Science - May 15, 2014

Nature as monument

Roelof Kleis

The Netherlands has a confusing patchwork of nature areas. It would be much clear if it was divided into national, provincial and municipal nature monuments in much the same way as historic buildings are categorized, write Pieter van Vollenhoven, Professor Joop Schaminée and ex-professor Andre van de Zande in Monuments: a source of inspiration for nature?

The report was written at the behest of state secretary Sharon Dijksma. Schaminée explains.

The division you propose is based on administrative boundaries: municipality, province, central government. Nature does not observe these boundaries. Won’t you just create a new patchwork?

‘It’s about the layers of national, provincial and local, the impor­tance given to it at each level and the related responsibilities. It would make quite clear to people who is responsible and answer­able. That clarity and transparency are important for increasing public support for nature.’

Existing areas would be declared national nature monuments or provincial nature monuments. But what is a municipal nature monument?

‘There aren’t any yet. That may prove the biggest challenge, to bring nature closer to people locally. It is about bits of nature that you join forces to look after. Schools and companies which jointly have their own area of a village, for example. That is great, isn’t it – working together on a bit of nature that is nearby and being proud of it? Stimulating people to get involved in nature: that is what it is all about.’

A striking part of your plan: letting private individuals borrow money at friendly rates for developing and conserving nature. How do you pay off those loans?

‘A lot more money could be earned from nature than happens now. Ecosystem services such as recreation, clean water and water storage are worth money. New possibilities are also created by making people co-owners of nature. Involving them financially, for example, through shares. Remember: the Naardermeer was bought that way.’

This is a first salvo. What’s the next step?

‘This is a discussion paper. We want to start up the discussion. There are also three pilots for national nature monuments in progress: the Biesbosch, the Maasduinen and part of the Veluwe.’