Like most National Parks in the world, the protection of these areas in the Netherlands is based on international agreements to preserve important ecosystems. The Dutch National Parks have been determined by the Minister of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries. Together with the owners and environmental organisations, the government thereby commits itself to care for the conservation and safeguarding of each valuable piece of natural world. Besides protection, important goals of establishing these parks are education and scientific research.
The Netherlands joined the international agreements on the protection of large nature areas in 1969 in New Delhi. Clearly the Dutch National Parks are relatively small in this tiny nation. Real untouched nature is not available, yet the European country has some valuable and unique ecosystems, including dune, peat and heath areas.
The official Dutch definition of a National Park is:
National Parks are undivided areas of at least 1000 hectare, consisting of nature environment, water and/or woods, with specific ecological characteristics and specific flora and fauna.
One hectare is 10,000 square meters, which is equivalent to 2.471 acres. National Parks can contain farmland, although these will be declared protected areas as well.
Although the agreements were there already at the end of the 1960s, the Netherlands started in 1980 with the preparation of a structure of National Parks. Advises by a special committee led to the first pilot in 1984, called National Park Schiermonnikoog, an island in the northern Waddenzee. It became National Park officially five years later, followed by the other parks in the years thereafter.
An overview of the Dutch National Parks (called Nationaal Park in the national language):
- Nationaal Park Schiermonnikoog
This island is one of the few areas in Europe where natural dune formation takes place.
- Nationaal Park Dwingelderveld
The Dwingelderveld is situated in the north-eastern province Drenthe and contains large undivided heath lands and woods. Many rare birds breed here.
- Nationaal Park De Groote Peel
A National Park since 1993, De Peel lies on the border of the provinces Limburg and Noord-Brabant in the south of the Netherlands. It contains peat lands, heath and forests. The swamps have earned the region the international label wetlands.
- Nationaal Park De Weerribben
Also an official wetland, De Weerribben is the most significant swamp land in north-west Europe. It is situated in the province Overijssel and is one of the few major environmental tourist areas.
- Nationaal Park De Biesbosch
With its 7100 hectare De Biesbosch is the largest National Park of the country, near the city of Dordrecht (west of Rotterdam). It is characterized by water and birds.
- Nationaal Park De Meinweg
This southern National Park east of Roermond has a unique landscape of terraces, with a rich collection of flora as well as reptiles and amphibious animals.
- Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland
Dutch province Noord-Holland’s Zuid-Kennemerland is a dune area with characteristic plants and animals.
- Nationaal Park De Maasduinen
Previously known as De Hamert, the park lies along the river Maas and contains woods and heath lands. Unique are the parabolic river dunes, dating from Prehistoric times.
- Nationaal Park Drents-Friese Wold
A 6,000 hectare large forest area on the border of Drenthe and Friesland, preserved since 2000.
- Nationaal Park De Veluwezoom
Already a preserved area in 1930 thanks to individual initiative, this National Park contains 4,800 hectare of vast woods and heath lands.
- Het Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe
This National Park was founded in 1935, also thanks to particular enterprise and is in fact the most famous nature area in the Netherlands. Besides woods, heath and sand lands, it contains the well-known museum Kröller-Müller and a castle called Sint Hubertus.
Some areas in the Netherlands have been designated National Parks to-be. These will get the official stamp in the coming years: De Loonse en Drunense Duinen in Noord-Brabant, Duinen van Texel in the Waddenzee, Oosterschelde in Zeeland, Lauwersmeer in Friesland and Groningen, Utrechtse Heuvelrug in Utrecht, De Alde Feanen in Friesland, and Sallandse Heuvelrug in Overijssel.
Information thanks to the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries.