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International Bird Area "Caretakers": news from the Netherlands (07/04/08)
Greetings CEPA list members:
Our World Wetlands Day reports sometimes provide interesting information on approaches to conservation which can usefully be shared with list members. Such a report came from the NGO CEPA Focal Point for the Netherlands, Luc Hoogenstein, who described the WWD activity of the NGO Vogelbescherming Nederland where they ran a seminar for their International Bird Area (IBA) Caretakers. I asked Luc if he would write a few words to explain the caretaker network in the Netherlands, how it works, what the caretakers achieve, and how their NGO maintains the interest and valuable input from their caretakers. Luc did a great job on this and you can read it below.
First, just a little background for those of you not familiar with BirdLife Internationals volunteer system. BirdLife International is a global Partnership of NGOs, with a special focus on conservation and birds. Each NGO Partner represents a unique geographic territory. Vogelbescherming Nederland is a BirdLife partner, and like most partners, relies to quite an extent on the assistance of (predominantly) volunteers who assist within a country in monitoring at the site level often called Local Conservation Groups or Caretakers, when individuals are involved.
Heres Lucs story:
As part of our regular Important Bird Area (IBA) activities, the Netherlands launched a caretaker (volunteer) system in 1995 and maintaining this caretakers-system is part of our regular IBA activities. In the Netherlands we have 99 IBAs, covering a total of 1,000,000 hectares. With our caretaker-network our primary focus is on those IBAs which qualify as a wetland, accounting for 80% of all Dutch IBAs. The Dutch name for IBA-caretakers is WetlandWachten (in English Wetland Watchers). At this moment we have 88 volunteers active for 67 of the 79 wetland IBAs. In some of our bigger wetlands like Wadden Sea and Westerschelde we have more caretakers due to the size of the area. Almost all our IBA also qualify as a Natura 2000 sites.
The NGO Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN) is the initiator of the Dutch IBA caretaker network, and therefore we play an important role in coordinating several activities and providing facilities for the caretakers:
- Annual regional meeting (5 groups): During an evening in a specific region, caretakers exchange experiences. VBN-coordinators tell about new projects/developments that are of interest.
- Annual national meeting: every year we organize a national meeting and every second year an entire weekend paid by VBN. During this weekend caretakers exchange experiences and Birdlife coordinators tell about new projects/developments. Recent developments that could be of interest for the caretakers are brought to footlight at these events: as you know this year we organised a seminar about Management Plans according to Natura 2000-areas.
- Manual: We provide new caretakers with a manual consisting of information about national and international legislation, spatial planning procedures, red lists, strategies on lobbying, examples of successful actions, etc.
- Magazine: this magazine is very important to give individual caretakers status. Every year we publish a rather glossy magazine on wetlands and wetland conservation. In these magazines the caretakers network plays an important role. Every magazine contains portraits of a few caretakers. Every caretaker receives 20 issues of this magazine which he or she can use in their local networks.
- Report on wetlands: Every 3 years we produce a special State of the Wetlands report, which is mainly a lobby document for us and them to use. It gives an overview of all positive and negative developments and potential threads in all our wetlands. This report is based on the annual questionnaire and other information we receive from our caretakers.
- Electronic newsletter: We have an electronic newsletter with detailed information about all our own actions and work. This newsletter is not strictly for caretakers. Its open for everybody, so you can see the newsletter a method of communicating activities of caretakers to the rest of the members of VBN.
- Forum: in February 2008 VBN launched an internet-forum solely for caretakers and employers of VBN to exchange information, with a special download section (relevant reports). 3 weeks after launching, already more than 50% of the caretakers had registered.
A big thanks to Luc for responding to my request for this description of their caretaker system. Here's the link to his WWD report http://www.ramsar.org/wwd/8/wwd2008_rpts_netherlands.htm. Luc is happy to give further information on their caretaker system (Luc.Hoogenstein@vogelbescherming.nl).
Finally, you can read more about BirdLifes Local Conservation Group and Caretaker system here: http://www.birdlife.org/ibas/6_buildingsupport/6.2_IBA_LCGS.pdf.
Best regards, Sandra Hails, Ramsar Secretariat
Sandra Hails, CEPA Programme Officer
Ramsar Convention Secretariat
Rue Mauverney 28, CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 999 0176; Fax: +41 22 999 0169
Web Site: http://ramsar.org
CEPA mini-Web site: http://ramsar.org/outreach_index.htm