Woodland creatures

Egelmeer, a small lake in National Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the Netherlands.

Holland’s State Forestry Commission introduced an ambitious woodland expansion plan in October, calling for the addition of 100,000 hectares of new forest over the next three decades.

Centuries of intensive efforts to mould the country’s landscape through dikes and forest clearing resulted in increased agricultural output, but have left it as one of the least wooded countries in Europe. Only 11.1 per cent of the country is forested, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The Action Plan for Forest and Wood, expected to cost around €3 billion, was put together by a working group composed of environmental organizations, the Forestry Commission and companies from the wood and paper industries. It proposes adding 20,000 hectares to existing nature preserves, as well as the creation of several new forests. A plot of largely undeveloped land exists in the middle of Holland’s four largest cities, known as the Green Heart. Other potential locations include the peatlands of Groningen and Drenthe.

Another 30,000 hectares of woodlands would come from temporary forests, which could be developed using fallow land and industrial sites. These would exist for enough time to allow for sufficient tree growth that would make tree harvesting worthwhile and capture carbon from the atmosphere, at which point the land could be used for another purpose.

If completed, the forests are projected to reduce Dutch carbon emissions by 2.4 million tonnes per year. This would make it much easier for the country to reach its 2050 energy and climate targets, while reducing the need for imports of foreign wood.

National farming groups such as the Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture have come out in opposition to the plan, frustrated that they were left out of the decision-making process and concerned about the potential loss of farmland. Some environmentalists have questioned the emphasis placed on logging these new woodlands, arguing it leads to younger forests that are less valuable from an ecological perspective.

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