Expanded woodland to benefit nature and society


Flanders has taken over the management of an area of woodland in the periphery around Brussels, as part of plans to create an extra 1,000 hectares of linked green space in the region

Green corridors

The woods in the Flemish periphery of Brussels are growing after the environment ministry bought 100 hectares of land. Flanders' environment minister Joke Schauvliege (CD&V) has bought the land from the Public Centre for Social Welfare (OCMW) in Brussels.

It includes the Larbeekvallei in Dilbeek, the Zennebeemden in Beersel and a part of the Hallerbos (pictured), a popular tourist attraction in the spring thanks to the bluebells that carpet its floor. “Woodland management is not a central task of an OCMW,” Schauvliege said. “With our expertise, we can strengthen the value of the forests and give them a social function.”

Connecting areas of woodland is a relatively small investment for a significant reward, according to Hendrik Moeremans of nature conservation organisation Natuurpunt. “This is absolutely good news,” he said. “It shows that co-operation between nature associations, the government and farmers can have results on the ground.”

By 2019, the government of Flanders wants to create an extra 1,000 hectares of accessible green space; the latest acquisition takes the total so far to more than 700 hectares. The aim is to create a woodland network using “green corridors” that will make it easier for animals to move around in search of habitats without having to cross roads.

One of the animals that will benefit is the pine marten, which disappeared from the Hallerbos year ago. “The pine marten has almost died out because it can only survive in large forests,” said Halle mayor Dirk Pieters. “So I can only applaud this expansion.”