Wallonia to create 30 new nature reserves in eco-preservation push

Wallonia to create 30 new nature reserves in eco-preservation push
Foggy autumn weather in November 2022. Credit: Belga/ Tom Goyvaerts

Over the past two years, Wallonia has created around 2,000 hectares of nature reserves in a bid to protect its eco-environment. To confirm its commitment to preserving these areas, it is adding an additional 1,558 hectares of new nature reserves in the region.

In 2020, a total of 1,098 hectares of nature reserves was created, followed by another 1,016 hectares in 2021. On the proposal of the region's Minister for Nature and Forestry, Céline Tellier, the Walloon government has now approved the creation of 30 new nature reserves, as well as the extension of 23 existing nature reserves.

"The preservation of flora and fauna is undoubtedly the greatest challenge of this century, along with climate change," Tellier said. "The creation of 1,558 hectares of new protected areas in Wallonia — true refuges for nature — represents a new step in the right direction in the face of the unprecedented crisis of life."

She explained that it is vital to give biodiversity an important place in society, and to realise all the benefits that it brings, "not only in terms of health and well-being, but also for the proper functioning of our ecosystems."

Providing valuable services

During its legislature, the government originally committed itself in the to the annual recognition of 1,000 hectares of new nature reserves each year. It is more ambitious objective is to ensure 2 to 3% of the territory will fall under strong protection status in the coming years.

The overall objective of creating this "network of nature reserves and protected areas" to ensure the rarest and most fragile species and environments can be preserved, especially those that provide a valuable service to the region's inhabitants.

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"For example, peatlands play an essential role in carbon capture, while the various types of wetlands can serve as wetlands can act as buffer zones during major rainfall events, thus reducing the risk of flooding," Tellier noted in a statement.

Until now, the total surface of all Walloon protected areas was around 23,600 hectares. Wallonia now has 271 state nature reserves, managed by the Nature and Forest department, and 203 so-called "approved nature reserves" managed by private nature associations.

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