Over the next thirty years, the Dutch countryside must be provided with a large amount of relatively small pieces of nature, such as groves, hedges, orchards, pools, herb-rich strips and nature-friendly ditches. These ‘small landscape elements’ can be created and managed by farmers, private owners and also governments. These are areas that are no more than a few hectares in size. Until 2030, the costs amount to approximately 7.5 billion euros and these must be paid by the government. That is the purport of a ‘landscape attack plan’ that was launched on Wednesday and presented to Minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen, VVD).

    The plan was drawn up at the request of the government by a broad coalition of more than a hundred parties, including civil society organisations, municipalities, water boards, companies and a number of ministries.

    The coalition is united in a platform, the Delta Plan Biodiversity Recovery Foundation, which aims to reverse the continuing trend of biodiversity loss in the Netherlands by 2030. “Biodiversity has declined dramatically in the last fifty years,” the plan states. “Insects have decreased by 70 percent and birds, mammals and fish in rural areas are under great pressure. The Dutch landscape was mainly seen as a commodity. As a result, its quality has declined enormously. About 60 percent of the landscape elements have disappeared in the last century due to urbanization and intensification and scaling up in agriculture.”

    The plan of attack presented on Wednesday advocates a ‘green-blue veining’ of approximately 10 percent of the rural area in the Netherlands, outside built-up areas and excluding the existing nature in the Netherlands Nature Network and the Natura 2000 areas. To this end, the land of farmers, governments and private individuals must be transformed into nature reserves. Owners who make their land available must be reimbursed for the costs of construction and management, the coalition states, and they must also be compensated for lost income due to changing the function of the land.

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    Green-blue veining

    The ‘green-blue veining’ serves several purposes: to beautify the landscape, increase biodiversity, improve water quality, contribute to climate goals and promote ‘a healthier and less taxing food system’. According to the coalition, the plan contributes to “a sustainable income for farmers who switch to nature-inclusive forms of agriculture”.

    Finally, recreation and the business climate would also benefit from the plans. “We have to get started as soon as possible,” says director Ronald Hiel of the Deltaplan Biodiversity Recovery Foundation. The landscape plan is one of the plans that should contribute to strengthening nature in the Netherlands.

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