Identification of visions for protected area management and quantification of their consequences in Utrechtse Heuvelrug and Kromme Rijn (Netherlands)

Anna Filyushkina
Published: 25 May 2020
Last edited: 16 September 2021
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Summary

The Kromme Rijn area is a dynamic cultural landscape, shaped by multiple uses and different elements of typical Dutch landscapes. Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park within this landscape includes important forest areas and biodiversity values, but is also of historical and recreational significance. The region needs to be multifunctional given the dense population and many expectations towards the landscape, but different use interests are not always compatible.

 

In order to develop new solutions, identify new directions for policy and help society move towards synergetic options, an „inclusive conservation“ approach is being applied. As a first step, different visions for the use and development of the landscape have been identified through stakeholder interviews. These will provide the basis for modelling the consequences of these different stakeholder vision. Finally, stakeholders will discuss the visions and their consequences, deciding on a joint vision and pathways towards it.

Classifications

Region
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Local
Subnational
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Cropland
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Orchard
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Theme
Ecosystem services
Geodiversity and Geoconservation
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Terrestrial spatial planning
Challenges
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)

Location

Utrecht, Netherlands | Kromme Rijn area, Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park
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Challenges

The Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park and Kromme Rijn region is a peri-urban landscape, where a national park as well as several small nature areas are lodged in the mosaic of farms, small towns and other land uses. The region needs to be multifunctional given the dense population and many expectations towards the landscape, but different use interests are not always compatible. Thus, the main challenge for nature conservation and governance of the larger landscape those nature areas are located in is about re-conciling multiple demands in a resource scarce place. Multi-functionality is the norm and expected by stakeholders, but does not deliver in terms of individual functions. Among identified issues are declining biodiversity, over-crowding of recreation (especially in times of COVID-19 pandemic), tensions between agriculture and nature (for example, nitrogen fertilizers negatively affecting nature areas) etc.

Beneficiaries

  • Local residents 
  • Visitors 
  • Governing bodies of National Park 
  • Other nature areas and local stakeholders

How do the building blocks interact?

Together the building blocks present a combination of methods which allows to identify and investigate visions for development of protected areas and landscapes around them from the perspective of different stakeholders and dimensions. In this project we aim to collect perspectives beyond the traditional stakeholder groups (such as farmers, decision-makers) and focus on least studied group – local residents. We also disregard the assumption that they share the same vision for this landscape, but instead we think of them as having diverse views on the landscape and its development. Such approach allows to better capture these diverse perspectives within the same group of stakeholders and thus higher changes of representing existing plurality of values. By using different methods of data collection and combining said data we are able to address different groups within the residents community. It also allows to account for not only the “what” but also “where” in terms of desired outcomes. The next step in such process would be to present results of this visioning process to different stakeholders and engage them in deliberation towards a (set of) shared / joint visions.

Impacts

Inclusive conservation is part of the long-term strategy for a more harmonious alignment of different use interests and development of shared visions for the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and Kromme Rijn region. Using the STREAMLINE narrative approach and elements of participatory mapping we have conducted interviews with different stakeholders such as decision-makers as a local level, recreationists and residents. In these interviews we focused on their perceptions and visions for the area.

 

As a result we have identified four main visions:

  1. an inclusive landscape for sustainable living,
  2. productivity-oriented landscape,
  3. a peri-urban landscape of convenience, and
  4. environmentally-friendly landscape. Across these visions several tensions have emerged such as biodiversity conservation vs intensive farming (specifically nitrogen pollution), timber harvests in the National Park vs recreation and aesthetics, tranquility vs recreation or new roads or other infrastructure.

Additionally, potential spatial conflicts for land have been identified between infrastructure, energy production (i.e. wind mills), farming and biodiversity conservation. In next step we will map consequences of these visions and trade-offs. Such knowledge will then be used to co-develop shared visions for the area.

Story

Inclusive conservation (an approach developed within the ENVISION project) is part of the long-term strategy for a more harmonious alignment of different use interests and development of shared visions for the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and Kromme Rijn region. During our work in the area we have identified four main visions that outline different combinations of interests in the area (see Visions deliverable for descriptions):

  • “An inclusive landscape for sustainable living”,
  • “Productivity-oriented landscape”,
  • “A peri-urban landscape of convenience”, and
  • “Environmentally-friendly landscape”.

Multifunctionality is both an inherent feature of this landscape, and also one that is desired and appreciated by actors. All visions feature the importance of multiple functions, however in each of them different emphasis is put on each of them.

While identifying stakeholder values in the area we also inquired about tensions they recognize. These represent an important component of visions, as navigating these tensions is the task for local decision-makers and actors themselves. We found that many local actors (also including lay-man) are aware of a number of main tensions in the area. Across these visions several tensions have emerged such as biodiversity conservation vs intensive farming (specifically nitrogen pollution), timber harvests in the National Park vs recreation and aesthetics, tranquillity vs recreation or new roads or other infrastructure. Additionally, potential spatial conflicts for land have been identified between infrastructure, energy production (i.e. wind mills), farming and biodiversity conservation.

This awareness of existing tensions combined with desire for multifunctionality in a densely-populated mosaic of land uses of a peri-urban landscape presents a challenge for everyone involved. Acknowledging that “not all is possible” and that compromise between functions can jeopardize it all could help starting discussions on joint / shared visions and pathways towards them.

Contributed by

Anna Filyushkina