Netherlands still losing forests faster than planting them
Forests in the Netherlands are still disappearing more quickly than they’re being planted. That has been happening since 2013, but the national forest strategy created in 2020 aimed to end it. Its goals likely won’t be achieved. The Netherlands now has over 6,000 hectares less forest than at the start of the plan, the Court of Audit concluded in a study into forest management.
In 2020, the national government and provinces agreed to plant 10 percent more forests nationally. But the provinces’ plans differ considerably and do not always correspond with the national forest policy. According to the Court of Audit, this is because the current rules and implementation do not guarantee sustainable forest management. For example, there is insufficient forest rejuvenation nationwide, and the provinces do not actively monitor the replanting obligation. Also, there are no agreements about who pays for the construction of new forests.
There is no overview of how regional or local decisions will turn out and how much overdue maintenance there is. Staatsbosbeheer does not know this at a central level. Without that knowledge, Minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen) and the provinces cannot properly supervise or adjust. In 2014, the government largely passed the responsibility for nature and landscape to the provinces.
According to the Court of Audit, Staatsbosbeheer, an independent administrative body that manages over a quarter of the forests in the Netherlands, will probably succeed in realizing 5,000 hectares of extra forest on its own grounds in the coming years. Forest-rich provinces are also satisfied with how Staatsbosbeheer maintains the forest.
Between 1970 and 2013, the forest area in the Netherlands grew from 325,706 hectares to 375,912 hectares. Over 10 percent of the land area in the Netherlands was forest. After that, the forest area decreased to about 363,800 hectares. In the past four years, provinces and Staatsbosbeheer made efforts to plant more forest. But in net terms, the Netherlands still has deforestation, the Court of Audit said.
The forests in the Netherlands are owned by many parties. Private owners manage 31 percent of the forest, municipalities 15 percent, provinces 12 percent, Natuurmonumenten 8 percent, and other owners 7 percent. Staatsbosbeheer manages 27 percent. That amounts to over 94,000 hectares, or four times the city of Amsterdam.
Reporting by ANP