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An initiative such as PAN (Protected Area Network) Parks shows that tourism and nature can indeed go together. PAN Parks was founded by conservation organisation WWF together with the Dutch recreation company Molecatengroep. With the PAN Park label they want to preserve the European nature reserves through small-scale tourism activities. By encouraging tourism in the vicinity of important European national parks, support can be cultivated among the local population for the protection of these areas. National parks and local and international companies work together under the PAN Parks logo. They all benefit from well-managed and accessible nature.

We all know the popular national parks in the United States, such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone. What many people do not know is that Europe also houses these special natural areas. However, in the Netherlands we can no longer speak of this. But in countries like Sweden, Poland and Bulgaria you will still find plenty of unique natural treasures. The European wilderness is under pressure. There are about 3000 protected areas in Europe, but most of them are poorly managed. Logging, hunting, road construction and uncontrolled tourism are the biggest threats. Sustainable tourism can be the solution. By bringing European nature reserves to the public’s attention, tourism can ensure that nature is protected. After all: unknown makes unloved and unloved makes unprotected. The tourist acts as a conservationist. It is important that the inhabitants can benefit from this, for example by offering accommodation or organizing treks. If they benefit, they will protect nature. Since 2002, the first PAN Parks have been a fact. Now there are 8 certified PAN Parks in countries such as Russia, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Italy. Positive results have already been achieved in the Swedish PAN Park Fulufjället: This way there is no more hunting and the use of snowmobiles has been restricted.

Bieszczady National Park is one of the parks that participated in the PAN Parks initiative. It can be found in southeastern Poland on the border with Slovakia and Ukraine. The park is more than five times the size of the Hoge Veluwe National Park and eighty percent of the mountainous park consists of forests, mainly beechtrees. The national park is the refuge for the brown bear in Poland: there are about 50 of them. In addition Bieszczady is also the home of other large mammals, such as the wolf, lynx, European bison, red deer, golden eagle and eagle owl. PAN Parks’ collaboration with local people led to numerous initiatives. For example, natural monuments with the history of the park were placed, a visitor centre, parking, sanitary and waste facilities were established and cultural and nature education programmes were established. Moreover, the European beaver and the Hutzul horse were reintroduced to the park. Click here for the website of Bieszczady National Park. Nature parks such as Bieszczady are a good example of how PAN Parks unites the interests of nature and those of man, including through ecotourism.

Unfortunately, PAN Parks stopped  in 2014 due to bankruptcy. Fortunately, Rewilding Europe has taken over the activities.

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