'Over a thousand football fields' classed as nature reserves in Flanders

'Over a thousand football fields' classed as nature reserves in Flanders
The Nature Reserve of Westhoek, located along the Belgian coast. Credit: Kira Verleye/Google Maps

Flanders has classed hundreds of additional hectares of land as a nature reserve, bringing up the count of protected areas in the region to more than 20,000 hectares.

Environment Minister Zuhal Demir announced that a total of 682.5 hectares of land had been classed as protected areas, in what she said amounts to a combined area of "more than a thousand football fields."

In an online statement, the environment ministry said that, after clearing a backlog of files dating back to 2017, Flanders now had a total of 51 nature reserve sites spread over a total surface of 21,546 hectares.

The newly recognised reserves range from unclassed woodland to fields that have fallen into disuse and which could be transformed into a thriving environment for different species, according to the statement.

A number of nature associations will be tasked with jointly managing the reserves and improving their "quality of nature in the areas," such as Natuurpunt, Voeren Regional Landscape or Limburgs Landschap, which will oversee 638, 11.9 and 32 hectares, respectively.

Sharing the announcement on social media, Demir said that the addition was a "win-win" for both people and nature, saying an accessibility plan would be worked on to ensure visitors can enjoy the areas without negatively impacting them.

Hunting animals, cutting plants, or any other actions which could alter the natural environment in any way are forbidden inside nature reserves.

The announcement comes as the Flemish government faces piling pressure from the associative and civil spheres over a perceived lack of ambition on their climate and environment goals, after the region scaled back its carbon-emissions 2030 target to 32.6%, as Brussels and Wallonia aimed for 40% and 55%, respectively.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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