The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our fore fathers but on loan from our children.

Mahatma Gandhi

No one will protect what they don't care about and no one will care about what they have never experienced.

Sir David Attenborough

Reconnecting people with nature is a hot topic and the EUROPARC Conference 2018 focused on how the next generation can inspire us to reach that goal. It's important that we bridge the generation gap and have that discussion alongside the youth of Europe. With over 600 delegates - of which 100 were under 30 years of age - the conference aimed to inspire and motivate delegates to increase young people's participation and engagement in nature and the outdoors.

The conference was the biggest gathering of National Parks and protected areas ever held in Europe with world class speakers presenting their views on how to get young people more involved in nature. Delegates also enjoyed a wide selection of workshops and field trips across the Cairngorms National Park as well as social evenings which celebrated Scottish highland food, drink and music.

Main Conference Outcome

The main conference outcome was the launch of the Youth Manifesto which inspired a wide range of activities to be taken forward by various National Parks and protected areas in Europe. This legacy includes a commitment to review the Youth Manifesto and any progress made at future EUROPARC conferences and to involve youth delegates as much as possible. In addition, out of the workshops, a list of outcomes has resulted in shared best practice, new partnerships and stronger networks.

Cairngorms National Park Authority - conference host

The conference host benefited from raising the profile of the Cairngorms National Park across Europe, the UK and Scotland, as well as with local and national politicians. Press and social media coverage included:

  • Scottish national TV and radio
  • international, national, regional and local press
  • 256 posts to facebook, twitter and instagram
  • 269,649 accounts reached
  • 10,463 engagements with an engagement rate of 4%

The conference also helped to strengthen the Cairngorms National Park Authority's working relationship with its partners who offered their support as sponsors, speakers, workshop leads, field trip hosts and by providing complimentary local produce in the evenings.

In addition, the experience of hosting the event meant all CNPA staff worked together, particularly during the conference itself, which has resulted in a lasting team spirit and connection across the whole organisation. All CNPA board and staff members were invited to attend the conference and those who were actively involved in supporting it thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

General Assembly and Opening Session

The Conference opened with an exclusive event for EUROPARC members, the General Assembly 2018, in which participants were presented with the annual reports of the Federation and the latest updates on project developments. During the sessions, a special recognition to long-serving members of the EUROPARC Federation was give to the Environmental Agency of Ireland and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between EUROPARC Federation and the European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS) was a key part of the General Assembly.

Cassie Scott, a young and courageous person, opened the conference by telling her personal story. She told 600 delegates how she changed her life from being involved with drugs, alcohol and physical abuse from her partner, to being self-confident, happy and working as a mentor for others.

Cassie transformed her life, with the help of The Venture Trust, through her experiences with nature and the outdoors. Her story clearly illustrated how important our connection with the natural world is for our well-being - especially those of us living in difficult circumstances.

Scottish Ministerial Welcome

Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment including National Parks, opened the conference.

It is so important we not only engage with young people but that we give young people across Europe the lead on this and consider the best ways to engage and work with them. What are we protecting areas like this for if not for future generations and who should we be listening to if not young people in developing the kind of place they want to live in, work in and visit in the future.

Launching the Youth Manifesto, John Swinney - Deputy First Minister for Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills - challenged delegates to take action.

This is a great first step but that is all it is. The challenge to us all is how will we deliver the aspirations in the manifesto? When you get back to your own National Park, protected area or organisation, what are you going to do to implement it? Words are easy, actions are always more difficult. I can announce that the Cairngorms National Park Authority is going to establish a Youth Council for the Park with support from the Cairngorms LEADER programme. This will be run by and for young people and will have an annual budget to help deliver the vision of the young people that are part of it.

Keynote Speakers

Richard Louv is a bestselling author who sparked an international debate and movement to reconnect children and nature. His work inspires people of all ages to talk about the importance of nature in our lives and how direct exposure to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

His presentation focused on why we need a new nature movement to respond to climate change, biodiversity change, biodiversity collapse, and the disconnect of children from nature - the greatest environmental challenges of our time.

Hendrikus van Hensbergen is a young conservationist who believes all young people should feel moved and empowered to protect the natural world. He founded Action for Conservation with a mission to bring the magic of nature into young people's lives and inspire a youth movement committed to conservation and the earth.

His presentation shared how his work engages young people from diverse backgrounds, between the ages of 12 and 18, in conservation and the natural world and to build the next generation of conservationists.

Xander Johnston, Cairngorms Nature Young Ambassador

Karen Keenleyside is co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature #NatureForAll initiative and Senior Adviser for #NatureForAll, Parks Canada.

An ecologist by training, Karen's presentation looked at bridging natural and social-scientific disciplines to identify evidence based solutions for building constituencies of support for conservation and protected areas into the future.

Through the #NatureForAll playbook strategic guidance on environmental management, ecological restoration, climate change, and connecting people with nature are made available to increase support and actions for nature conservation globally.

The playbook considers how we can connect people with nature in ways that lead them to take action to protect it particularly new audiences with nature - whether that be youth, young families, or others who for whatever reason are facing barriers to experiencing and connecting with nature. It also presents evidence around which types of experiences are most likely to lead to that sense of love or connectedness.


An extensive programme of 20 workshops provided delegates with the opportunity to go deeper into specific topics of interest and hear the experiences of others, followed by the chance to debate and consider current challenges and future actions.

There was also a youth workshop for delegates under 30 which focused on how young people can take the lead for nature along with outdoor skills sessions - led by Cairngorms National Park rangers.

Field Trips

The Cairngorms National Park is one of Europe's largest national parks, with unique land ownership and management. It has more high level mountain ground than anywhere else in Britain or Ireland - with almost half of the Park considered wild land - the largest Caledonian forest and some of the UK's purest rivers. It's also home to 25% of the UK's endangered species. Over 18,000 people live and work here, and over 1.8 million people visit each year to enjoy the breathtaking landscape, history and culture, thriving communities and outdoor activities.

Delegates had the opportunity to experience and enjoy the best the Cairngorms National Park has to offer on an astonishing variety of field trips - from hiking to the high mountain tops to canoeing the famous river Spey, from enjoying the taste of Scotland at local distilleries to visiting the remote and abandoned Scalan Seminary.

EUROPARC Youth Manifesto

A call to action was put out by the 50+ young people who brought the Youth Manifesto to fruition, asking for organisations and communities to engage with their young people to create new opportunities for living, learning and working in rural communities and protected areas.

Young people just want to be heard and entrusted to help protect and conserve their local environments. We want to be involved in helping to make thriving, sustainable communities with training and job opportunities so that we can remain in our local areas and not lose touch with our cultural heritage. This Manifesto must be the catalyst to making that happen in Scotland and across Europe.

Laura Peters, Youth+ representative on the EUROPARC Council

The Manifesto sets out four areas for action and puts out a call for change in all rural communities and protected areas:

  • Youth Empowerment
  • Living
  • Learning
  • Working
All young people have creativity and imagination, and these talents should be fostered to help us develop as the successors to inherit our rural landscapes. Listen to the voice of the young people and give us the chance to take the lead.

EUROPARC Federation Presidents Meeting - Youth Living, Learning and Working in Protected Areas

The meeting of the Parks' presidents and mayors has become an important appointment at the conference. An opportunity for elected or nominated representatives within European protected areas to come together, share, learn and explore the issues and challenges provided by these unique and special roles.

This year the meeting focused on biodiversity and youth engagement - two crucial themes of high political relevance in protected areas. Park Authorities' presidents, chairs, mayors and others have been invited to share experiences, propose actions and initiatives for youth to get engaged and better live, learn and work within protected areas in Europe.

Laura Peters presented in more detail the Youth Manifesto, challenging parks and decision makers to take action for the future.

Several experiences were then presented with case studies from the Cairngorms National Park, the Montage de Reims Regional Park and the Prealpi Giulie Natural Park, all showing different ways of successfully engaging with young people.

Other interesting initiatives were presented:

  • The Junior Ranger Programme is an important starting point for young people to start exploring, learning and taking care of their parks.
  • The development and implementation of the EUROPARC Youth+ programme - to engage with youth aged 18-25, focusing activities on communication, advocacy, nature conservation and leadership.
  • Youth Park Council - formed by young people from 16-30 - contributes actively to the park decision making process. The Council has a budget allocated by the directorate, to be spent on projects and initiatives they want to develop.
  • Creating educational programmes with primary schools, and present results at the end of the year in a special 'environmental week'.

Most delegates then contributed to the debate, expressing their commitment to further promote the Youth Manifesto, and to take direct actions for its implementation in different parks and countries.

Clearly the integration of the youth priorities, needs and expectations within the wider agenda of parks and rural areas will be crucial to ensure successful involvement of young people in their communities and landscapes.

Doing something for young people in the park is not enough; there is always the possibility to do more!

Awards and Closing Ceremony

Introduced by a Scottish pipe band, the EUROPARC Awards Ceremony acknowledged the efforts that different professionals and institutions carried out during 2018 for parks and nature conservation.

The Transboundary Parks Award 2018 was granted to Pasvi Inarik Transboundary Park, Finland, for their outstanding international work.

The Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship Awards went to Laszlo Patki - 'Large carnivore co-existence and local environment' (Hungary); Agne Jasinaviciute - 'Landscape protection and management' (Lithuania) and Baiba Ralle - 'How to communicate with the local communities, tourists and volunteers' (Latvia).

The EUROPARC Federation, on behalf of all its members, also thanked the Cairngorms National Park Authority for hosting this year's conference, with special thanks to the conference sponsors.

Finally the EUROPARC 2018 Conference ended with the handover of the EUROPARC flag to the 2019 hosts, Latvia. The conference will take place from 24 - 26 September 2019, at Kemeru National Park.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.