Rewilding one million hectares of land by 2022
This is the target that we at Rewilding Europe are working towards. By allowing natural processes to shape our landscapes, by promoting the return of wildlife, and by developing nature-based local economies, we want to create more space for wild nature in Europe. This will not only bring huge benefits to our environment, but our economy and society too.
Central to this strategy is finding a way to develop and fund business models that support, reinvigorate and conserve natural capital, and contribute positively to the socio-economic environment of rural areas affected by land degradation and rural depopulation.
To this effect, Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) was founded in 2014 to stimulate economic growth and development directly connected to the rewilding of natural landscapes. REC provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises that catalyse, support or achieve positive environmental outcomes.
Earlier this year, REC became the first recipient of funding from the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF). Established by the European Commission, this facility is managed by the European Investment Bank. The resultant €6 million fund means REC can now provide loans of up to €600,000 to businesses that benefit rewilding across all 28 EU member states.
Funding from REC has already led to the creation of a "cluster" of complementary enterprises in and around the Faia Brava Nature Reserve in northern Portugal. The recipients of these loans - Star Camp, Casa da Cisterna, Wildlife Portugal and Miles Away - are pioneering a nature-based tourism model in the region, reinforcing the rewilding agenda in the reserve. With the area now welcoming more than a thousand visitors annually, revenue growth has already been substantial.
In total, REC has now invested in 19 businesses in 6 European countries, with a portfolio of sectors including nature-based tourism, natural products, natural resource management and habitat restoration.
Using funds from the NCFF, we are now able to help more organisations have a positive environmental and social impact. In Finland we have disbursed a loan to the Snowchange Cooperative, enabling them to purchase the 110-hectare Linnunsuo wetland area. Situated in the region of North Karelia, the wetland was bought from Vapo, Finland's leading developer of bioenergy and the world's leading peat industry business. Using both local knowledge and the latest scientific techniques, the Snowchange Cooperative aims to restore the area to attract both birds and tourists.
We feel that it is time for the rest of the business and conservation community to follow similar investment pathways. With the world's nature-based tourism market valued at $850 billion, the potential return on investment is both obvious and significant. The efforts of REC have shown that it is possible to make a profit and benefit nature at the same time. On a far greater scale, we must now find new ways to generate commercial funding for the conservation of natural capital.
REC is part of an exciting and burgeoning new movement. By catalysing enterprise activities connected to Europe's wild nature and wildlife, thereby revitalising rural economies and communities, we aim to create a self-sustaining environment that protects natural capital for future generations across the continent.
Matthew McLuckie is the Investment Manager at Rewilding Europe Capital. Those interested in finding out more about Rewilding Europe Capital, and how it supports new and existing businesses, can do so here. If you are interested in applying for Rewilding Europe Capital funding, please contact Matthew at email@example.com.
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