Cooperation is key to The European Nature Trust, which works with local NGOs and a sustainable tour operator to protect Europe’s last great wildernesses – while bringing travellers to experience all they have to offer.
Founded in 2000 by Paul Lister, The European Nature Trust (TENT) was born from what he calls an “awakening”. Following his father’s sudden ill health, Lister says he saw the environmental damage that had been done to Scotland. In an effort to reverse the effects of the country having lost 97% of its forest cover, he purchased Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Highlands, and transformed it into a blueprint for successful rewilding and ecotourism.
That sparked the ambition to expand TENT across the Continent. “Most [other] conservation work is focused on Africa, Asia and South America,” he explains, “But TENT works on the protection of the last remaining wild corners of Europe.”
The organisation has since grown to Romania, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and the goal is always the same: to preserve and protect wild areas, and restore those that have been lost. “We support well-proven conservation projects on the ground in critical wilderness areas, allowing communities and wildlife alike to thrive,” says Lister.
In Romania, that includes helping to protect Europe’s most extensive remaining tracts of virgin and old-growth forests, at urgent risk due to illegal logging. The country is blessed with more than six million hectares of forests, and is home to Europe’s highest concentration of large carnivores, including bears, wolves and lynx. Focussing on the Carpathian Mountains, TENT works with Foundation Conservation Carpathia to prevent illegal logging and protect the forests, with the aim of creating a new National Park, tipped to become “Europe’s own Yellowstone”.
Other projects include protecting the endangered Cantabrian brown bear and Iberian lynx in Spain, and the Marsican brown bear in Italy, while the focus in Portugal is on rewilding abandoned farmland, and turning it into new, rural-based tourism projects.
TENT now works with three ethical tour operators to bring travellers to experience its work for themselves. “We promote conscious, nature-based travel with a handful of trusted travel companies,” explains Lister. “When trips are orchestrated considerately and respectfully, they can tangibly contribute to the preservation of wildlife and wild landscapes.” The companies they work with – Steppes Travel, Original Travel and Naturetrek – all share that ethos of purpose-driven, ethical travel, while offering extraordinary experiences in the wilderness. As Lister puts it, “Above all, we love connecting people to nature”.