It is our opinion that increasing public support for nature conservation is crucial for successful conservation of our natural heritage. Current European and national legislation dictate to a large extent how the natural world should be conserved. Ultimately, however, in a democratic society, these laws need both active and passive public support. Conservationists therefore have a continuous task of involving the public in conservation activities. This is often done by stressing the negative impacts of biodiversity loss and degradation of habitats on human society. This is important, but it is no less important to emphasise the positive aspects of nature; that is to focus on the beauty and inherent value of Europe's natural heritage. After all, to those who work in the field of nature conservation it is this positive association, this marvel or wonder, that brought us into the field of conservation.
The Crossbill Guides foundation aims to increase the public support for and understanding of nature conservation in Europe. This aim is realised by communicating to the general public, mainly via our guidebooks, the wealth of ecological treasures in Europe. In this we focus not only on interested lay people and ecotourists, but also the wider constituency of European travellers.
The role of ecotourism
Ecotourism is a perfect means by which to communicate a greater understanding of nature for three reasons. First, a tourist is already committed to enjoying nature, and is therefore more open to information about the value of the natural area he or she visits. Being predisposed to be interested, such education is not forced, something that has an adverse effect in many communication or education projects. Second, ecotourism is a perfect way of explaining abstract conservation issues, such as biodiversity depletion, connectivity, habitat fragmentation or sustainability. These extremely important, but highly theoretical concepts, are given depth and meaning through concrete examples in the field. Ecotourism is the perfect means to provide these examples. Third, when correctly managed, ecotourism can be a means to show landowners that nature on their land has a value, both economically and otherwise. Ecotourism can link visitors to local sustainable enterprises such as local products and hostelling.