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The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

Karl-Friedrich Thöne

Karl-Friedrich Thöne THE GREEN BELT IN THURINGIA – A VISIONARY IDEA THE GREEN BELT IN THURINGIA – A VISIONARY IDEA Prof. Dr. Karl-Friedrich Thöne Thuringian Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Nature Conservation Hallesche Str. 16, DE-99085 Erfurt, Germany THE GREEN BELT IN THURINGIA – A VISIONARY IDEA The Green Belt in Thuringia follows the historically significant course of the former border between East and West Germany. Totalling 763 km, the stretch of the Green Belt in Thuringia is the longest in Germany. By comparison, 112 km of the Green Belt pass through Lower Saxony, 270 km through Hessen and 381 km through Bavaria. The key to the success of the Green Belt lies in convincing people of its worth. Broad acceptance among local residents is crucial to realising the project objectives. It was important to communicate to former landowners and farmers in Thuringia, Bavaria, Hessen and Lower Saxony, who in the past were subject to severe restrictions that the restructuring measures are a positive developmental initiative and not a further expropriation of their property. MISSION STATEMENT FOR THE THURINGIAN SECTION OF THE GREEN BELT The government of the Free State of Thuringia recognizes its vital role and began developing a Mission Statement for the Thuringian section of the Green Belt as far back as 1998. Working together with relevant stakeholders and parties involved in the project, the Thuringian authorities formulated a set of clearly defined objectives as a basis for a shared policy that takes into account the many different interests. The Mission Statement for the Thuringian Green Belt declares that: – Nature within the Green Belt must have utmost priority. This unique natural habitat must be preserved and its on-going development ensured. – The Green Belt preserves a part of German history, making it visible and accessible for future generations. – The economic potential of the Green Belt will be made available for tourism and local recreation. – The complicated land ownership structures must be clarified and reorganized as quickly as possible. – In consultation with local residents, a consensus should be reached for the future sustainable use of this area. The Green Belt must also communicate to future generations how a dividing line through a country has become a unique space that is able to connect people and nature. 28

Karl-Friedrich Thöne THE GREEN BELT IN THURINGIA – A VISIONARY IDEA CLARIFYING PROPERTY RIGHTS An important step towards realising the development strategies was the clarification of land ownership rights, which was particularly complicated by the former partitioning of Germany. Almost all land parcels in the Green Belt were the property of the Federal Republic of Germany following the laws passed after the reunification of Germany. To prevent undesirable developments within the Green Belt, the then Thuringian Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Nature Conservation in cooperation with the Federal Assets Office and other concerned parties set out recommended guidelines for the future use and leasing of land. This was recognised as an interim solution for regulating land use until final resolution of the land ownership situation. The law governing property in the border region also regulated the sale of properties to their former owners or legal heirs. Thuringia was the first federal state to take over responsibility for nationally significant natural heritage sites in the Green Belt from the German state, following an agreement signed on 9 November 2008. The Free State of Thuringia is in turn committed to continuing the work already undertaken to maintain the Green Belt as a historical memorial and to develop its natural potential. In addition, the Federal Forestry Agency has been commissioned to undertaken work over a period of 8 years totalling some 380,000 € for personnel costs, material costs not included. The land formerly owned by the German state – 3800 hectares of the 6400 hectares of the Green Belt – has been transferred to the Stiftung Naturschutz Thüringen (Thuringian Nature Conservation Trust). Together with agricultural and forestry enterprises, the Trust ensures that this land remains accessible and can be experienced while simultaneously safeguarding long-term nature conservation aims. RECONCILING CONSERVATION WITH LAND USE - MODERN ORGANISATIONAL CONCEPTS Since the reunification of Germany, the former border region has become much more attractive. The special charm of the landscape has given rise to many different demands by different user groups, and to increasing conflicts of interest. To avoid risking losing the irreplaceable value of the landscape, valid land use claims have to be reconciled with the aims of nature conservation. To implement the project aims, new approaches were adopted. Local work groups were established to deal with the problems in their areas. Specific development strategies were devised for each section of the Green Belt to ensure that the strategies are carried out on an ongoing basis. Work measures were coordinated by three regional work groups under the direction of the Authorities for Rural Development and Land Management in Gotha, Meiningen and Gera. The work groups consisted of representatives from the relevant authorities and interest groups. Land owners, agricultural and forestry enterprises, local tourism agencies as well as interested citizens worked together to find balanced approaches for individual sections of the Green Belt along the former border. The work groups were charged with the following tasks: – Consultation and professional assistance in the realisation of local projects. – Coordinating the interests of landowners and land users. – Resolving conflicts of land use interests. 29

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