Seventy nine professors, including twenty from Wageningen, have complained about the current Cabinet's nature policy in an open letter.
The professors slate the 'severe and disproportionate cuts in Government budgets for nature.' The Cabinet is making cutbacks totalling 300 million euros a year in a budget of 500 million euros, according to the petition - 'a reduction of no less than 60 percent'. These cuts will lead to further deterioration in nature quality and the living conditions of endangered species, say the petitioners. 'We condemn the Cabinet for not having a vision for the vulnerable nature in the Netherlands, the quality of the environment we live in and the future for the spatial organization of the Netherlands. This vision should go further than just biodiversity; it should also encompass health, the economy and recreation.'
The initiators of the letter include Frank Berendse, Professor of Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology. Other Wageningen signatories include Bas Arts, Frans Bongers, Herbert Prins, Han Lindeboom, Marten Scheffer, Cees Veerman and Pier Vellinga. Besides the twenty Wageningen professors, it is mainly professors in Amsterdam, Groningen, Utrecht and Nijmegen who have signed the open letter.
The professors do not think it is a good idea to abandon the Ecological Main Structure. 'It would be sensible to take a pause now that we have twenty years of experience, and consider what would be a good way of completing the Ecological Main Structure given the current state of knowledge and scarce resources.' The Cabinet wants to give priority to nature conservation by farmers but they can contribute little to the objectives of the Birds and Habitats Directives, say the professors. 'Basically, we want the available resources to be concentrated more than at present on an area that is smaller but has more potential. Fewer farmers will be involved, but the remaining farmers will get more compensation and achieve better results.'
The professors also feel the Cabinet should use the EU agricultural subsidies primarily for the restoration of nature and the landscape. That is also in the interest of the economy, they say, because in much of the Netherlands more employment is generated by tourism than by agriculture. They also call the Cabinet's decision not to make any more money available for the creation of recreational areas close to cities 'short-sighted' as it is precisely in the areas around cities that the demand for recreation is greatest. They call on the Cabinet to change how it is making the cutbacks to prevent the cuts from having a disproportionate impact on nature.
The three initiators (Han Olff in Groningen, Rien Aerts in Amsterdam and Frank Berendse) will be holding a press conference in The Hague next Friday.