100,000 Dutch Call to Preserve Meadow Landscapes and their Birds
“We must act now in order to save meadow birds and their habitats, and we must work together: the corporate sector, farmers, NGO’s, banks and governments.”
This is what Fred Wouters, Director of VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands), stated when he presented a petition signed by 100,000 concerned Dutch citizens to the State Secretary Dijksma of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs this past February.
This petition is part of the 'Red de Rijke Weide' (‘Save the Rich Meadows’) campaign that VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands) began in 2013. Meadow birds like Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatcher are in serious decline. They have been for decades, and since 1960, more than 60% of all meadow wader species like these have vanished from the Netherlands.
Factory farming is the main culprit because intensive mowing, low water levels, and chemical fertilisers have made it virtually impossible for birds like the Black-tailed Godwit - an iconic species in the Netherlands - to reproduce successfully. Each year at least 10.000 chicks must make it to adulthood to keep a viable population going, but in 2014 only about 4.600 chicks survived.
To help save these species, the 'Red de Rijke Weide' campaign will aim to restore 200,000 hectares of meadow-land by 2020. The goal is to create habitat that meadow birds depend on for survival, with flowers and insects and places to hide. This area will account for one-fifth of the total grassland in the country.
VBN is calling for a sustainable way to finance the restoration and conservation of meadowland. When a fair price is paid, dairy farmers are able care for their surroundings and keep meadows healthy and alive. With this goal in mind, VBN established a national ‘meadow think tank’, which includes as members the largest dairy company in the Netherlands (Friesland Campina), Rabobank, World Wildlife Fund for Nature, and a research institute.
To showcase the possibilities, VBN partnered with a dairy supplier and nature friendly farmer in 2014 and began producing a special ‘Red de Rijke Weide’ cheese in a nature-friendly way. For each kilo sold, the farmer receives one euro to turn more of his land into habitat suitable for meadow birds. This example proves it is possible for farmers to take care of nature while having a profitable business.
The Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs, Dijksma, and delegates from the twelve provinces, have publicly stated that the “Save the Rich Meadows is a very promising initiative”. The State Secretary has also shown support by pledging to participate in the think tank venture.