German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


National Nature Monuments

General remarks

In March 2010 the protected area category “National Nature Monuments” was added to the Federal Nature Conservation Act.

In Article 24 (4) the category is defined as follows:

“National nature monuments are areas that have been designated in a legally binding manner and that

  1. for reasons of science, natural history, cultural history or national heritage, and
  2. because of their rarity, special characteristics or beauty

are of outstanding importance. National nature monuments have to be protected in the same manner as nature conservation areas.”

Article 22 (5) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act sets out the requirements for consultation with federal government ministries regarding their designation:

“Declaration of areas as national parks or national nature monuments, including changes to such declarations, shall be issued in consultation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Ministry of Transport and digital infrastructure.”

The new type of protected area borrows from category III of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Thus, national nature monuments can be natural features of national importance, particularly prominent geological/geomorphological features or features that combine great natural and cultural value.

Compared to national parks, national nature monuments might be considerably smaller. However, both protected area categories have national importance as a prerequisite for designation in common. Contrary to nature conservation areas, cultural value is as important as natural value for the declaration of areas as national nature monuments. In addition, national nature monuments have to fulfil the requirements concerning rarity and special characteristics. Natural monuments are distinguished from national nature monuments by their local or regional importance and the fact that they preserve objects, not areas.

As national nature monuments are unlikely consisting of completely natural and untouched areas, but mostly rather consist of areas influenced by human activity, management requirements for the protection and conservation of this protected area category have to be assessed and defined. Given the attractiveness of national nature monuments, a high number of visitors and consequently heavy pressure on designated areas can be expected. To assess the necessity of mandatory management plans and administrative, informative and educational facilities on site, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation conducted a research and development project with the topic ‘National Nature Monuments’ from 2010 to 2013. The final Report also contains management guidelines for this protected area category.

The research and development project states that single objects cannot be designated as national nature monuments. Nevertheless, important archaeological sites and cultural monuments can also be part of a national nature monument - if they have natural value. While designating national nature monuments, this can lead to an overlap of nature conservation and monumental protection.

There is no legally required minimum or maximum size for national nature monuments. The size of the protected area is guided by the dimensions of those parts of a landscape that will be put under protection. To be considered worthy of declaration as national nature monument an area has to fulfil at least one of each of the criteria named in article 24 (4) Nr.1 and 2 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Additionally, each of these fulfilled criteria have to be of outstanding importance.

The management guidelines for national nature monuments developed in the above mentioned research and development project state that one of the management principles should be to permanently safeguard and conserve the area and, where applicable, improve the characteristics of the national nature monument giving it its particular value. The preparation of a management plan with provisions regarding use and, if needed, management and development measures as well as regulations for a socially and ecologically sound visitor management is recommended. In this context, a system of zones with different goals, measures and priorities regarding nature conservation and monumental protection can be developed. In order to examine implementation and success of the management plan, a monitoring scheme should be established.

Due to their outstanding importance and their considerable public image, larger national nature monuments should have their own administration. However, it could also be integrated in an already existing administrative structure. Public relations activities of national nature monuments should, on the one hand, comprise of image cultivation in the media and, on the other hand, of visitor guidance and information, e.g. in the form of flyers and information boards. In doing so, one should pay attention that facilities for visitor management should not affect the national nature monument.

Designated and planned national nature monuments

The first German national nature monument, “Ivenacker Eichen“, was established in August 2016 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It is situated close to the city of Stavenhagen in a so-called ‘zoological garden’ with fallow deer and composed of an approximately 75 ha large pastoral forest, including five up to 1000 years old oaks. “Ivenacker Eichen” is part of the 278 ha large Natura 2000-site “Ivenacker Tiergarten, Stavenhagener Stadtholz und Umgebung”, which has a management plan since 2017.  Moreover, this national nature monument is part of the 302 ha large landscape protection area “Ivenacker Tiergarten”.

Among other things, there is an area-wide occurrence of the hermit beetle in the area of the ‘zoological garden’. The tallest of the oaks at this site is an approximately 1000 year old common oak with a trunk circumference of eleven meter and a height of 35.5 meter and represents thus one of the biggest living oaks in Europe. Since its establishment in August 2017, the canopy walkway “Ivenacker Eichen” has become one of the main attractions in the “Ivenacker Tiergarten”, not only educating visitors in forest-related issues, but also drawing their attention to the national nature monument. The national nature monument “Ivenacker Eichen” and the landscape protection area “Ivenacker Tiergarten” are managed by the state forest administration of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

In April 2017, an area of 24 ha called “Bruchhauser Steine“ in Sauerland in North Rhine-Westphalia, comprising of four volcanic quartz porphyry rocks named ‘Bornstein’, ‘Goldstein’, ‘Ravenstein’ and ‘Feldstein’ was declared as a second national nature monument. These rocks are not only a breeding site for peregrine falcons, but are also habitat of arctic-alpine flora and ice age relicts such as the white flowering alpine rock-cress. The nature conservation area ‘Bruchhauser Steine’, which was established in the 1950s, encompasses the national nature monument and has a size of 84 ha. The national nature monument “Bruchhauser Steine”, which is also designated as a soil and cultural monument and archaeological reserve, is managed by the foundation “Stiftung Bruchhauser Steine des Freiherrn von Fürstenberg-Gaugreben und des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen” based in Olsberg-Bruchhausen and founded in 1992. This foundation carries out measures for the preservation of the different protected areas, fostering old traditions and managing visitor guidance.

At the time when the above mentioned research and development project was conducted, administrations in many regions in Germany thought about proposing areas for declaration sites as national nature monuments. Therefore, nature conservation related assessments regarding the suitability of these areas as national nature monuments had to be performed in the context of the research and development project.  However, these assessments were preliminary and can obviously not replace a profound, subject-specific analysis in case of specific designation procedures.

Areas that were considered in the research and development project were, amongst others, the now designated national nature monument “Bruchhauser Steine” and the Green Belt Thuringia (the assessment of the suitability of the Green Belt as a whole as national nature monument was not part of the research and development project). The authors of the assessment concluded, at that time, that the Green Belt Thuringia only partially fulfils the prerequisites for a designation as national nature monument according to article 24 (4) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act. In their opinion, there are too many gaps in the Green Belt Thuringia and thus the second criterion, “because of their rarity, special characteristics or beauty”, might not be consistently fulfilled.

The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation does not share this advisory opinion and, after consultation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, communicated this to the federal state of Thuringia. Related to the above mentioned advisory assessment, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation refers to the fact, that there are nearly no protected areas or Natura 2000-sites in Germany that consist entirely of valuable habitat types. In a country like Germany, with a high population density, it is not uncommon that public streets, highways or railways lead through protected areas. Existing gaps in the Green Belt came into existence after the German reunification and have to be seen as threat to the Green Belt. Correspondingly, the existence of gaps should rather be seen as proof of need for protection - another precondition for the designation of protected areas. 

The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation considers the planned declaration of the Green Belt in Thuringia as a national nature monument appropriate. As a result, a coherent part of the Green Belt in Germany of 763 km would be, for the first time, uniformly put under protection. Through the category “National Nature Monument” the national importance of this unique national habitat network as well as the symbolism of the former divide into two geostrategic power blocs (keyword: Iron Curtain) are emphasised. Furthermore, the designation is an important instrument to permanently safeguard national natural heritage areas which the federal government of Germany transfered to the federal state of Thuringia. This new, nationally important protected area creates possibilities for an increasing regional added value through revenues from sustainable, nature-oriented tourism.

Last Change: 20/02/2019