50 Stories: Protecting Europe’s wild spaces

On April 29, 2011, WWF celebrated 50 years of environmental conservation. Join us as we highlight 50 stories in 50 days, looking back at what we’ve achieved together and looking forward to another 50 years.
What do you do when you need to “get away from it all”?
Maybe it’s long walks across rolling hills, swimming in a lake, listening to birdsong in the woods, or just chilling out on the beach?
There are many thousands of special natural places like this all across Europe. They’re a haven for wildlife and a slice of paradise for all of us.
But they’re also the foundation of our social and economic well-being, providing things we all depend on, like clean air and water, food, and protection against natural disasters.

Whiskered tern, Lake Skadar National Park, Montenegro (c) Wild Wonders of Europe/Milan Radisics/WWF
What’s at stake?
Preserving our precious natural spaces is vital for both humans and animals. If they disappear, we’ll not just be destroying a large part of what makes life worth living – we’ll be putting our own existence at risk.
We want to make sure that these amazing places are there for everyone, now and forever.
The story so far
Back in 1992, we supported a far-reaching European Community initiative to protect Europe’s wild places. This ambitious project was called Natura 2000. Its aim was to create a network of protected areas across Europe with all species and natural areas represented to help secure their future survival
Today, following huge efforts by WWF offices and other NGOs throughout Europe, 26,000 sites covering close to a million sq km across all 27 EU member states are now protected. The project now covers almost a fifth (18%) of Europe, making it the largest network of protected areas in the world.
Did you know?
All European wild birds are protected by law. Killing birds (except for sustainably managed hunting), destroying nests or taking their eggs is illegal, and EU countries have an obligation to protect their habitats.
Facts and stats

  • 26,000 – number of protected sites, including 230 types of habitat, in the Natura 2000 network
  • 18% – area of EU land protected
  • 27 – we’ve helped protect special natural places in all 27 EU member states.
  • 1000+ – species protected through Natura 2000

What next?
We’re really excited to have kept so many areas of Europe’s unique natural beauty unspoilt. Now we want to expand Natura 2000 so it protects Europe’s marine areas as well. That way, the creatures that live in our seas can enjoy the same kind of protection as wildlife on land.
Together, we can make sure that Europe’s special wild places remain special, and continue to provide us with the services we rely on, for years to come.
What you can do
The success of Natura 2000 came from people speaking up on behalf of wildlife and the places that they love.
By adding your voice to our campaigns, you can help the planet speak louder than ever and make more decision-makers take notice.
Supporting WWF isn’t just about donating money. By signing a petition, or writing to your local representatives about the issues you care about, you can help make a positive difference.
[link to Natura 2000 report site and https://wwf.panda.org/how_you_can_help/campaign/]
Discover our work in the Danube basin and Carpathian mountains, which contain some of Europe’s most spectacular wild places.
Be part of the celebration!