Organisation - June 20, 2019

To: former minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Vincent Oostvogels

While everyone was still getting worked up about WUR President Louise Fresco’s seat on the supervisory board of Syngenta, you were appointed chair of nature society Natuurmonumenten.

Congratulations! A Wageningen man, who was once an Animal Sciences student and recently became chair of our own Supervisory Board, now heading the country’s biggest nature conservation organization — that’s great news. You are forgiven for switching to Agrarian Economics after a matter of weeks.

But Jeroen, we do need to talk about that club of ours. Ours, yes, because I am one of Natuurmonumenten’s 700,000 members. The society seems to be wavering. It employs some of the most expert ecologists yet it is increasingly asking the general public what it should do about nature management, with constant surveys about big game and recreational use, for example.

Nature management shouldn’t be governed by the vagaries of public opinion

In spring, there was a furore about tree felling in nature areas. Natuurmonumenten immediately announced they would not be felling any more trees until — you’ve guessed it — they had consulted the public. The questionnaire can still be filled in; just google ‘enquête bomenkap’. Even if you can’t tell the difference between a beech and an oak, you can still give your opinion.

Of course it’s important to have broad support but I don’t think nature management should be governed by the vagaries of public opinion. Natuurmonumenten was originally founded in protest at plans to dump Amsterdam’s household waste in Lake Naarden. If they had first held a survey among the people of Amsterdam, that lake would no longer exist. So, Jeroen, please let Natuurmonumenten create support for proper nature management rather than trying to find out what form of management has support.

Vincent Oostvogels (22) is exploring the delicate interface between nature management and food production through his two Master’s programmes, Forest and Nature Conservation and Animal Sciences