Heidelberg – Federal Capital for Nature Protection 2007
Laudatory speech by Axel Welge, German Association of Cities and Towns (Deutscher Städtetag)
The City of Heidelberg, situated on the river Neckar in Baden, is a former seat of the prince of Electoral Palatinate. The city of 145 000 inhabitants is famous for its castle and university. The environs of Heidelberg are characterised by a thousand years old cultural landscape which has become a landmark of the city. For decades, the city administration has pursued a committed environmental and nature protection policy to conserve this unique landscape. Today, Heidelberg is awarded the title “Federal Capital for Nature Protection” for its meritorious and pioneering action in communal nature protection.
We honour the City of Heidelberg in this competition for the following achievements in nature protection:
The success of the city cannot be attributed to individual specific measures, but to the comprehensive action in all areas of municipal nature protection. Heidelberg lies far above average in all the fields investigated by the competition. In the field “planning instruments and organisation”, Heidelberg reached the highest number of points of all participating communities. Keeping aspects of nature protection in mind when planning urban development means that whenever a building measure is planned the most nature- and environmentally friendly solution will be found. In addition to the usual environmental aspects, further measures relevant to nature protection are described in municipal ordinances, taking into account the cultural landscape around Heidelberg, rich in species. These include the terraced hillsides of the Neckar valley and the Neckar. Protecting this cultural landscape and conserving intact nature is a central concern of municipal policy in Heidelberg. The City succeeds in establishing regulations that take account of both the interests of residents and guests seeking recreation, as well as those of the natural and cultural landscape. The remarkable accomplishments of communal nature protection are rooted in the excellent collaboration between different stakeholders. Regular meetings are held between the representatives of all of the nature protection associations in Heidelberg and their umbrella organisations, the Comissioners for Nature Protection of the City, and the delegates of the Landscape and Forestry Office and of the Office of Environmental Protection, Trade Supervision and Energy. At these meetings, current Heidelberg nature protection topics are discussed and procedures in municipal development coordinated.
An integral component of this network is its contribution to the fulfilment of the obligations of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The “Species Protection Plan” of the City of Heidelberg is the consequent implementation of the agreement to protect nature and preserve natural resources for future generations, resolved in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In selected parts of the municipal area, maintenance and assistance measures are very effective at conserving and promoting biodiversity.
In addition to the “Species Protection Plan”, the City of Heidelberg has – in cooperation with agricultural enterprises – invested much effort to advance biotope networking. Due to the very favourable agricultural conditions around Heidelberg, it was important to seek solutions together with these enterprises to facilitate an extensive network. The total area of biotope networking encompasses just under 45 hectares. Populations which were still isolated a few years ago are now inter-connected again and an exchange between the populations is possible.
In the future, too, action in Heidelberg will be geared towards nature: the Heidelberg of 2015 is outlined in the City Development Plan, and the fact that nature and environmental protection play a central part here is striking. A multitude of projects were planned to protect and promote the uniqueness of the cultural and natural landscape in the future.
Heidelberg has realised that the conservation of ecologically valuable habitats can also be conceived as an opportunity for the economic development of a city. A variety of tourist attractions appeal to a demanding clientele that wants to admire and understand not only Heidelberg castle, but also the surrounding landscape. Thus, Heidelberg succeeds in benefiting from the potential of the surrounding nature and in increasing its attractiveness to visitors.
Co-operations with associations make it possible to offer a diverse programme throughout the year for people interested in nature protection. A milestone in environmental education is the woodland experience path, which the City has developed together with the Landscape and Forestry Office. The path is so special because children can experience and understand the woods through play and using their senses, without words. The path is supra-regionally renowned and has many times been a source of inspiration for new designs.
In its many years of work in nature protection, the City of Heidelberg has distinguished itself through the implementation of a very broad package of measures in all fields of nature protection. Heidelberg demonstrates farsightedness and thus secures habitats and biodiversity for future generations, whether this involves regulations in urban land-use planning, measures for the conservation of the cultural landscape, the species protection programme, or large-scale biotope networking.
Today’s award acknowledges the exemplary dedication of the City and aims to encourage the maintenance of the adopted course. We congratulate the City of Heidelberg on its merits in nature protection, and bestow upon it the title “Federal Capital for Nature Protection 2007”.