EUROPARC Webinar, 1.12: Spotlight on Youth

Published on:

We invite you to the next EUROPARC webinar “Spotlight on Youth – Creating opportunities for young people in and around Protected Areas”.

The webinar

Young people are the future of Protected Areas in Europe.

As such, EUROPARC believes our Parks and Protected Areas should make sure that young people have a role in shaping and building this future, today. After all, youngsters can make a great contribution to their local community when encouraged to participate in nature orientated events – and Protected Areas are well-placed to give them this opportunity.

The EUROPARC Youth Manifesto, launched in 2018, paved a way with clear visions of a future built together with youth, Protected Areas and local municipalities. Since then, there have been many initiatives to implement these visions on local levels.

In this webinar we want to showcase three examples where Protected Areas have implemented various projects to increase opportunities for young people to take up active roles in their Protected Areas and local communities. Get inspired, and see how your Protected Area can support and empower youth, to create the green future of tomorrow!

The Programme

Welcome and Introduction
Jessica Micklem-Kolenić, EUROPARC Federation

The Cairngorms Youth Action Team
Iona Kellas, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

The International Youth+ Volunteer Summer Experience
Johanna Ugander, Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Sweden

The Up Skill Down Dale Programme
Caroline Hall, Yorkshire Dales National Park, England

Discussion with Participants

The Speakers

Iona Kellas in the snow with her little dog

Iona Kellas
Cairngorms Youth Action Team member, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

Iona has been active in the Cairngorms National Park as a Junior Ranger since she was 12 years old. Her passion for nature and the Protected Area led her to continue her engagement as a member of the Cairngorms Youth Action Team for the last 3 years.

Johanna Ugander
Nature Guide at Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Sweden

Johanna loved the experience of working with a mixture of different ages, cultures and countries which took place at this year’s pilot Youth+ volunteering in Sweden. She is looking forward to having more opportunities to work with international Youth+ in the future. As a nature guide, Johanna works on getting people as excited about nature as she is.

Caroline Hall
Youth Volunteer Officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, England

Caroline is passionate about working with young people, especially groups who face barriers to accessing nature. She is also an experienced mental health practitioner and forest school practitioner and feels very lucky to be able to work outside with brilliant groups of young people!

Jessica Micklem-Kolenić
Youth Officer at the EUROPARC Federation

Jessica is passionate about meaningful youth engagement and has been volunteering as a youth activist in European and International biodiversity policy spaces. Her main task at EUROPARC is to support the administration and implementation of various youth activities across all of EUROPARC’s initiatives.

Sacred nature in Iceland by Rosie Corner

Helgafell - Sacred Mountain

Published on:

Every year, the Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship supports the work of young conservationists in Protected Areas across Europe. In this article, Rosie Corner, Place Plan Officer for Shropshire Council, and winner of the Scholarship in 2020 details her research into Sacred Natural Sites. Her report is available at the bottom of this page.

Article written by Rosie Corner.

In June 2022, with the generous support of the Alfred Toepfer Institute, I spent two weeks in Iceland researching my report into Sacred Natural Sites: areas of land or water having special spiritual significance to people and communities.

My trip took place in Þingvellir National Park, Vatnajokull National Park and Snæfellsjökull National Park as well as many more of Iceland’s 120+ protected areas.

I believe that sacred nature should matter to protected area managers because:

  1. More than three quarters of the world’s population consider themselves to hold some sort of religious belief. When people of faith visit protected areas they bring their belief systems with them, and this can impact how they perceive, experience and act towards the natural world. By building their religious literacy, protected area managers can engage better with people of faith and build towards better outcomes for nature.
  2. Protected area managers have the power to influence people’s beliefs about the value of the natural world. Regardless of whether or not a visitor to a protected area considers him/herself to be religious or spiritual, they have the ability to perceive nature as sacred: something which is too important to be changed. People who perceive their natural surroundings as sacred are more likely to take care of them.

The report you are about to read provides an introduction to the many ways in which a spiritual reading of the landscape and its non-human inhabitants can aid protected area management and enrich the visitor experience. The report is structured around Ninian Smart’s ‘dimensions of the sacred’: a framework which captures the broad and encompassing nature of religion. These are:

  1. Philosophical
  2. Ritual
  3. Narrative
  4. Experiential
  5. Ethical
  6. Social
  7. Material

In each section, I describe how these dimensions can be seen at play in protected areas and present an Icelandic case study to illustrate my ideas. The report ends with a manifesto of ten ways in which seeing nature as sacred can enrich protected areas.

Sacred nature in protected areas: A Manifesto 

  1. Make the retail offer sustainable and meaningful. Every souvenir purchased from a protected area should become a treasured possession that encourages repeat visits and in depth engagement.

    Artic Henge

  2. Organise and promote activities that cater for visitors of different faiths.
  3. Accept that engaging spiritually is one of the many different ways for visitors to experience a protected area. The more diverse the experiences that are available, the better the visitor offer.
  4. Make your code of conduct clear, attractive and connected to people’s spiritual value systems.
  5. Recognise that people are more likely to donate their time, energy and money to causes that resonate with them on a spiritual level.
  6. Provide places for people to experience complex emotions during challenging life stages.
  7. Acknowledge and promote the fact that protected areas are some of our greatest pieces of cultural heritage and markers of nationhood.
  8. View all protected area stakeholders as part of a congregation of owners, users and facilitators.
  9. Create opportunities for people of all faiths and none to celebrate important life events in inspirational surroundings.
  10. Under the Human Rights Act everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. When nature becomes sacred, access to it becomes a human right.

Read Rosie’s full report

You can find all previous winners of the Alferd Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship here.

Welcome to our new Transboundary Area: The European Nature Park of Scarpe Escaut Plains!

Representatives of the Park Lisa Bardot and Raymond Zingraff receive the certification at the EUROPARC Conference 2022

Published on:

At the Award Ceremony during the EUROPARC Conference 2022 in France, we were happy to welcome a new member to our Transboundary Parks Programme: The European Nature Park of Scarpe Escaut Plains. Get to know them in this article!

A territory shaped by the Scarpe and the Escaut rivers

The European Nature Park brings together the Scarpe-Escaut Regional Nature Park (PNRSE in France) and the Escaut Plains Nature Park (PNPE in Belgium). This territory has maintained a rural and natural character with many meadows, forests and wetlands, but is under pressure from the surrounding urban areas. At the intersection of major urban poles (Lille metropolis, Valencian, Douaisian and Tournaisian poles), its high population density, its industrial, mining, and natural heritage make it an atypical territory. It covers:

  • On the French side: 55 municipalities representing a population of 190,000 inhabitants in the districts of Valenciennes and Douai.
  • On the Walloon side: 7 communal entities (71 villages) for a population of 102,000 inhabitants in the districts of Ath and Tournai.

Visit the official website here.

Natural, cultural and landscape heritage

Owl at Scarpe Escaut

In terms of biodiversity, the lower valleys of the Scarpe and the Escaut rivers have wetlands of great ecological value. This includes marshes and alkaline peatlands, as well as natural or artificial ponds, which were, amongst others, created due to mining activities. Furthermore, the area has intensive or extensive wet meadows, alluvial forests and humid forests.

The hydrographic network is largely artificialized and restored. As such, it is dense and complex. These water-related environments are recognised as being of ecological interest at regional, national, European and international level (Ramsar site “Scarpe and Escaut Valley” in France and “Marais d’Harchies” in Wallonia).

There are 7500 ha of forests. Woods, poplar groves, alluvial forests and hedges. Rows of trees and orchards are sharing the space in the heart of the territory.

The European Nature Park also has a cultural heritage related to the history of abbeys on the territory (Ramsar labeling), as well as mining (UNESCO classification). This is one of the particularities of this territory, since it is a natural area that has always been inhabited, it constitutes a real «living landscape».

Long-standing cross-border cooperation

Bikepaths at Scarpe Escaut, Photo: Office du Tourisme de Bernissart

It was in 1983 that the cooperation between the two territories was formalized by the signing of a memorandum of understanding associating Wallonia and Nord-Pas de Calais for the creation of a “supra-border” nature park. It is thanks to various projects supported by the European Union in particular that the joint work between the two parks has been strengthened.

In 2010, as part of the renewal of the framework document of the Scarpe Escaut Regional Nature Park, the first cross-border charter (2010-2022) was signed and associated the Escaut Plaines Nature Park with the missions of the French Park.

Finally, it is in 2021 that the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation of the European Nature Park of Scarpe Escaut Plains was created, which should make it possible to overcome the political, administrative and financial obstacles. Furthermore, it should act as an interface between local issues and decisions taken at a higher level.

Parks Rewarded

At the Award Ceremony, EUROPARC was also happy to honour the Parks that have renewed their commitment to the Transboundary Programme. These are the:

  • Maas-Schwalm-Nette Nature Park on the border of Germany and the Netherlands;
  • Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland between Germany and the Czech Republic;
  • Neusiedler See – Seewinkel & Fertö-Hansag National Parks in Austria and Romania.

It brings us great join to see our Transboundary Programme continuously growing. Welcome to all candidates, new and old!

NaturaConnect website is online!

Mas Larrieu National Reserve, France, Copyright EUROPARC Federation, Credit Lee Kershaw

Published on:

Europe needs healthy ecosystems that benefit biodiversity and people and are resilient to climate change. The Horizon Europe NaturaConnect Project will support European Union governments and other public and private institutions in designing a coherent, resilient and well-connect Trans-European Nature Network.

Protecting and connecting nature across Europe

EUROPARC Federation is bringing its wealth of experience of Protected Areas by joining a new consortium under the Horizon applied research project NaturaConnect. The activities started in July 2022 and will run until June 2026.

What is the background for the NaturaConnect project?

In October 2020, European Union Member States committed to legally protect a minimum of 30% of the European Union’s land and sea area and to strictly protect at least a third of these protected areas. This is expected to contribute to the European Green Deal’s goal of preserving and restoring Europe’s natural capital as well as taking a leading role in the Post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Framework.

One of the cornerstones of this strategy is to develop a coherent Trans-European Nature Network (TEN-N) to function as a connected system through ecological corridors with natural and semi-natural areas. If appropriately managed, this can deliver a wide range of benefits for biodiversity and people.

To help the European Union and its Member States to realize their ambitious strategy for protected areas, the European Union Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme funded the NaturaConnect project. NaturaConnect brings together 22 partner institutions*. The coordination is jointly managed by the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

What does the project team do?

The project partners. Click on the image to enlarge

Working closely with protected area managers, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders, the project team will conduct research, engagement, and dissemination activities across Europe to identify the best areas to protect and connect to preserve biodiversity and adapt to climate change. The team will also work with national and sub-national nature conservation agencies and other stakeholders within six case studies to test and refine their approaches and inform local ongoing conservation efforts. One such example is the Carpathian-Danube region, where NaturaConnect will evaluate the connectivity design and implementation challenges in a trans-boundary area encompassing ten different European Union countries.

What are the project aims?

The project aims to:

  1. Support planning authorities, by collecting and making accessible the best available data and tools to assess biodiversity and the benefits to people
  2. Provide input to planning authorities into the design of an effective Trans-European Nature Network by anticipating future developments in climate and land use conditions that may limit or enable the development of such a network
  3. Identify alternative configurations of protected areas and corridors based on preferences related to policy targets
  4. Identify opportunities and challenges to the implementation of the network, mechanisms, and instruments of implementation, particularly financial instruments and ways to mitigate barriers through extensive dialogue with practitioners, capacity building, and decision support
  5. Showcase applications of the protected area network design through case studies

Who are the 22 partners?

Our partnership includes:

International Institute for Applied System Analysis (project lead; Austria); German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (project co-lead; Germany); Associacao Biopolis (Portugal); BirdLife Europe (Netherlands); Birdlife International (United Kingdom); Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique (France); Doñana Research Station – Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior De Ivestigaciones Cientificas (Spain); EUROPARC Federation (Germany); Finnish Environment Institute (Finland); Humboldt-University of Berlin (Germany); Institute for European Environmental Policy (Belgium); Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Netherlands); Rewilding Europe (Netherlands); University of Evora (Portugal); University of Helsinki (Finland); University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (Austria); University of Rome La Sapienza (Italy); University of Warsaw (Poland); Vrie University of Amsterdam (Netherlands); WWF Central and Eastern Europe (Austria); WWF Romania and WWF Hungary.

Where can I get more information?

The project has a new website, where you can get detailed information about the work of the partners leading different technical areas and case studies as well as publications and research opportunities!

You can also follow the project on LinkedIn and Twitter