European Wilderness Days conference of PAN Parks in Oulanka.doc

Press release

Oulanka celebrates its 50th birthday this week in international style. It plays host to the major European Wilderness Days conference of PAN Parks. PAN Parks is an innovative initiative to create a network of Europe’s best wilderness areas stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. Oulanka was one of the very first parks to pass the stiff certification criteria. Its neighbouring park just across the Russian border, Paanajärvi, joined the network in 2005. PAN Parks combines both an independent and detailed assessment of the parks environment and management along with developing sustainable tourism in and around the areas. PAN Parks is developing into an internationally recognised brand for high quality sustainable tourism. Visitors coming to a PAN Park such as Oulanka or Paanajärvi know that by using the local tourism providers that display the PAN Parks logo, they are contributing to the protection of the area for future generations. Zoltan Kun, PAN Park’s Executive Director said, “it is a real honour to be able to bring our annual conference to Oulanka. As well as being a beautiful and pristine wilderness area, the collaboration between local businesses and Metsähallitus provides an excellent example for both new and potential PAN Parks.” It will be attended by representatives of many different protected areas, local communities and government agencies from both Europe and beyond. The Finnish Parliamentary Commission for the Environment is joining the event to discover what benefits membership of this unique network can bring to rural communities in Finland. In this year of Finland’s presidency of the European Union it is particularly apt that it plays host to this event. Europe’s Wilderness Days, in keeping with the innovative nature of the network, will be presented in an interactive format with lively facilitation from Finnish TV presenter Wif Stenger. Participants will get the opportunity to discover the special qualities of Oulanka and meet the local PAN Parks partners that work together with the park. Exciting and stimulating activities such as rafting, canoeing and exploring the Oulanka canyon will take place alongside more gentle trips to see the dramatic autumn colours in the park. “The day in the park will enable us to share our experience in developing low impact tourism in Oulanka,” said Kari Lahti, Director of Oulanka National Park, Metsähallitus. “The establishment of the Oulanka local cooperation group and the development of the Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy are real steps forward in working together with local people and businesses to manage Oulanka in partnership”. More information • For further information contact Gavin Bell, Communications Manager, PAN Parks Foundation on +36 30 251 2611 or Matti Tapaninen, Metsahallitus on +358 40 727 0453. • We have a video production crew covering the Wilderness Days event. It would be possible to provide raw footage and interviews to broadcast media. High resolution digital photographs are available on request – please email to gbell@panparks.org.