Americans have Yellowstone and Yosemite, but Europeans seeking to enjoy their natural heritage often find themselves at a loss. Timber companies still rule in Poland’s Bialowieza Forest, the last primeval forest in Central and Western Europe, and logging and hunting are allowed in Duna-Drava National Park, Central Europe’s largest lowland riverine forest. Without a cohesive, continent-wide policy on preserving natural areas, Europe faces a crisis in natural preservation. In response, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Dutch Leisure Company Molecaten Group have established the Protected Area Network (PAN) Parks Initiative, which aims to create economic incentives for nature conservation throughout Europe. Building partnerships with environmental organizations, travel agencies, businesses, and other interest groups, PAN Parks has established a European-wide network of ten protected wilderness areas of at least fifty acres.
The organization recently launched its Gateway to Bialowieza project, which enables tourists to help preserve the endangered Polish forest by booking a “green” adventure trip. PAN Parks hopes to bring more dollars to the area to improve nature management and tourism facilities of the park and provide English-language training to park employees and fax machines to facilitate online booking. “WWF and PAN Parks recognize the pressing need to proactively deal with tourism so that it does not imply a threat to conservation, but can rather create new opportunities for conservation based on long-term partnerships between all stakeholders,” states Vladivoj Vancura of PAN Parks. Adds Ireneusz
Chojnacki, WWF Poland director: “Bialowieza National Park stands as a natural heritage site of European importance, but it is in great need of increased public and political support.”
For more information, log on to www.panparks.org