Pilot Action A.09: Integrated Management Plans with local Private Landowners

In Pilot Action A.09 Natuurpunt tries to cooperate with private landowners by writing integrated (joint) nature management plans, covering both Natuurpunt’s property as well as the adjacent private property. 

The idea is that from an ecological point of view it’s far more logic to treat a nature area as a whole, neglecting the political or property borders, and work together (within private and public parties) to reach the European Natura 2000 objectives. Since October 2017, this cooperation with and between private landowners is made legally possible by the Flemish government by establishing a new nature legislation. The most important base lines of this legal change are the fact that from now on also a private landowner can write a nature management plan and submit his/her property for official recognition as nature reserve by an everlasting easement. Moreover, the private landowner can get subsidies for recurrent management (mowing, removing alien species, dredging a pond etc.).

So far, Natuurpunt has had good contact with many private landowners to launch the idea of a common management plan. A first determination thereby is that this “communication process” is lasting longer than we initially thought. It takes time to convince landowners of this unique opportunity, as well as to deal with all the legal consequences. Also, the new nature legislation is still very young and not completely operational yet, causing some landowners to drop the idea of a joint management plan. On the other hand, many of them are willing to designate their property as an official nature reserve and pass it on as a whole (when inherited, a domain is often divided into different parts amongst the heirs. Many private landowners want to keep their domain as a robust whole for the next generations).

At this moment, Natuurpunt is working on 5 concrete cases and already has 3 signed contracts (one contract with a municipality as participating landowner):

  • Tienbunders-Zoutleeuw: A private landowner owns 30 hectares of old oak/beech forest and wants to designate her property as a nature reserve forever (everlasting easement as “nature reserve”). We already started with the first parts of the management plan.
  • Forts-Antwerpen: The forts around the city of Antwerp have become a perfect habitat for hibernating bats. Within ELCN we try to connect different fort-owners (private, governmental) and engage them in the development of a common management plan. Four of them have already given their oral approval, one of them has signed a contract.
  • Zottegem: We have a signed contract with a municipality (Zottegem) for 21 hectares (14 hectares in Natura 2000). We already started with the first parts of the management plan.


Also, ELCN will be published in our 3-monthly magazine (Natuurpunt.Blad), reaching more than 110,000 families in Flanders.