Launched on October 1, 2023, the Wispertaunus Nature Project in Hesse, Germany, in collaboration with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, creates a unique habitat for rare species, connects natural forests, and addresses climate change. This landmark conservation initiative is funded by the federal government and the state, with a committed €1.2 million investment.
Wispertaunus: Key conservation milestone in Hesse
Starting on October 1, 2023, the ambitious “Wispertaunus,” a large-scale nature conservation project, funded in partnership by the federal government and the state of Hesse, has begun. The Wispertaunus is part of Hesse’s largest continuous forest area, spanning nearly 22,000 hectares. Within the state forest two larger natural forests exist already due to FZS’s and its partner NGOs’ successful lobby work in the past. The project now aims to expand and interconnect the state’s natural forests by collaborating with forest owners from various municipalities who are keen on fostering nature’s unhindered growth.
“This is a milestone for nature conservation in Hesse. Numerous rare species such as the wildcat, black stork or Bechstein’s bat will benefit from the project. Forest streams that run through the Wispertaunus will be regenerated. We are protecting biodiversity and with it our lives and our future,” explains Environment Minister of Hesse Priska Hinz. The project area provides ideal conditions for establishing a vast natural forest network. Extensive connected forests and old mixed deciduous forests serve as the foundation for this initiative. Not only does the project promote biodiversity, but it also plays a vital role in natural climate protection by storing carbon in the form of old trees and in forest soils.
Additionally, it helps achieve Hesse’s National Biodiversity Strategy goals of 5% natural forest coverage and 2% wilderness preservation.
The large-scale Wispertaunus nature conservation project was initially developed through a collaboration between the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Rüdesheim Forestry Office, and the municipalities of Lorch am Rhein, Heidenrod, and Geisenheim. The project was crafted after the successful conclusion of a trial and development project. Minister Hinz expressed gratitude and says, “I would like to thank the municipalities and the project manager for their commitment, which has now resulted in pioneering a nature conservation project throughout Germany.”
The Frankfurt Zoological Society is responsible for implementing the project. During the initial 3 years, a comprehensive management plan will be formulated with the active participation of all local stakeholders. This plan will then be put into action during the subsequent ten-year phase 2. Municipalities and private forest owners interested in contributing their forest areas to the project will receive compensation payments, allowing them to enhance the value of their forests through nature conservation.
Nico Eidenmüller, Project Manager at the Frankfurt Zoological Society, says: “We have already been able to demonstrate in a pilot study that there is considerable potential in the region for expanding and linking the natural forests of the state with areas in the municipal forest. We look forward to continuing the good cooperation with the Rüdesheim Forestry Office, local communities and nature conservation stakeholders that has been in place since then, now during this large-scale nature conservation project. In view of the global climate crisis and drastic loss of biodiversity, the project helps us to fulfill our responsibility to protect nature on our doorstep.”
The funds for the first project phase, amounting to around 1.2 million euros, are being provided as follows: 75 percent by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUV) through the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), 15 percent by the Hessian Environment Ministry, and in addition, the state contributes 1,800 hectares of natural forest in the project area that has already been taken out of forestry use for many years. The Frankfurt Zoological Society, as the project sponsor, contributes ten percent of the costs, and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation supports the project. The Darmstadt Regional Council is responsible for the administrative management and technical support of the project on behalf of the state.