Would The Netherlands be the same without its meadow and meadow birds? What would spring be like, without its typical sounds, scents and colours? What is a meadow, without cows, flowers, herbs, insects and birds? What is a landscape when it isn’t a muse for poets, painters, musicians and artists anymore? We ask you these questions and we ask ourselves them as well. Is it important? Are we willing to sacrifice in order to preserve this unique cultural landscape and all the species that use it?
Our answers to these questions led to the formation of citizens’ initiative, ‘King of the Meadows’ (King of the Meadows) in 2012. Nowadays, King of the Meadows is a fast growing movement driven by concerned citizens, farmers, musicians, artists, teachers, managers, scientists, nature conservationists and dairy producers; a network of committed people, who get things done because of their enthusiasm and who work together to implement a new, broadly shared action plan. Our aim is a future in which economically viable farming goes hand in hand with nature, biodiversity and happy people.
Over the past few decades, one of the most characteristic Dutch meadowbirds has begun to disappear. Almost 95% of the one million hectares of meadowlands in The Netherlands have been changed into intensively managed agricultural lands, with tremendous negative consequences for the plant and animal species that use this habitat, as well as for our identity, language and culture. A loss of biodiversity is loss of cultural diversity.
One symbol of this unwanted change is the Black-tailed Godwit. The godwit is a typical Dutch bird that depends on our meadows for the majority of its breeding habitat. Unfortunately, in the intensively managed agricultural meadows that now dominate The Netherlands, many godwit chicks are unable to feed themselves or find shelter from predators. The frequent mowing of these meadows only compounds the problem. As a result, the godwit population breeding in The Netherlands has declined by 75% since 1960, and extinction threatens the godwit. The decline of this beautiful bird — the king of the meadows — is both tragic and stoppable, making it symbolic of our initiative.
For decades governments, nature conservationists and farmers have been wondering how to make sure economic, ecological and social interests cooperate on farmers land. So far they have not been successful. Baggage form the past, never ending contradictions and bureaucracy stand in the way of solutions. That’s why King of the Meadows is a citizens’ initiative. And that’s why you find all kind of people and professions in the royal household. We are independent and we don’t choose sides. All we want to do is reconnect people and landscape. We are running out of time. Yet we know: Yes we can!