Natura 2000 is a European network of protected nature areas where certain species of animal and their natural habitats are protected in order to preserve biodiversity.
Natura 2000 areas in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has over 160 Natura 2000 areas. They are all part of the National Ecological Network (NEN), some of which still need to be created.
Natura 2000 procedure
There is a fixed procedure for placing a nature area under the protection of Natura 2000. First, the Netherlands registers the area with the European Union. Then the Minister for Agriculture designates it a Natura 2000 area, by issuing a ‘designation order’. Eventually, the provincial authority, which is responsible for implementing nature policy, will draw up and officially adopt a management plan, in collaboration with all those involved with the area in question.
Public consultation on Natura 2000 designation orders and management plans
Public consultation takes place before Natura 2000 designation orders and management plans are finalised. Members of the public may give their opinion on draft designation orders, draft amendment orders and draft management plans. Once these documents have been finalised, it is still possible to lodge an appeal. Designation orders and management plans can be accessed online.
Natura 2000 legislation
Reducing nitrogen levels in Natura 2000 areas
Nitrogen ends up in the environment as a result of manure applications in farming and emissions from industry and motor vehicles. A special strategy for tackling excess nitrogen (known as PAS) is designed to reduce the amount of nitrogen in Natura 2000 areas. Measures to achieve this are incorporated into the management plan. Only once levels are low enough can new nitrogen-emitting commercial activities be permitted. The AERIUS tool is used to calculate the scope for new economic development.
Water quality in Natura 2000 areas
Many Natura 2000 targets depend on water quality. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) stipulates standards for water quality in Natura 2000 areas. Natura 2000 areas where water quality must be improved can be broken down into two categories:
- the 'sense of urgency' areas, where water quality must be restored quickly, before 2016, otherwise natural values will be irretrievably lost;
- other Natura 2000 areas where water quality is an important factor. Management measures may be implemented over a longer period in these areas.