A System of Nature Reserves and Landscape Protection Areas

One area of conservation work on which there was general agreement and cooperation was the systematic selection, designation, and signposting of new nature reserves. Following theoretical advances in nature conservation associated with the Nature Conservation Act, there emerged a system of nature reserves designated according to scientific principles. Starting in 1972, the ILN published five successive volumes of the Handbook of the Nature Reserves of the GDR.

Management guidelines for nature reserves had been drafted earlier in the 1960s. They reflected a need for maintenance and, to an extent, for development in the reserves, and thus indicated an understanding on the part of conservationists that the conditions they desired could be achieved only by expending effort on maintenance. This was a new development in conservation theory. The guidelines took the place of separate, specific regulations and could be easily adapted if necessary.

The first implementing order of the Nature Conservation Act introduced the possibility of restricting the designation of nature reserves in accordance with scientific priorities, such as the collection of data for the development of site-appropriate forestry (forest reserves) or the creation of refuges for animal species or communities of animals (wildlife reserves). Thus a systematic approach was taken to selecting protected areas. In subsequent years, a system of forest reserves and water protection areas was developed, along with a system of wildlife reserves that was “more difficult to define” (Großer 2002, 98).

The system of forest reserves, which was an early (and unconscious) reflection of the idea of protecting natural processes, was inspired by calls made by Herbert Hesmer (from Eberswalde) to protect Naturwaldzellen, or “natural forest cells” (Hesmer 1934), and supported by Kurt Hueck with his call for “more forest reserves” (Hueck 1937).

One of the new protected area categories, the landscape protection area, was to be used above all for recreation and the creation of recreational opportunities. Problems resulting from local and weekend recreational activities had been on the rise since the late 1950s, exacerbated by certain government policies such as the introduction in 1966 of a five-day work week on alternate weeks. After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, there was a dramatic increase in the number of people traveling to the woods and lake shores of these recreational areas, and to the shores of the Baltic Sea. The need for conservation work rose accordingly. Areas with lakes were hit particularly hard by these recreational demands on the countryside (Gloger 1962 and 2007). The law regulating the Seven-Year Plan described the situation as follows: “New holiday areas shall be developed in the most beautiful areas of the Republic with particular attention paid to climatic conditions” [...] “Local government bodies shall significantly expand opportunities for weekend and local recreation. The network of establishments where day trippers can rest and get refreshment shall be improved, and new recreational areas featuring nature parks and public parks shall be developed. Suitable land shall be made available by local government bodies for weekend hostels [state-run holiday accommodations], holiday housing developments, and camping grounds” (Henkel 1960, 10).

A systematic approach was also taken to identifying and securing landscape protection areas. Part of the landscape areas (Landschaftsteile) protected under the Reich Conservation Act were converted into landscape protection areas. The work of drafting management plans for landscape protection areas had begun in the 1960s. This, too, was a new approach in conservation, and an idea that landscape architects such as Werner Bauch, Walter Funcke, and Harald Linke had been working on since the early 1960s (see references in Wübbe 1999). Specific details of these plans also go back to this period, as can be seen in work published by Karl Heinz Großer, head of the ILS branch office in Potsdam, among others (Großer 1967). Matters relating to landscape planning were dealt with primarily in the Bezirk planning offices for regional, city, and village planning (later called Offices for Territorial Planning).

It should be noted at this point that the system of protected areas including both nature reserves and landscape protection areas owed its existence in large part to the sociopolitical changes that resulted from the founding of the East German state, in particular to the fact that private property no longer presented the hurdle it once had and public participation played virtually no role in matters of policy. The approach to protection that was taken in practice reflected a broadening and shift in conservation theory toward justifying protection on scientific grounds and actively preserving and shaping protected areas.


Gloger, O. 1962: Maßnahmen zum Schutz der Seen im Bezirk Frankfurt (Oder). Mitteilungen Naturschutz 7 (4): 19-22.

Gloger, O. 2007: Entwicklung der Landschaftsschutz- und Erholungsgebiete im ehemaligen Bezirk Frankfurt (Oder). In: Institut für Umweltgeschichte und Regionalentwicklung e. V. (Hg.); Behrens, H. & Hoffmann, J. (Bearb.): Umweltschutz in der DDR – Analysen und Zeitzeugenberichte. Band 2: Mediale und sektorale Aspekte. München: 27-43.

Großer, K. H. 1967: Landschaftskundliche Gesichtspunkte zur Entwicklung von Pflegeplänen für Landschaftsschutzgebiete. Naturschutzarbeit in Berlin und Brandenburg 3 (1): 39-52.

Großer, K. H. 2002: Schutzgebiete im Wandel der Zeit – Beispiele aus Brandenburg bis 1990. In: Institut für Umweltgeschichte und Regionalentwicklung (Hg.): Naturschutzgebiete im 21. Jahrhundert. Berlin: 91-120.

Henkel, G. 1960: Die Aufgaben des Naturschutzes im Siebenjahrplan und Maßnahmen zu ihrer Verwirklichung. Mitteilungen Naturschutz 5 (3): 7-12.

Hesmer, H. 1934: Naturwaldzellen. Der Deutsche Forstwirt 16 (13): 133-134 und 16 (14): 141-143.

Hueck, K. 1937: Mehr Waldschutzgebiete! Jahrbuch Naturschutz 1937: 1-32. Berlin.

Wübbe, I. 1999: Landschaftsplanung in der DDR. In: Institut für Umweltgeschichte und Regionalentwicklung e. V. (Hg.): Landschaft und Planung in den neuen Bundesländern – Rückblicke. Berlin: 33-56.

Erinnerungen von Zeitzeugen

Literatur zum Weiterlesen

Weinitschke, H.: Naturschutzgebiete im Osten Deutschlands - 1945 bis 1996. In: Institut für Umweltgeschichte und Regionalentwicklung e.V. (Hg.): Naturschutz in den Neuen Bundesländern - Ein Rückblick. Berlin 2001: 459-473.

Bauer, L. (Hg.): Handbuch der Naturschutzgebiete der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. Leipzig, Jena, Berlin 1972-1974.