Nature parks and the task of sustainable regional development

The comprehensive reform of the Federal Act for the Protection of Nature (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz) saw the introduction of the statutory obligation for nature parks to pursue sustainable regional development (§27). Since the reform, 18 years have passed, allowing us to look back at how the mandate has been interpreted and implemented. In retrospect, we can observe that the regional development pursued was primarily a ‘green regional development', which emerged in response to (at times conflicting) ecological, economic and social needs and interests. Over time, regional development was expanded to include relevant regional actors such as nature parks, which draw upon years or (at times) even decades of hands-on ‘on the ground’ experience, in comparison to new(er) initatives. Looking back at the development over time, we can detect shifts in the priorities and prioritisation of tasks and mandates, as well as with regard to the actors included in ‘sustainable regional development’, and with regard to issues of governance.

But where exactly do we stand currently with regard to the ongoing alignment, conceptualisation and implementation of ‘sustainable regional development’? We currently pursue this question in a research project undertaken jointly with the German Association of Nature Parks (Verband Deutscher Naturparke).