The Prague conference was an exciting new step in the drive to protect the remaining 1% of Europe’s land that is still wild, with sincere congratulations hanks to the visionary chairmanship of Ladislav Miko (currently the Czech Minister of Environment), and the organizing team headed by Toby Aykroyd (Vice Chair, Wilderness Foundation, UK) and Zoltan Kun (Director, PanParks). The main outcomes of the conference are contained in the Polselstivi (Message) from Prague, and the follow up work is well underway, the results of which can be followed on the Wild Europe website.
Following the conference, accompanied by WILD Chairperson Charlotte Baron and German environmental journalist Till Meyer, I was hosted jointly by the Sumava National Park and the Bayerisherwald (Bavarian) National Park for a site visit their adjoining parks – what is called The WILD Heart of Europe. They are working together on what amounts to the first transboundary wilderness area in Europe. The visit to both parks was as exciting as it was informative. This visionary example of natural resource management has been on-going since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and protects critical habitat under a wilderness management regime, including wetlands, mountain plateau, old-growth forest, and the impressive Bayerisherwald’s interpretive center, Haus auf Wildnes – likely the best wilderness interpretive center I’ve ever seen!
I’ve travelled the world for 35 years visiting national parks, forests, and wilderness areas, and what has been achieved in the Haus zur Wildnis does not exist anywhere else in the world. It is designed in such a fantastic way – conveying to people the important material and nonmaterial values of wilderness. I congratulate the leaders in the Bayerischer Wald and Sumava who saw the need for and acted to create this world-class facility. Given the important philosophical need to reconcile humankind with wild nature, coupled with the important role of wilderness in mitigating climate change, this facility represents the future of innovative environmental interpretation.