SCB Europe Section Press Release: Greece gives legal protection to roadless areas

27 January 2022 

Biodiversity and ecosystems are highly threatened by road development worldwide. Greece has  taken the lead in Europe by legally protecting six mountainous roadless Natura 2000 sites from  further road fragmentation, introducing the first national roadless policy in Europe.  

New roads and other infrastructure are banned to protect from further road fragmentation on six  iconic mountains in Greece, as a start of a broader national roadless policy. The Greek Prime Minister  Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the conservation program “Untrodden Mountains” at the Climate  Change Conference (COP26) and presented it on 21 January 2022 through six ministerial decisions 

signed by the Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy Giorgos Amyras. The legislation precludes  all artificial changes to the natural environment that alter the character of six pristine mountains of  the country. This means that 974 km2 of mountain lands will remain unchanged (0.74% of Greek land). 

The Society for Conservation Biology Europe Section (SCB-ES), an international organization of  conservation professionals representing 28 European countries, considers it as a pioneer initiative in  Europe and a crucial step to mitigate the climate and biodiversity crises. “We hope this important  initiative will continue in Greece and will encourage other European countries to maintain the last  wilderness roadless areas in Europe”, says John Piccolo, Chair of SCB-ES. 

Europe is the most road-fragmented continent, but still holds large tracts of unfragmented natural  lands. Scientists have been calling for halting infrastructure expansion in areas of high biodiversity and  for implementing roadless policies for biodiversity and ecosystem function preservation. While  roadless areas have been protected for 20 years in the USA under the Roadless Areas Conservation  Rule, Greece is the first country in Europe that legally tackles the root of the problem: road sprawl,  which is an unstoppable driver of land use changes. The EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy commits to  protect a minimum of 30% of the EUs’ land area and to provide strict protection to one third of this.  “It is paradoxical that at the same time that billions of Euros will be invested in restoring degraded  lands under the EU Biodiversity Strategy, natural and pristine ecosystems remain vulnerable to new  roads and land-consuming projects” says Vassiliki Kati, the Greek Professor from the University of  Ioannina, lead author of the publication that provided evidence for this political decision. Providing a  legal roadless status to the remaining unfragmented lands will be a straightforward and cost-effective  way to tackle both climate and biodiversity crisis at the EU. This roadless policy should inspire  conservation policies in other parts of Europe and the world. 

This is part of the Roadless Initiative of the Society for Conservation Biology.  

Contact person 

Vassiliki Kati: University of Ioannina, Department of Biological Applications and Technology, Biodiversity Conservation Lab,  Ioannina, GR-45110, Greece, e-mail: 

Links [ROADLESS: BCL, University of Ioannina, Greece] [SCB: Roadless initiative] [Roadless initiative] 

Kati V et al. 2020. Conservation policy under a roadless perspective: Minimizing fragmentation in Greece. Biological  Conservation 252:108828.