In the Natura2000 area of Springendal – Dal van de Mosbeek, the most beautiful nature reserve in the Overijssel province, a huge task is to restore natural habitats. The necessary and mandatory restoration of habitats will cost a lot of agricultural land, and so affect the future outlook for agricultural businesses. LTO North asked AT Osborne to take over the project management for this vast habitat restoration project.
At the heart of this task is restoring the natural habitat and simultaneously retaining farmers’ confidence – a project where a tight grip on project management goes hand in hand with being exceptionally tactful in dealing with those affected. Based on the request, we first carried out a number of different discussions with the employers’ and farmers’ association (LTO) in Tubbergen, land managers and the provincial authorities. We also went to view the situation on the ground. We then developed an approach based on two pillars:
- “Talk with farmers, not about farmers.” Farmers know best how the land lies, where the groundwater flows and how nature works.
- “It’s a question of facts.” We must be able to explain how the soil/water systems work in order to determine what is needed and what will work.
This approach was implemented by three independent experts (a hydrologist, ecologist and an agricultural expert). Over a period of eight months, they visited all of the 54 farmers involved and looked at their land with bores and vegetation sampling to get an insight into the water and soil. During the discussions (averaging a whole day with each farmer), they also talked with their spouses and heirs about the farm’s outlook. The team of experts were then able to work out for each plot of land whether – and if so, which – measures to restore habitats were necessary. These insights were shared with the farmers and land managers involved,
and all farmers involved were informed about the need to restore natural habitats at the same time. Some of these discussions became emotional; however, we can see that the farmers bought into the measures, and are now mainly looking for decent compensation and a way forward for the future. The project will now move on to defining the necessary measures in the implementation plan and the provincial integration plan. At the same time, we maintain a constant dialogue with our farmers.