Geldersch Landschap & Kasteelen, passages uit de geschiedenis van een opvallende organisatie binnen de Nederlandse natuur- en landschapsbescherming

Windt, van der, H., 2019, In : Bijdragen en Mededelingen Gelre. Historisch Jaarboek voor Gelderland. 110, p. 187-207

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Copy link to clipboard


In this article we examine the development of one of the largest provincial Dutch nature organisations, Het Geldersch Landschap, compared to other Dutch nature and landscape organisations. We address two issues, the vision on nature and the style of governance.
For the first question we explored whether the focus was more on ’Arcadian’ (focusing on human-nature harmony, and the aesthetic value of old landscapes and buildings), on ‘Wilderness’ (focusing on wild and pristine landscapes) or more on ‘Functional’ (focusing on sustainable and rational use of natural resources) types of nature management. It turned out that Het Geldersch Landschap followed a stable course, adopting a mixed Arcadian-Functional approach, inspired by the oldest and largest Dutch nature organisation, Natuurmonumenten, and by insights of ecologists such as Victor Westhoff. Westhoff was the main conservationist-ecologist between 1940 and 1970 in the Netherlands and introduced the notion of semi-natural landscapes. Compared to Natuurmonumenten, the focus of Het Geldersch Landschap was more on estates, including castles, and less on wilderness. It worked closely together with another organization in the province of Gelderland, Vrienden der Geldersche Kasteelen. Both organisations focused on what they called ‘ensembles’, combination of buildings, mostly castles, parks, forests and agricultural grounds, all within the estates. In contrast to other nature and landscape organisations, it did not pay much attention to biodiversity and ecological aspects of the rural areas outside their own reserves. It is noteworthy that Het Geldersch Landchap was not really interested in wilderness, while comparable organisations in others provinces changed their nature management aims and programs after the discussions on nature and wilderness in the 1970's and 1980's, in order to get more pristine-like natural areas. We suggest that this special position of Het Geldersch Landschap results from the characteristic aristocratic culture in the province of Gelderland, resulting in a high density of estates and castles. This encouraged a typical approach towards nature conservation. Het Geldersch Landschap can be seen as a modern variant of the enlightened aristocratic land owners of 17th and 18th century. The organisation will probably continue this position, because its castles-estate- semi-nature approach is pivotal for its identity. The rise of various new nature organisations with often contrasting demands, ranging from agricultural nature management and hunting, to wilderness or sustainability, did hardly affect the approach of Het Geldersch Landschap.
For the second question we investigated the organization and the partnerships of Het Geldersch Landschap. During the first decades of the 20th century most nature organizations chose for a democratic organisation model. After a few decades, many nature organisation started to work together with the government and received financial support from the government to carry out Dutch nature policy together. Other organizations, founded in the 1970s or later, functioned as radical pressure groups or network organisations or choose for a company-like style. Het Geldersch Landschap remained a reformist foundation, working together with the nobility and the province, and financially supported by the national government. Because of the decreasing governmental support for nature, after 2000, Het Geldersch Landschap started to look for more income from their castles and forests, leading to a more company like approach, and tried to attract more private donors and partners. Also at that time, however, the organization continued most of its practices, regardless of the emergence of new conservation groups, which asked for more citizens’ involvement, and the growing pressure to work on a more commercial basis.
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)187-207
JournalBijdragen en Mededelingen Gelre. Historisch Jaarboek voor Gelderland
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • nature conservation ecology ecocriticism, heritage, history of ideas, gelderland, landscape biography, landscape planning, landscape history, public participation

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 112176417