No access from September 15 to December 25 is stated on the green sign at the edge of the Uddelsche Buurtveld. And above ‘no access’: Kroondomein.
The closure has been criticized for years. After all, why should other estates be open to visitors all year round if they receive a subsidy for nature management, and can the king close his own for three months? The House of Representatives demanded equal treatment, the Minister of Agriculture also felt that this was necessary – and King Willem-Alexander said this summer: “Equal monks, equal hoods.”
But he also said he would make a new grant application. He handed in his steward to the Ministry of Agriculture on Friday. And this shows that the 3,400 hectares of the Kroondomein that closed for three months a year, remains closed for three months a year. The king no longer applies for a subsidy for those hectares alone. This allows him to decide for himself when the area closes.
Also read: King only receives subsidy if Kroondomein is open all year round
In a tea house in Uddel, with deer on the wall and chandeliers made of antlers, the steward of the Crown Estate, Arno Willems, explains why. He says: “Our starting point is that nature comes first here. All other activities should follow that.” In other words: people should not come and disturb that nature.
No recreation area
The king himself had already hinted at this earlier this month. He said in a press interview: “It is a rest area and a nature reserve, and not a recreation area. That is the order I received from the family, to manage it like that, and I will carry it out.”
Conservationists say the king uses those three months to hunt undisturbed. In the grant applications for previous years, the reason for the closure was ‘protection of privacy’. And documents released last year said there were “deviating regulations” “because of the royal hunt.”
Hunting is indeed taking place, says Willems, who as a steward and member of the Royal Household has been responsible for managing the Crown Estate for almost nine years. Although he prefers to talk about ‘population management’. “There are agreements in place throughout the Veluwe about limiting populations. That is to ensure that there is no unbridled growth.”
Deer, boars and other large game will go elsewhere for food, which leads to damaged fields. This year, for example, 1,250 boars have been counted, 500 of which will be shot.
And yes, King Willem-Alexander also hunts, says Willems. “A part of a day a year.” The words “pleasure hunt or court hunt” don’t fit what’s happening, he says. “Usually five or six guests are accompanied by professional wildlife managers. They are then on site for a morning or afternoon. And yes, they shoot animals.”
The king does apply for a subsidy for the other 2,900 hectares of the Crown Estate, of which 1,300 hectares can be visited all year round and 1,600 hectares consists of vulnerable nature areas and is always closed. The requested subsidy amounts to about 700,000 euros per year, which amounts to 4.2 million euros for six years. Whether the application will be approved by the Minister of Agriculture must become clear next year.
This concerns a ton less subsidy per year than the Kroondomein currently receives, for a much smaller area. According to Willems, the fact that the subsidy is not lower is because the government subsidized 75 percent of the nature management costs in the past five years, and now 84 percent “for everyone”. Moreover, the area that will remain closed for three months largely consists of forest “and you don’t get that much subsidy for that, you get much more for grassland or heathland”.
The decision to close most of the Crown Estate for three months was made ‘consciously’, says Willems. The ‘social sentiment’ has been considered. But he says: “For nature, this is the right way.”
According to the king, the Crown Domain is “a unique area in the Netherlands, and I would like to keep it that way.” On the edge of the Uddelsche Buurtveld, Willems explains why. “The estate is a contiguous Natura 2000 area,” he says. “There are wolves here, they’ve had babies three times already.” He’s talking about forest nacres and badger burrows, flying deer.
According to him, these special populations are due to ‘consistent management’, which was mainly used under the then Queen Beatrix. And with a smile: “Also thanks to the peace that there is in autumn.”
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