| Natura 2000 management in The Netherlands
Natura 2000 has caused a lot of commotion in the Netherlands, as in several other European countries. Farmers, fishermen and industries were afraid that most of the developments they desired would be blocked by the strict protection and management requirements applicable to Natura 2000 sites under nature conservation legislation. Recreational organizations thought their members would be banned from Natura 2000 sites. Even nature managers and ecologists were afraid that the ‘strict’ system of designation and conservation would be a drawback for nature restoration and an impediment to natural processes. Of course, all this was more based on emotions than on facts. A major breakthrough was not reached until the development of management plans started a few years ago. All stakeholders are involved in that process, which allows them to provide input and obtain a better understanding of the consequences of Natura 2000 for their interests.
A management plan is required by Dutch nature conservation law for all Natura 2000 sites, but the development of management plans has progressed slowly since 2010. Management plans for many sites are in varying stages of development, but only few (<10) management plans have been formally adopted. One of the main reasons for this delay is uncertainty about license possibilities for agricultural developments near Natura 2000 sites. The Dutch Government, farmers and nature conservation organizations work together on an integral solution to this problem. The solution consists of a significant reduction of emissions of nitrogen to air and water, special restoration measures for vulnerable habitats and species and an important financial injection by the government (already ring-fenced).
The original fear of Natura 2000 significantly blocking economic development has proven to be unfounded. Research has shown that most of the socio-economic activities in or near Natura 2000 sites do not need a permit at all and of those plans or projects that need a permit more than 95% have had no problems in obtaining one (sometimes with slight mitigation measures). Only few developments in Natura 2000 sites were refused or were allowed to take place only after the necessary compensation measures had been taken, because it was clear that they would significantly harm nature.
Due to ongoing pressure from socio-economic organizations, VBN notices a trend that regional governments are starting to grant permits to economic activities in and around Natura 2000 sites too easily or are allowing too many activities in Natura 2000 sites by incorporating them into management plans without adequate restrictions. Citizens and NGOs have to fight these developments more and more, which increases the negative image of Natura 2000 in the media.
|VBN thinks it is important that the management plan phase ends with a transparent, clearly defined and prioritized overview of costs and funds available for Natura 2000. This phase is an excellent opportunity to establish both the financial needs and gains for maintaining and restoring Natura 2000 sites in the Netherlands to a favourable conservation status.
VBN , Vogelbescherming Nederland (BirdLIfe partner in the Netherlands)
Harm Dotinga, Harm.Dotinga(at)vogelbescherming.nl