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World Wilderness Congress, longest running public conservation project, roars into action next month

First Peoples Worldwide

One of the most exciting conferences for this upcoming year is the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WWC), dubbed WILD10, to be held October 4-10 in Salamanca, Spain. Yes, sometimes conferences amount to little more than endless lectures and an obligation to wear business casual, but WILD10 is something entirely different.

“The WWC is not your typical ‘conference,’” say the organizers. “It integrates art, science, management, government, academia, Native leaders, youth, corporate leaders, and advocates into a multi-year conservation program, with unique results at each convening. It is the best-known and most effective global platform for debating and acting on wilderness issues. We provide a balanced approach, taking on highly charged issues in a constructive manger, and most importantly helping to facilitate solutions. WWCs are also critical venues for education, training, networking, and information exchange across diverse groups. Our goal is to build this global wilderness community through online communications between the physical gathering at each WWC.”

The World Wilderness Congress, which is a project of the WILD Foundation, was started by Ian Player, a game-ranger, and his Zulu mentor Magqube Ntombela. The pair led small groups on guided tours of the African wilderness for eight years together – the WILD Foundation and WWCs grew from their desire to educate about wilderness issues on a much larger scale. Now, the WWC is the world’s longest-running public conservation project and environmental forum.

The first WWC was held in 1977 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has since been held on five different continents. This is the 10th WWC to be held; the previous conference was held in 2009 in Merida, Mexico, and drew 1,800 delegates from 50 different nations. Organizers expect at least that many participants this year, with several thousand more to join online.

We’re particularly fond of WILD10 because, unlike many global conservation organizations, they acknowledge the importance of including Indigenous leaders in conservation efforts and respect the role of Indigenous Peoples as the original stewards of the earth. Their dedication to including Indigenous Peoples is highlighted in this year’s Indigenous and Community Land and Seas Forum, which will focus on governance, traditional ecological knowledge, cultural landscape protection and policies, Indigenous worldviews, lifeways, and spiritual values connected to place.

For this part of the conference, WILD10 is partnering with the Gaia Foundation, the Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas and Territories Consortium, and the Coalition on Nature Strategy for Sustainable Development. Ultimately, the goal of this forum is to “foster alliances between Indigenous Peoples and communities, allied organizations and nontraditional partners while promoting and facilitating intercultural, international dialogue on the advancement of a broad and inclusive vision for the future of conservation.”

Other workshops include several working coalitions on issues such as water and cities, a symposium on wilderness science and stewardship, and a fascinating program on rewilding Europe.You can find the program for the conference here, and registration details here.

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