The Europarc Federation, also known as the Federation of Nature and National Parks of Europe, was founded in 1973.
The Europarc Federation includes 7 sections (Atlantic isles, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Czech and Nordic-Baltic) and it has more than 400 members (administrations of protected areas, nature conservation organisations, non-profit organisations, etc.).
The purpose of the organisation is to promote the planning and organisation of protected areas in the best possible manner, help to create new protected areas, raise understanding and awareness about protected areas. These are necessary precautionary measures to ensure the preservation of natural values and to influence the politics of the European Union and various structural funds. Cooperation of protected areas is important to exchange experience and inspire each other and promote nature conservation in general.
Lahemaa National Park has been a member of the Europarc Federation since Estonia regained independence (in 1991). In 2003, an independent work group called the Nordic-Baltic section was formed which includes the representatives of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Iceland, the section has approximately 40 members in total.
The section complies with the key objectives of Europarc and maintains active communication between the members and the Federation. For that, meetings are held twice a year, whereas one of them is the Annual Conference of Europarc. There are also several seminars and work groups.
Cooperation with Europarc and the Nordic-Baltic section has also become more efficient in connection with the project “Parks & Benefits – Generating socio-economic effects by a sustainable management of protected areas for the benefit of their regions” of the Baltic Sea Region programme of the Environmental Board which was implemented from 1 January 2009 until 25 January 2012 and the activities of which were targeted at developing the cooperation network of Matsalu National Park and introducing the national park and its region.
Europarc has developed principles of sustainable nature tourism which has been gathered into the Charter for Sustainable Tourism, the purpose of which is a qualitative tourism product in the protected areas through partnership between the administrators of nature reserves, tourism undertakings and local people. The permanent exposition of the Visitor Centre of Lahemaa National Park has been started in cooperation with Europarc (Europarc Consulting) and that primarily with regard to the development of the concept.
In addition, the Junior Ranger project was commenced in 2004. Each year, young people interested in the nature and the environment are educated in international camps, by now approximately 140 youngsters have been educated. Lahemaa National Park has participated in the Europarc Expertise Exchange programme.
Europarc does its best so that the decision-makers would see the nature reserves as the building blocks of sustainable society. The seminars/workshops of Europarc provide practical and innovative ideas for the protected areas and the communities.
Based on the Charter, the work for promoting sustainable management of the protected areas continues, especially in the field of tourism, because the protected areas are the destinations of tourism. In Estonia, the destinations are mostly national parks.
Additional information: http://www.europarc.org/home/; http://www.europarc-nb.org/home/; http://www.europarc.org/what-we-do/junior-ranger; Nele Sõber (firstname.lastname@example.org); Kaja Lotman (email@example.com)