The Oostvaardersplassen are nature at its most pure. The area has never had a different function. No one has ever lived there, nor have any buildings ever been built. Nature develops itself there in a manner considered impossible in the Netherlands. An original form of nature developing in the heart of this densely populated country. The only human intervention being the introduction of large grazers.
The return of natural values has brought various species of plant and animal back to the Netherlands. A highlight being the return of the white-tailed eagle as a breeding bird, and ravens now also breed in the area.
The area’s importance stretches well beyond its boundaries, even across borders. The area functions as a breeding ground for various species of rare and endangered birds. Populations in the Netherlands and abroad are ‘stocked up’ from the Oostvaardersplassen.
Moreover, the manner in which the ecosystem develops provides knowledge which could not be acquired in any other way. According to scientists, the area – which measures approximately six by ten kilometres - is large enough to allow natural dynamics to run their course.
The developments which took place in the area provided inspiration for the National Ecological Main Structure (EHS). At a European level this has since led to the development of Natura2000. Creating links between nature reserves is central to this: more freedom to roam, more opportunities for healthy populations and more living space for nature is created by linking individual reserves to one another. The Oostvaarderswold is the personification of such a link; in this case between the Oostvaardersplassen and the Horsterwold.
The Council of Europe awards diplomas for excellent nature management. The latter are awarded to areas of European importance. Staatsbosbeheer received such diplomas for the Oostvaardersplassen in 1999, 2004 and once again in 2009. The diplomas are valid for five years. They express recognition for the risks the Netherlands has dared to take.