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A Yellowstone For Europe

A project to create Europe’s largest forested national park aims to protect 200,000 hectares of wilderness in Romania.

Lake in the Carpathian Mountains, Romania
Lake in the Carpathian Mountains | Pixabay

Transylvania, at the southern edge of the Carpathian mountains, is one of the last truly wild places in Europe. Brown bears, wolves and lynx roam the forested hillsides - and bison were recently reintroduced after a 200-year absence as part of the work of Foundation Conservation Carpathia. FCC’s ambitions are awe inspiring: it aims to create the continent’s largest forested national park. A 200,000 hectare (500,000 acre) wilderness reserve. A Yellowstone for Europe.

Since its inception in 2009, FCC’s biologist founders, Christoph and Barbara Promberger, and a team of philanthropists and conservationists, have been fundraising to purchase tracts of forests to stop logging - as well as buying areas to reforest. The objective is to create a vast park that’s “large enough to support significant numbers of large carnivores and to allow evolutionary processes to happen”.

It’s a conservation model inspired by the Tompkins project in South America. Kris and Doug Tompkins (who co-founded North Face) spent more than $345 million to buy large parcels of land in Chile and Argentina and restore the grasslands, forests, and waterways. In all, they succeeded in helping conserve 14.7 million acres of land in Chile and Argentina, and created or significantly expanded 14 national parks.

So far in Romania, 26,900 hectares of forest and grassland have been bought and protected and more than 4m saplings planted. FCC rangers patrol 75,000 hectares, and this has led to a halt in logging in neighbouring forests too. In another innovative move, an FCC association has bought the hunting rights to an additional 78,000 hectares, to protect wildlife from trophy hunters.

The team recognise that engaging communities and showing that protecting nature can provide alternative revenue streams is crucial to the success of a new national park. So, apart from employing rangers and tree planters, the FCC has set up 'off the beaten track' hides for tourists to stay in overnight and a 500 hectare (1,235 acre) Cobor Biodiversity Farm where restored farmhouses can sleep up to two dozen guests.

The new park may take decades to realise, but creating a Yellowstone for Europe is surely a worthwhile endeavour. Want to visit? See Travel Carpathia


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