Volunteer programmes – Youth for Nature

Volunteers develop themselves and discover unknown strengths. © Wachau Dunkelsteinerwald Regionalentwicklung
Volunteers at work – it’s easier working in a team and the degree of success is greater. © Hohla

The goal of the volunteer project is to get young people involved in maintaining and conserving Natura 2000 protected areas in the Wachau UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since 2010, volunteers from Austria and around the world have come to the Wachau every summer to conserve valuable areas of dry grassland and orchid meadows.

There are many high-quality conservation areas in the Wachau World Heritage Site, such as dry grasslands and orchid meadows, whose conservation depends on ongoing management. The volunteer projects play an important role in this. Young volunteers from around the world come to the region for a week or two to toil for nature. They do over 1,000 hours of voluntary work, often on very hot summer’s days in July and August, and look after conservation areas of between 6 and 8 hectares in size. Apart from mowing and removing the cut material, other activities on the programme include improvements to dry stone walls, path maintenance and the removal of trees and scrub. The girdling of non-native trees and shrubs, such as the tree of heaven, robinia or box elder, is about preventing their spread and creating habitats appropriate to the location. Of course, besides the heavy work there should also be fun. In their free time, a camp leader organises a varied programme that allows the young guests to get to know the diversity of the Wachau World Heritage Site.

There are currently two volunteer projects:

1. World Heritage volunteers Wachau-Middle Rhine

A two-week camp in the summer months is organised in cooperation with the World Heritage Site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The volunteers spend a week in each World Heritage Site supporting local organisations with the management of dry grasslands, combating neophytes and maintaining dry stone walls.

World Heritage Volunteers Wachau-Middle Rhine is financially supported by the federal government, the federal province and the European Union.
Project duration: 3 years
Funding level: 80%

2. Big Five Volunteer 2018-20

Five protected areas in Austria (Thayatal National Park, Donau-Auen National Park, Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve, Wilderness Dürrenstein, Wachau World Heritage Site) have teamed up to tackle the challenges of maintaining the cultural landscape together. Every year, three two-week volunteer camps are held, each of which operates in two different protected areas.

2018: Wachau-Dürrenstein, Thayatal-Donau-Auen, Wachau-Wienerwald
2019: Dürrenstein-Donau-Auen, Thayatal-Wienerwald, Wachau-Donau-Auen
2020: Thayatal-Dürrenstein, Donau-Auen-Wienerwald, Thayatal-Wachau

Big Five Volunteer 2018-20 is financially supported by the federal province and the European Union.
Project duration: 3 years
Funding level: 100%

In addition to the project weeks, there are also daily programmes in which the local population in particular gets involved for the sake of nature. These programmes also encourage interaction between the population and conservation experts, which sensitises participants to the habitats that are valuable to the field of conservation.