Protecting Europe's natural treasures | WWF

Protecting Europe's natural treasures

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Bulgaria

Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Poland
Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Romania
Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Russian Federation
Europe/Middle-East > Europe General
Europe/Middle-East > North Asia/Mongolia > Georgia (GE)
Europe/Middle-East > Northern Europe > Finland
Europe/Middle-East > Northern Europe > Sweden
Europe/Middle-East > Southern Europe > Italy
Europe/Middle-East > Southern Europe > Turkey

Harrisuvanto hanging bridge in Oulanka National Park. Finland.
© Metsahallitus (Finnish Forestry and Park Service)


The PAN (Protected Area Network) Parks initiative – an independent foundation established by WWF and the Dutch Molecaten Group – aims to create a European network of wilderness protected areas that improves nature protection through sustainable tourism development.

PAN Parks applies an independent verification system for protected areas and business partners; certification is only given after a park meets the programme’s high standards for environmental management and sustainable development practices. There are currently 11 certified PAN Parks stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean.


Europe boasts some diverse and unique natural habitats. Wilderness areas of the continent protect outstanding natural heritage and beauty. However, public awareness of European wilderness areas and conservation needs is very low.

Nature-based tourism is a massive growth industry around the world and Europe has yet to fully realize its potential for nature conservation in particular for protected areas' management. Achieving this potential without adversely impacting areas already under threat due to poor protection is the challenge. This is the reason WWF and Molecaten founded the PAN Parks Foundation in August 1999.

The PAN Parks Foundation strives to raise awareness of Europe’s natural heritage and thus build public, political and financial support. It is a unique venture: nature conservation organizations, travel agencies, the business community, and local partners have come together to form a network of European protected areas that aims to improve wilderness experience.

Core values

Cooperation: we believe in partnerships and respect the rights of all our partners and work with them to create an environment in which people can enjoy nature.

Integration: we integrate controlled and sustainable tourism into nature conservation for the benefit of all parties, protected areas and tourism businesses.

Networking: we connect individuals and organizations, both on a national and international level, in an open and communicative way to increase awareness and knowledge of European protected areas.

Innovation: we challenge ourselves and our partners to demonstrate commitment to our quality brand and innovation.

Openness: we consistently engage new partners in a friendly and respectful way to join our challenging concept.


The PAN Parks Foundation connects certified partners through its quality brand, and helps improve the management of protected areas by utilizing and implementing the following essential goals:
- Ensure the long-term survival of pristine nature while encouraging local communities to flourish.
- Promote wilderness management in protected areas in Europe.
- Facilitate sustainable tourism development in and around these protected areas.
- Increase knowledge of, and pride in, Europe’s nature.
- Provide a tool for Natura 2000 site managers to implement sustainable tourism development in their areas (EU DG Environment, 1999, Lisbon).
- Implement the relevant Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) goals of the Programme of Work on protected areas, in particular the management effectiveness and financial sustainability.


PAN Parks applies an independent verification system for protected areas and business partners that requires compliance with a set of strict .

Complying with the PAN Parks criteria requires parks - among others - to improve their management practices and create a wilderness zone untouched by human hands.

However, visitors are welcome in PAN Parks: one of the certification principles for protected areas involves the successful adoption of a Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy, fostering an equal emphasis on the best conservation practices and the co-operative stimulation of local tourism-based economies.

New partnerships between protected areas, authorities and nature-based tourism businesses are created as the Tourism Strategy is approved by the local PAN Parks group, comprised of regional stakeholders.


- As of January 2007 there are 9 certified PAN Parks stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean: Bieszczady, Poland; Borjomi-Kharagauli, Georgia; Central Balkan, Bulgaria; Fulufjället, Sweden; Majella, Italy; Oulanka, Finland; Paanajärvi, Russia; Retezat, Romania; and Rila, Bulgaria.

- These 9 certified PAN Parks guarantee the long-term survival of approximately 230,000ha of wilderness in Europe.

- 4 protected areas signed letters of intent with the PAN Parks Foundation to express their intention of being certified in the coming years: Archipelago, Finland; Kure Mountains, Turkey; Rodnei Mountains, Romania;and Tatra, Slovakia. Many others have expressed interest in the concept.

- There are 45 local businesses certified.

- There are 6 tour operators cooperating with the PAN Parks Foundation.

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