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© Ewoud L'Amiral

At a stone's throw from Brussels you can go hiking in several unique pieces of nature. Some beautiful river valleys just northeast of the city harbor animals with melodious names such as the great crested newt and the Desmoulin's whorl snail. Flowery grasslands with colorful butterflies and old forests with abundant spring flora determine the atmosphere here.

These areas are unique because there is a water layer with lots of lime and bases in the subsoil. This calcareous water determines the plant growth to a large extent when it comes to the surface. Because that is quite rare, the areas were included in the Natura 2000 network of the most important nature areas in Europe. This network has been set up to ensure the special European nature values and comprises almost 18% of the European territory. It is not limited to nature reserves but based on the broader principle of conservation and sustainable use of nature. A place where people and nature can live together in harmony.

In order to strengthen the natural values in this suburban region around Brussels, in 2018 Natuurpunt started a new project: LIFE Green Valleys.

But the project is not just about strengthening the nature values. There is also a lot of human activity in the region. It is a densely populated area with many farms and large areas are still in agricultural use. We are actively working and talking to these people. We look at how we can bring people closer to nature (areas) and nature closer to people.

Because the European Commission considers this relationship between people and nature so important, it supports LIFE Green Valleys through the project fund "LIFE". As a result, Natuurpunt can claim part of the funds from the project fund to restore approximately 200 ha of nature between 2018 and 2025, to make the areas and the Natura 2000 network more widely known, to involve people in (nature) management and to work to useful applications for management residues.

LIFE Green Valleys thus gives an extra boost to the many work that voluntary and professional employees have been investing in the nature reserves in the region for years. It runs from 1 September 2018 to 31 August 2025. The main actors in the project are the local voluntary staff of Natuurpunt, where coordination is provided by Natuurpunt Beheer vzw. The Agency for Nature and Forest (ANB), Natuurpunt Studie vzw and Natuurinvest are the Flemish partners.

For the project we also work together with a Polish nature organization. In the west of Poland, Klub manages various nature reserves with similar vegetation to those around Brussels. This LIFE project offers a unique opportunity to exchange knowledge about the management, to gather experiences together and to find solutions for processing the management residues.


More information about the European Union's Life project fund can be found here.

More information about the Natura 2000 network can be found here.