The Tenth World Wilderness Congress took place from October fourth to the tenth in Salamanca, Spain, concurrent with the city's celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's voyages to the Americas. It was amazing to be invited to join a circle of Indigenous people from around the world gathering in the very rooms where Ferdinand II and Isabella I of Spain received Columbus on his return. While ironic, this actually felt hopeful, as did the entire WILD10, the world's largest Conservation Congress.
I can only concur with the following issued statements:
"Wild nature is not a luxury, but essential to health and prosperity. Protecting and enhancing wilderness preserves beauty, culture and identity, as well as ecosystem services. In addition to providing prosperity and livelihoods, wilderness is also essential for our spiritual wellbeing.
"Wild nature is still under pressure, but there are developments that allow for more wilderness in the future: Urbanization and changes in land-use practices, a growing recognition of the value of wilderness, the interdependence of nature and culture, and a growing movement for a wilder world, all help create a more stable and healthy planet and society."
"Past experiences and new opportunities [have been] outlined to show how the business sector can act as a powerful vehicle for conserving - or even enhancing - wild values at the same time as creating income and new jobs.
"Some exciting, groundbreaking initiatives from Africa, Australia and other continents [have been] presented to show how the delegation of management responsibility of wildlife management to local communities has generated strong comebacks of many species as well as contributed to investments in culture, social infrastructure, income and jobs. In regions like North America and Europe, private landowners have already played the same role."
"The Congress brought to light many features of the “wilderness” concept, emphasizing that wild nature can indeed embed peoples and cultures, and sustain livelihoods. It also stressed that wild nature is not a luxury to be enjoyed by a few but an essential patrimony to sustain the health and prosperity of everyone. Wilderness – which some in the ICCA Consortium proposed be re-named “well-conserved nature”— sustains the climate of the planet and provides fresh water, clean air, pasture, forest products, fisheries, wild foods and medicinal plants. Wilderness is also the embodiment of beauty, culture, identity and spiritual experience for millions of people."
"The congress organizers issued a final declaration that stresses the contributions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and must be acknowledged as serious stakeholders and contributors to global conservation efforts, and making reference to the importance of asserting and adopting all international instruments that protect and recognize Indigenous Peoples and Local Community rights, such as the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on Biodiversity Article 10(c) Sustainable use and Article 8(j) Protection and Recognition of Traditional Knowledge."
With our planet's resources and especially its wild places experiencing ever-increasing demands, WILD10's message is a beacon of hope for all of natural creation.