The unexpected nature reserve
November 28, 2012 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Twenty miles or so east of Amsterdam, set between the new towns of Almere and Lelystad, and lying five metres below sea-level, is the youngest wilderness I have ever seen. The Oostvaardersplassen is now a vast region of grassland, reed-bed, shallow lake and ragged forest, over 6,000 hectares in extent. Sea eagles and marsh harriers hunt its wide skies, spoonbills and avocets stalk its marshes, and vast herds of red deer, wild ponies and Heck cattle graze its savannah. But 40 years ago, the Oostvaardersplassen was underwater.
posted by Chrysostom (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
This polder was never completed, but the Dutch are going even further and giving back some of their reclaimed land to nature.

The Dutch government will flood the Hedwigepolder in the province of Zeeland at the mouth of the Scheldt river, to the sea. The operation, known in Dutch as ontpoldering, is the last step of a treaty signed between Flanders and the Netherlands over the deepening of the Westerschelde channel between Antwerp and the open sea. It will return the land to its wetland state.
posted by three blind mice at 8:09 AM on November 28, 2012

Looks like there's a bit of controversy.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:26 AM on November 28, 2012

There is much in common here with restored habitats and ecological reserves such as the UW Arboretum in Madison. Ultimately there needs to be a consensus about what is being (re-)created, and there are often misconceptions from visitors and, often as not, new neighbors (as urbanization spreads) concerning what it's all about and how its goals are to be met. Just in the same area in the last year we've had an incident where a dog owner lost her pet to a rabbit trap, since there was conservation (state DNR) land, where hunting and trapping are permitted, directly adjoining property with a different administration; neither was ever explicitly an off-leash area, but they had been treated as such in the absence of signage. Also related was a neighbor who trespassed on a natural reserve to "clear brush" they saw as unsightly. Even though the cutting clearly showed someone with gardening-level pruning skills, what they cleared was intended to remain in a natural state, not be an attractive park landscape. In the end, I view these conflicts as expressive of multiple points of view and frameworks that should be the basis of an open conversation.
posted by dhartung at 9:20 AM on November 28, 2012

6,000 hectares = 23 sq. mi., FYI
posted by benito.strauss at 10:00 AM on November 28, 2012

This is an interesting and admirable undertaking even if not perfect.
posted by shoesietart at 10:24 AM on November 28, 2012

Looks like there's a bit of controversy.

Oh, hell, yes. I'm from that part of the world and many people in the region are not happy with this: loss of valuable farming land, loss of protection against the sea, but above all a deeply ingrained emotional response to any proposal to give back to the sea what our ancestors won from it through hard struggle and tragedy.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:34 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

New Doggerland for the Koninkrijk der Nederlanden! Wadden Sea go home!

So what happens in terms of exclusive economic zones, etc., when what was ocean becomes Netherlands? Just hypothetically.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:35 PM on November 28, 2012

Nothing; the entire North Sea is already divided between the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Denmark and Norway.
posted by brokkr at 4:03 PM on November 28, 2012

It does seem like there are far too many animals for the area. They should be fed during winter or reduced to half the amount, maybe even 1/4.
The change in philosophy is another question and more difficult. We are going to need to change our attitude about land, and in countries like the Netherlands it is going to be difficult, because the culture runs so deep. I have some drained marsh-land which should be given back to it's natural state. It's too labour extensive to farm profitably and we have ground-water problems. But I remember my grandfather explaining about the hand-dug ditches and the triumph over a cruel natural environment. Looking over the plain which was once a swamp makes me happy in a profound way.
posted by mumimor at 4:59 PM on November 28, 2012

Wadden Sea go home!

You laugh, but there were plans.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:27 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey thanks for that link Martin. I was sure there must have been, but some quick Googling didn't get me anywhere.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:13 PM on November 29, 2012

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