New National Park? Outdoor Brand Poised to Make History

Albania takes an important step towards protecting the Vjosa forever as government signs commitment to collaborate with Patagonia on Europe’s first Wild River National Park.

On June 13th, the Albanian government took the historic step of signing a commitment to collaborate with Patagonia on the establishment of a Vjosa Wild River National Park. In Tirana, this morning, Prime Minister Edi Rama, Minister for Tourism and Environment Mirela Kumbaro, and Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert joined Albanian and international NGOs from the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign, in a ceremony to mark the public signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties.

The agreement states that the Albanian government and Patagonia will work together to upgrade the protection level of the basin and the river ecosystem of the Vjosa River and its free-flowing tributaries to the IUCN Category II Level National Park. This is a major step closer to establishing Europe’s first-ever Wild River National Park and safeguarding the last big, wild river of Europe, forever.

Europe’s largest remaining wild river

The Vjosa River and its free-flowing tributaries form an ecosystem with substantial biodiversity of national and global significance, and the outstanding scenic values of the valley are the result of undisturbed natural processes. The ecosystem is host to more than 1,100 species of animals, including 13 globally threatened animal and two plant species. These ecological and cultural values provide great opportunities for eco-tourism and other economic benefits to the people in the region.

The Memorandum of Understanding between The Ministry of Tourism and Environment of Albania and Patagonia includes the agreements:

  • Parties will work to increase the protection level of Vjosa River to the level of IUCN Category II: National Park.
  • The National Park shall include the Vjosa river and its free-flowing tributaries.
  • Within 45 days of signing this MoU, the Parties shall establish a Working Group, headed by the Ministry of Tourism and Environment.
  • The Working Group will deliver a complete proposal for the National Park to the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, that includes, among other things, the zoning and boundaries of the National Park, stakeholder consultation, and eco-tourism opportunities.

“Albania’s Vjosa is nature’s unrelenting force, the only survivor of the wild rivers of our continent, the last river vein that bears no trace of contamination from the industrial development that has morphed Europe’s rivers into animals tamed for the energy-generation circus,” shared Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama following the signing.

“Vjosa will remain the only wild water body that, just like on the day of its creation, will continue to bear witness to the wonder that once were the European riverbeds. Under the protective cloak of the National Park, Vjosa will stay intact for Albania, for Europe, for the planet we want for our children’s children.”

Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert was similarly optimistic about this important milestone:

“Albania’s leaders have shown vision and commitment today, signaling to the world their intention to do something unprecedented in nature protection. Through our long-standing partnership with the NGOs behind the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign, we have learned first-hand just how exceptional the Vjosa is and are therefore humbled to work alongside the government and groups, devoting our skills and expertise to the establishment of Vjosa Wild River National Park.”

The environmental NGOs, businesses, local communities and others are committed to supporting the long-term aim of establishing the national park and offer their support in planning. With official, actionable steps, this unparalleled biodiversity hotspot will set a precedent for future nature protection in Europe.


Lead Photo: Nick St.Oegger


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