The EUROPARC Federation began its journey towards the gathering of protected areas in Europe in 1973 and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary! Today, it has over 400 members from 80 countries, not only from Europe, but also from other areas outside its borders.
The EUROPARC Federation placed our Plitvice Lakes National Park on its map of protected areas shortly after its foundation, when the 3rd session of the General Assembly of the Federation’s members was held at the Plitvice Lakes. We found an entry about this in the Plitvički Vjesnik gazette from September/October 1976, where it is stated that there were as many as 80 participants from 17 countries. That 3rd session was preceded in 1975 by the visit of the general president of EUROPARC, Dr. Herbert Offner to Croatia and the National Park when it was agreed that the Plitvice Lakes National Park would host the meeting of the EUROPARC Federation and its members.
Later, the excellent cooperation with the EUROPARC Federation continued in the following years, so that a conference would be held in the National Park again for the 10th anniversary, as we have already written about.
The celebration of the 50th anniversary of this Federation was held with a Conference of members and like-minded people in the Netherlands in Leeuwarden on October 2 until October 7, and on this occasion, almost the entire membership gathered. The Conference was opened by the General Assembly of EUROPARC and members with the adoption of amendments to the Statute, acceptance of various reports and a workshop under the theme “What does EUROPARC mean to us?” in the well-known World Café model. The Conference continued with dynamic work with various thematic workshops covering management of protected areas, climate change, and visitor management, followed by panel discussions and invited lectures, as well as short presentations of active projects. The common theme of this conference was “Tribute to our landscape – where nature and people meet in harmony”. On that occasion, it was emphasized that our ego-centric approach to nature and biological diversity should be changed and an eco-centric approach should be accepted, where man is in harmony with the nature that surrounds him. A special opportunity in communication was given to young people who are gathered within the EUROPARC Federation in the Youth+ and Junior Ranger programs, and who announced the opening of a public call for access to the Youth Council within EUROPARC. This would further strengthen the position of young people in this Federation and ensured better visibility and representation in important issues of the Federation. A traditional part of every Conference are fieldtrips to the protected areas of the country hosting the Conference, so the participants had the opportunity to visit individual Dutch protected areas and find out what challenges they face. Agreements such as the one between the Sections and the Agreement with the Rewilding Europe organization were also signed, and traditionally the Alfred Toepfer scholarship was awarded to three young researchers and employees of protected areas. It was also announced that this scholarship tradition would be continued by EUROPARC independently in the coming years.
A special honor was given to Prof. Dr. Hans Köpp with a posthumous award of the Alfred Toepfer medal. In the recorded message, respected Dr. Köpp highlighted the beginnings of the EUROPARC Federation, the establishment of the European Bulletin magazine, and messages and reflections directed at protected areas, threats such as climate change and loss of biodiversity, as well as reflections on the future of both the Federation and protected areas. We are particularly proud of the mention of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which highlights our long tradition of presence in the EUROPARC Federation as part of European protected areas, for whose excellent cooperation one of the prominent employees of our National Park, B.Sc. Engineer Josip Movčan was accountable.
On the occasion of EUROPARC’s 50th anniversary, the online storybook “Nature Knows No Boundaries” was published, which you can view and explore all the stories from the previous presidents of the Federation and its beginnings to the current visions of the future of the Federation itself and protected areas due to all the challenges we face.