If car manufacturer VDL Nedcar and the Province of Limburg get their way, three quarters of the 200 year old Sterrebos forest in Limburg will be cut down to make way for an expansion of the car factory.
VDL currently manufactures cars for BMW, but their contract ends in 2023. VDL is looking for new partnerships and wants to be ready for a rapid expansion if necessary. That is why it wants to cut down a large part of the forest. In December VDL announced a possible new partnership with the American startup Rivian. Earlier in the year another possible partner, the startup Canoo, withdrew.
We need to do all we can to stop climate change and restore biodiversity. Cutting down a forest to make way for a car factory is the exact opposite of that. The Sterrebos is a unique, quiet, natural forest. Because it is unmanaged and inaccessible to the public, it is an ideal refuge for deer, badgers, bats and nesting birds. Many of the trees, mainly oaks, are already 200 years old.
An old forest like the Sterrebos is irreplaceable. It will take at least 100 years before the ‘compensation forest’ can take up the same amount of CO2. There is also no guarantee that the compensation forest won’t be cut down itself at a later stage. On top of that, the compensation is not in accordance with the current Habitat guidelines and therefore against the nature protection law.
For a livable future, we need sustainable employment opportunities as well as room for nature and wildlife. To achieve this, we need both forests and jobs, and there is no reason why both shouldn’t coexist. In addition, the job opportunities created by this expansion are far from certain. VDL Nedcar already employs many employees from across the borders. There is also the question of how many jobs at VDL Nedcar are future proof, given how the production of cars is progressively becoming more automatized and robotized.
Locals say there is room for Nedcar to expand without having to cut down the forest. The Dutch government plans to plant 37,000 hectares of extra forest by 2030. It would be incomprehensible to allow the logging of an existing old forest just because that works out cheaper for Nedcar. It is ultimately up to the Province of Limburg and VDL Nedcar to look for other, sustainable solutions in which the Sterrebos is preserved.
In May and July 2021 De Groene Sporenwolf appealed against the permits granted by the Province. Also in July, De Groene Sporenwolf applied to the Council of State in an emergency procedure (preliminary injunction) to suspend permission for the logging until a decision had been made in the appeal case. The Council of State granted this temporary logging ban in October 2021.
The hearing by the Council of State took place on 13 January 2022. The final judgment will be published within 6 weeks after the hearing.
Stichting Ecologisch Vleermuis Onderzoek Nederland (SEVON) has also lodged an objection.
The nearby Katsbek riding school, which had also lodged an objection, withdrew its objection in November 2021, after the riding school was bought by Nedcar.
There is a lot of disbelief and anger among local residents that the car factory wants to destroy the Sterrebos for its expansion. Environmental activists from all over the country have sprung into action, together with local people, to stop what would be an irreversible loss.
In early December, a petition for the preservation of the Sterrebos was handed over to the Province. It has been signed by 1865 people.
On 8 January almost 200 people from all over the country demonstrated against Nedcar’s plans in the nearby town of Sittard.
Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future, Amelisweerd niet Geasfalteerd, Code Rood, Groenfront, Internationale Socialisten, Luzerath Lebt, various political parties, local activists and of course many individuals support the campaign to preserve the Sterrebos.
In October 2021, Red het Sterrebos activists removed plastic from trees in the Sterrebos. This plastic had been applied by VDL Nedcar to prevent bats from hibernating in the forest. Since the car manufacturer is not allowed to cut down any trees for the time being, it is only logical that the bats, a protected species, and other animals should be able to move freely through their forest. After all, the bats hibernate in the forest every year.
On 28 December, the newspaper De Limburger claimed that VDL Nedcar had almost reached a compromise with Stiching De Groene Sporenwolf. According to De Groene Sporenwolf there was no question of a deal at all; they had actually declined a proposal from the factory.
VDL obviously benefits from talking to the press about so called near-deals: it makes their case look stronger. Earlier, the company bought up a nearby riding school which had previously objected to the expansion. The car giant seems to think that money talks. The Groene Sporenwolf has been promised some nice bonusses like a pedestrian bridge and the conversion of the Nieuwstadt town hall into a regional museum and a VDL Nedcar information centre.
It’s clear that Nedcar is pulling out all the stops to silence the opposition so it can cut down the forest as soon as possible.
VDL Nedcar is only allowed to expand when they have a customer for their new assembly line. Rivian, an American startup electric car company, has shown interest in a partnership with VDL. Rivian claims to be very environmentally aware, which is why Red het Sterrebos appealed to the CEO of Rivian not to take up business with VDL unless they can guarantee the preservation of the Sterrebos.
Rivian’s environmental claims would be completely implausible if their partnership with VDL Nedcar results in the destruction of a 200 year old forest.
The Sterrebos is an ideal refuge for bats and several bat species hibernate in the trees: the common big-eared bat, the bearded bat, the robin’s bat, the water bat, the common dwarf bat, the rough-eared bat, the late flyer, the wood bat, the long-tailed bat and the fringed bat.
In addition, the forest is home to 23 species of breeding birds, badgers, roe deer, wild boar, weasels, the viviparous lizard and the white admiral butterfly.
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Send a message to Rivian to tell them that they should not aid VDL Nedcar in the destruction of the Sterrebos.
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