Realisation of new Dutch National Ecological Network - agri-environment schemes, 1999 - 2012

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On 31 December 2012, the total area covered by agri-environment schemes in the Netherlands was 58,795 ha. The area covered by such schemes had decreased since 1999, but has been slowly increasing again since 2010. The picture in terms of increase and decrease differs between the various provinces.

Shift in nature conservation policy and altered ecological objectives

In 2010, the Dutch government decided to transfer a number of tasks relating to spatial planning, the economy and nature conservation from the national government to provincial governments. This decision continued the trend towards decentralisation of nature and landscape policies from national to provincial authorities that had started a few decades ago. The national and provincial governments set out their new ambitions regarding the development and management of natural habitats in the Netherlands for the period until 2027 in a September 2013 covenant called Natuurpact. The Dutch name of the National Ecological Network (NEN) was changed to 'Natuurnetwerk Nederland' (NNN), reflecting a change in focus. The target in terms of numbers of hectares under agri-environmental schemes has been dropped in the new covenant.

Agri-environment instrument continued

Even though the target for agri-environment schemes in terms of hectares has been abandoned, the instrument as such has not. It is still regarded as a potentially valuable instrument to achieve substantial contributions to the Netherlands' international obligations under the EU's Birds and Habitats Directives and the Water Framework Directive, as well as to enhance the attractiveness and amenity value of the countryside.

Area within NEN covered by agri-environment schemes increasing slightly since 2010

The area covered by agri-environment schemes is rather variable, with major differences between the provinces. After a decline of the area by about 10,000 ha between 1999 and 2009, it increased by 5000 ha between 2009 and 2012. Half of this increase is located in the province of Friesland.
The reasons most commonly cited by farmers for ending their participation in agri-environment schemes are land management problems (e.g. weeds); problems of fitting the schemes in with their normal agricultural practices; the level of financial compensations; the level of bureaucracy involved, and having sold the land for which management contracts under agri-environment schemes had been concluded. The relatively short term of the contracts means that the continuity of agri-environment schemes remains uncertain (PBL, 2012a).


Technical explanation

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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Realisation of new Dutch National Ecological Network - agri-environment schemes, 1999 - 2012 (indicator 1317, version 10,

) Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.