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Dutch agency Staatsbosbeheer manages over 250.000 hectares of natural beauty

Cutbacks force prioritization

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - The plan to privatize a small part of the vast holdings of the National Forest Service, known as Staatsbosbeheer, has people in the Hague in an uproar after the agency admitted that high-profile properties such as Malieveld and Haagse Bos could be sold. Staatsbosbeheer which manages 250.000 hectares of land, including nature parks, dunes, wetlands, polders, recreational properties and heritage sites, must offload 15.000 hectares to pare down its budget.

Eager to identify the sites the government may want to sell, the media is speculating which properties officials may be considering putting up for sale. Although Staatsbosbeheer owns 1500 properties that are privately managed through hereditary leases, the media has identified the two sites in The Hague as well as Spaarnwoude near Haarlem and the monumental Waterlinie, which is a heritage site.

It did not take long for municipal officials to point out that the two properties in The Hague could not be sold since they are public properties in perpetuity, based on a 1576 decision by Prince William the Taciturn. Due to public opposition to a proposed sale, the stadtholder agreed not to sell the properties to raise funds to help finance the fledgling country’s conflict with Spain. The decision, laid down in the Acte van Redemptie, states that the Haagse Bos, the Koekamp and the Malieveld are to ‘remain green until the end of days’ and may never be sold or altered.


Staatsbosbeheer, which kept the matter vague, confirmed that a number of nature sites not deemed important to the ecological heart of the Dutch ecosystem, will be sold, including small recreational areas around The Hague.

The Malieveld is a 10 hectare property, all lawn, located near The Hague's centre and frequently the site of large-scale gatherings including major political events in the past. Near Haagse Bos is, among others, the site of Huis ten Bosch, Queen Beatrix' palace. The other properties named are Spaarnwoude, near Haarlem, and a 3.000 hectare recreational site in North Holland, where major cultural events are held. The New Holland Water Line, a historic defense line that relied on flooding to keep enemy troops at bay, stretches from Muiden, near Amsterdam, to Woudrichem, a North Brabant city at the juncture of the Meuse and Wahl Rivers.


The Dutch pride themselves as being staunch supporters of nature preservation, although the country has very few areas that have not been altered by human activity. Wetlands such as the Alde Feanen and De Weerribben-Wieden are the remainders of centuries of peat fuel harvest activity. Entire lakes were created spontaneously during storms that eroded narrow strips of land used for landing and drying dredged peat (largely sold to western Dutch fuel starved cities where it went up in smoke). Even the undeniably gorgeous nature park De Hooge Veluwe is not as natural as many believe. It owes its current beauty to carefully planned development and now preservation. The same can be noted of several little Sahara's where sand dunes rise and disappear on their own but are actually carefully monitored to ensure that they remain confined to their area and are able to survive within those boundaries.

To give nature a free hand so to speak has drawn the ire of citizen's groups who tend to become exasperated with officials pursuing a hands-off approach to wildlife in the parks. Carcasses of animals starved to death through lack of sufficient fodder during a prolonged winter can be spotted in the Oostvaardersplassen, located along the Markermeer, the southern section of the IJsselmeer. The self-managed herd size of the so-called Heck cattle, is in fact part of a carefully orchestrated plan to redevelop a breed that mirrors the one that grazed western European tundra's thousands of years ago. To pull of this feat, breeders used the Corsican mountain range breed and crossed them with Spanish fighting bulls, Scottish highlanders and the Hungarian tundra cow, all thought to be original breeds.

In addition to numerous small sites, Staatsbosbeheer also manages twenty large key nature parks such as Alde Feanen (Friesland), Biesbosch, Drentsche Aa, Drents-Friese Wold, Dunes of Texel, Dwingelderveld (Gelderland), Groote Peel (Limburg), Hoge Veluwe, Lauwersmeer, Loonse en Drunense Duinen (North Brabant), Maasduinen, Meinweg (both in Limburg), Oosterschelde, Sallandse Heuvelrug (Overijssel), Schiermonnikoog, Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Veluwezoom, De Weerribben-Wieden (Overijssel), Zoom - Kalmthoutse Heide (North Brabant, straddling the border with Belgium) and Zuid-Kennemerland (North Holland).