Erika Stanciu is the President of EUROPARC - the umbrella organization for Europe’s protected areas - with more than 460 members from 36 countries. IUCN EURO met with Erika to learn about the results of the recent EUROPARC annual conference and her thoughts on the link between biodiversity and protected areas.
1. Erika, tell us a bit about yourself. What pushed you to dedicate your life to the environment and for how long have you been the President of EUROPARC?
My very first meeting in 1981 with the Retezat Mountains - where the first national park of Romania was established in 1935 - made me think that wonderful places need special care. That’s when I started dreaming about working for conservation, even though this area of work was not very much known in those times in my country. Later, I had the chance to work with foresters to protect old growth forests and promote close-to-nature forestry. In 1999, I was very lucky to be involved in a project which aimed to establish the first national and nature park administrations in Romania. The years spent for establishing the Retezat National Park administration together with my great colleagues were probably my best years in conservation. My professional life kept improving, giving me the chance after 2003 to work for WWF’s Danube Carpathian Programme coordinating forest and protected area activities. I am the President of the EUROPARC Federation since September 2005. I have had a few challenging, but at the same time wonderful years in this position, having the chance to work with very dedicated and exceptional people.
2. EUROPARC has just concluded its annual meeting. What was the main result?
Many results came out of the various sessions of the conference. We had interesting and motivating keynote presentations with good overviews, examples and suggestions for conservation in Europe, workshops with meaningful discussions and very good recommendations for the future activities of the Federation. I should perhaps highlight the Pescasseroli Declaration agreed by participants during the conference. The Declaration is a call to decision makers at the EU level and to national governments for political and financial support for Europe’s protected areas.
3. As stated in the Pescasseroli Declaration, protected areas are essential tools to help conserve biodiversity. How do you explain this link?
Besides the fact that protected areas have as a key objective the conservation of biodiversity within their territory, I think that if the areas are managed in an efficient way they become models of biodiversity conservation also for other areas which are not protected,not only in Europe but in the entire world. It is very important to have core areas defined for non-intervention management within protected areas, but the real challenge is to develop and implement strategies and activities that harmonize all human activities and promote the responsible and respectful use of Nature’s values and resources. That’s what protected areas stand for and that’s why they should be considered essential tools for conserving biodiversity, which is the framework and support of our Life, and Life in general.
4. What would you suggest European leaders should do, to try and improve the situation of protected areas and biodiversity in Europe?
First of all they should make the effort to listen, to learn and understand what protected areas are and why they are critical not only for nature conservation but also for promoting sustainable development. Then, they should shape legislation for all sectors in a way that environmental concerns are reflected and measures to maintain our natural heritage and natural resources are incorporated. Third, but not least, they should always remember that nature conservation is not a business that brings immediate profit, but needs good financial support to provide the services and benefits that will bring profit through other sectors. Therefore, protected areas and nature conservation related activities should not be the last item of budgets - they should be at the top where good business investment for the future should always be.
For more information about EUROPARC please visit their website. EUROPARC is a member of IUCN.