Wetenschap - 11 oktober 2012

Nature conservation a private matter?

Dutch nature organizations are planning a radical change of course, reported Trouw newspaper last week.

They want to be less focused on the government and work more with private parties to protect nature in the country.
Bad idea, says environmental sociologist Kris van Koppen. 'It is OK for nature organizations to go looking for other actors to help realize their nature goals, but turning their backs on the government is not a good strategy. The government is and will remain a key source of funding for nature development. Nature is a collective public good.'
Hasn't 'nature' simply gone out of style?
'Studies show that there is still a lot of support for nature conservation among the general public, and we see the government as the body that should do it. In terms of budget, too, the government still plays a key role. If nature organizations now orient themselves very much towards private parties, it will have a knock-on effect.'
The state forest service Staatsbosbeheer wants to become a national trust. Smart move?
'I can understand Staatsbosbeheer's wishes on that one. It was a government organization which was privatized and then had its funding slashed, so it will certainly have a wish to become independent of the government. But we already have a national trust in the field of nature: it is called Natuurmonumenten.'
Do nature organizations really know what is important to 'the people'?
'Through the success of the Ecological Main Structure, a kind of technocratic debate on nature targets developed between nature organizations and the government. This went over the heads of most of the general public. For this reason it is good that nature organizations want to involve the public more in their work and engage in more dialogue with them about nature conservation. After all, they are conserving Dutch nature areas on behalf of the public.'