A European network of large well-managed wilderness protected areas
Source: PAN Parks Foundation
The Protected Area Network (PAN) of Parks is a network of certified protected areas in Europe in accord with the PAN Parks Foundation quality standards. PAN Parks showcase examples of best practices in wilderness management, working with local communities and offering a unique wilderness experience to visitors. PAN Parks protect Europe’s most undisturbed areas of nature, setting a benchmark for high standards in protected area management. The PAN Parks Foundation is responsible providing the certification for such areas, using a system under WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) Framework for Management Effectiveness.
Parks are certified on the basis of 5 principles:1
- Natural values – PAN Parks are large protected areas, representative of Europe’s natural heritage and of international importance for wildlife and ecosystems.
- Habitat management – Design and management of the PAN Park aims to maintain and, if necessary, restore the area’s natural ecological processes and its biodiversity.
- Visitor management – Visitor management safeguards the natural values of the PAN Park and aims to provide visitors with a high-quality experience based on the appreciation of nature.
- Sustainable tourism development – The Protected Area Authority and its relevant partners in the PAN Parks region aim to achieve a synergy between nature conservation and sustainable tourism by developing and jointly implementing a Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy.
- Tourism business partners – PAN Parks’ tourism business partners as legal enterprises that are committed to the goals of certified PAN Parks and the PAN Parks Foundation, and actively cooperate with Local PAN Parks Group to implement the PAN Park region’s Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy effectively.
All certified PAN Parks include a significant wilderness in their core, which is defined as “ an area of at least 10 000 hectares of land or sea, which together with its native plant and animal communities and their associated ecosystems, is in an essentially natural state. ” These wilderness areas are those lands that have been least modified by man, and they represent the most intact and undisturbed expanses of Europe’s remaining natural landscapes.
The Foundations also actively supports European protected area managers to meet PAN Parks quality standards and link them to a European-wide network with opportunities to exchange expert ideas.
PAN Parks Foundation
Year of creation
PAN Parks Foundation began in 1999, with the first three PAN Parks in 2002.
Regional (European) network of marine and terrestrial sites. First Pan Park was certified in 2002. In 2010 there were 11 certified PAN Parks that together cover 213,073 hectares of wilderness area.1
There are a set of criteria and indicators against which sites are assessed for inclusion based on the five principles above. These include (among others):1
- The area is adequately protected by means of an enforced act or decree or private initiative, and regulations protecting the area are adequately enforced
- The protected area is of European-wide importance for the conservation of biological diversity and contains excellent examples of original natural ecosystems in Europe (includes the protection of internationally threatened or endangered species and/or habitats)
- The minimum size of the protected area is 20,000 hectares and it has an ecologically un-fragmented wilderness area of at least 10,000 hectares where no extractive uses are permitted and where the only management interventions are those aimed at maintaining or restoring natural ecological processes and the ecological integrity.
- The area surrounding the protected area does not adversely impact the conservation objectives and visitor experience within the protected area.
- The protected area management system pays particular attention to threatened and endemic species and habitats, and to ecosystem dynamics.
Management of these sites is carried out by the agency in charge of each protected area (see factsheet on IUCN Protected Area Categories for information on governance types). Certification requires that regulations protecting the area are adequately enforced. The following human activities are not allowed within the wilderness zone of certified parks: such as hunting, fishing, mining, logging, grazing, agriculture, grass cutting, road and building construction.2
The only management interventions accepted within wilderness areas are those aimed at maintaining or restoring natural ecological processes and ecological integrity. These are wilderness determined restoration and controlled and sustainable tourism.
Legal and compliance: All certified PAN Parks are protected through national legislation, which is a requirement of receiving certification. The current list includes national parks of 9 countries. PAN Parks Foundation provides international marketing to its network of protected areas in order to increase the visibility and recognition of these areas throughout Europe. The international marketing also helps to provide even further benefits to the local residents. As the national legislation varies from country to country the business proposals and hence compliance are directly dealt by the management of the concerned Certified PAN Park or the management of PAN Parks Foundation. PAN Parks Foundation does not promote and accept any extractive use within the wilderness zone of the parks. Other human activities such as: hunting, fishing, logging, grazing, agriculture, grass cutting, road and building construction are also not allowed within the wilderness zone of PAN parks. 2 Although often not explicitly referred to, their status as legally designated protected areas affords these sites further protection under a number of international safeguard standards of multilateral finance institutions such as the International Finance Corporation, as well as certification scheme standards (see information on IUCN protected area categories for further information about these standards).
Biodiversity: PAN Parks are important areas for conservation of Europe’s biodiversity and they make a key contribution to achieving the EU biodiversity targets. The criteria make reference to the presence of highly vulnerable species and habitats, and based on inclusion of an un-fragmented wilderness area they are also likely to contain many irreplaceable biodiversity features. These areas are important for their ability to preserve species and habitats that are dependent for their survival on large relatively remote areas. Because of their size they can support more extensive gene pools for long term species sustainability, and provide opportunity for adaptation and migration in response to climate change, enabling development of more resilient ecosystems. While these areas are site-scale and therefore able to inform business decisions on the ground, these are relatively large sites of which the wilderness area is of most importance in terms of avoidance and mitigation strategies.
Socio-cultural: Involvement of local communities in protection, use and management is one of the key as the criteria for the PAN Parks. Certified PAN Parks can also host income earning tourism and social therapy activities. Tourism as a non-extractive use is promoted within PAN Parks for three different reasons: a) it is an income generation mechanism for the protected areas, b) it is an income generation tool for the local residents, which would then lead to decreased conflicts between protected area managers and local communities, and c) it is a tool to educate visitors and increase awareness among urban residents about the importance of wilderness conservation in Europe.
- The PAN Parks Foundation website
- PAN Parks Principles and Criteria. January 2008, PAN Parks.
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