the Kullaberg Junior Rangers who made it an amazing experience!