In the year 1875, Albert Rothschild, a man of great foresight, decided to protect large expanses of undisturbed woodland from forestry operations and destruction, thereby saving the area not only for himself but for future generations as well.
120 years later, the state of Lower Austria came to an agreement with the owners of the land – the forest administration Langau and the Österreichische Bundesforste AG – to set aside 2.400 hectares of natural forest and other near-natural habitats, thereby saving that area from continued use. The Wilderness Dürrenstein was established between 1997 and 2001, during a LIFE-project, made possible by the funding provided by the European Union and the former Ministry for Environment, Youth and Family.
Since the end of 2002, the entire area of the Wilderness Dürrenstein has been secured, due to its nature reserve status. In 2003 it was recognized as the first category I wilderness area in Austria, according to the criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Wilderness Dürrenstein seeks to protect the unique forest, endangered organisms and habitats. Rather than trying to maintain a specific condition, the natural processes are allowed to unfold without human intervention as far as possible.
A management plan was developed as a basis for the work of the nature reserve administration, which came into being in 2002. The management plan was developed together with the Institute of Wildlife Biology and Game Management (IWJ) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Science, Vienna. In 2013 a newly created management plan took effect.
The area was expanded by 100 hectares in the course of the first 10 years (2002-2012), in order to protect precious areas adjacent to the original land and to allow the reserve’s borders to adapt better to the natural conditions. During the 10 year anniversary celebration in the fall of 2012, a new expansion was announced. In 2013, the expansion was realized, increasing the area of protected land to 3.500 hectares.