For & Against

Proposition: Bleker is not a threat to the landscape. He is making necessary adjustments to Dutch nature policy.

Jillis: I am no nature expert, but I do have my doubts about all the fuss about State Secretary Henk Bleker’s nature policy. The government has got to make cuts and – quite rightly- that is being done on all fronts. Including the nature front. Bleker wants to decentralize nature management in order to save 600 million. It seems to me a good idea for the provinces to implement policy at the regional level. They can always coordinate their policies so as to maintain the Ecological Main Structure. And then I wonder how especially valuable our almost entirely artificial nature really is. Are all those micro-nature areas, most of them created by us, really so special? Isn’t nature something organic and unspoiled that should just go its own way? Uprooting all those conifers on the Veluwe to save the heather – is that natural? Marlies responds: Compared to other areas, the cuts on nature are extreme. And nature has a positive impact on public health, which makes it important to keep on investing in it; better public health makes a big difference to absenteeism too. Whether we created the nature areas ourselves makes no difference to their positive impact. Marlies: We all realize by now that there have to be budget cuts. So it’s logical that there should be some cuts to nature management as well. However, the cuts to nature management are disproportional, at about 60 percent. To make matters worse, Bleker is simply putting a stop to current policy without putting anything clear in its place. A major example of this is the Ecological Main Structure. And then the Netherlands is at risk of breaking international treaties, and could incur fines, so it’s questionable how much money will be saved through the cuts in the end. Leaving nature management to farmers, which is Bleker’s aim, doesn’t tend to work. That has been proven already. It does cost money in government subsidies which could otherwise have been spent on truly effective nature management. Bleker would do well to acknowledge the importance of nature in our country and learn to listen to people who know what they are talking about. Jillis responds: I don’t imagine Bleker isn’t advised by experts. I also question the priceless value of some of our nature areas. That international treaties will be broken is not a valid argument. A government has a responsibility to act in the best interests of its own country.

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