German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


National natural heritage sites

Distribution of the various tranches (phases) of land transfer for national natural heritage sites

National natural heritage sites in the Bundesländer (BImA sites only)*

BundeslandBImA land transferred (ha)Number of national natural heritage sites
City of Bremen / Lower Saxony4601
Mecklenburg-West Pomerania36.40333
Lower Saxony5.37717
Lower Saxony / North Rhine-Westphalia1.0231
North Rhine-Westphalia7.70321
Rhineland Palatinate3.0328

Source: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) 2016 after BImA 2016 and land recipients. Data as of June 2015.

* Sites which BImA provided as national natural heritage sites (1st to 3rd tranches, excluding Green Belt).

Detailed source: BImA - Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (2016): data provided to BfN.

Third tranche of land transfer for natural heritage sites

The term natural heritage site refers to the exemplary initiative of the German government not to privatise government-owned, valuable natural areas such as former military training grounds and mining sites, but to transfer them free of charge to the Bundesländer, Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) and other bodies in charge of nature conservation. This ensures ongoing protection for the sites concerned. The vast majority of them were used as military training grounds in the past.

National natural heritage sites include outstanding, characteristic landscapes for which Germany bears special responsibility at national, EU and international level. These include forests, heaths, river floodplains, lakes and peatlands in various landscapes throughout Germany, such as the diverse hilly landscapes in the north and south, the richly structured low mountain ranges in central Germany and the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts.

Many national natural heritage sites are former military training grounds

The area covered by national natural heritage sites measures some 156,000 hectares and is largely made up of land with high nature conservation value which was formerly used as military training grounds (approximately 76 percent) and or owned by the East German state (BWG) (around 17 percent).

Sites transferred in multiple tranches

From 2005 to 2013, some 125,000 hectares of land were transferred in two tranches and placed under protection as national natural heritage sites. The areas transferred in these two tranches are primarily located in eastern Germany. On 17 June 2015, the German Bundestag Budget Committee approved the expansion of the national natural heritage scheme in the form of a third tranche. This sees a further 31,000 hectares of land formerly used by the German military being given over to nature conservation. These sites are largely located in western Germany as they involve land freed up following the reform of the German military (Bundeswehr).

The biggest portion of land for transfer comes from the Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (BImA), which had already provided some 11,821 hectares (excluding the Green Belt) distributed across 184 properties for use as national natural heritage sites. At 36,402 hectares (33 sites), the largest share of this land is in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, followed by 20,181 hectares (16 sites) in Brandenburg.