Science - February 13, 2014

‘Diversity in nature organizations is a good thing’

Albert Sikkema

The Dutch state forest service Staatsbosbeheer, nature conservation organization Natuurmonumenten and the 12 provincial nature conservation organizations want to manage all their nature reserves jointly.

Per province, one of the organizations is going to manage all the nature areas. The management of the Netherlands’ fragmented nature areas is inefficiently organized at the moment, says McKinsey consultancy bureau. Collaboration should save 40 to 60 million euros a year in the long run.

Frank Berendse, professor of Nature Management and Plant Ecology, sees it as positive that the organizations are going to work together more, although he doubts whether the measures in question will really save these kinds of sums of money.

Can we manage with just one nature organization per province?

‘No, it is important that they remain clearly distinct organizations for the public. Staatsbosbeheer is semi-governmental, and Natuurmonumenten is an association with members. Those are very different kinds of organization that you cannot just merge. There are big differences between the provincial landscape organizations too. Geldersch Landschap in Gelderland focuses a lot on cultivated land, for instance, whereas the focus of Utrechts Landschap lies more on wilderness areas. That diversity in goals and strategies is good, because you can appeal to several different sections of society with it.’

In which kinds of management can the nature organizations work together?

‘You have to realize that nature management in the Netherlands is largely focused on eliminating and reducing negative impacts of things from outside, such as nitrogen deposition and the lowering of the water table. So in small, fragmented nature areas you need intensive management, while in large contiguous areas the management can be more extensive. You can also work together on water management and on the evaluation of nature management. That way you can compare the effect of different forms of management in several nature areas. Unfortunately, that is not happening yet.’

Part of the plan is for Staatsbosbeheer to become independent?

‘That would be a bad and a risky development because you will then have two national nature organizations that are dependent on members or donors. I think you should leave large tracts of nature in the hands of the government. The idea of making Staatsbosbeheer independent was promoted under state secretary Bleker, who imposed mind-bogglingly large cuts on this organization. That bad management is in the past now, fortunately, and the current state secretary does very sensible things.’