De Hoge Veluwe National Park follows a policy of active management. This means intervening in the natural landscape, as a varied landscape that is diverse in both plants and animals requires constant adjustments.
Without our intervention, the landscape would become increasingly uniform, with an ever smaller number of plants and animals able to survive within it. And that is exactly what the park hopes to prevent.
What does the park want? It wants to maintain and further develop the distinctive landscapes the Kröller-Müllers originally encountered. Examples of this include heaths, drifting sand, and various woodlands. A wide variety of vegetation and landscapes naturally allows for a wide variety of animals. After all, every animal has a distinct preference in terms of shelter, moisture levels, and food. This brings us to the park's second objective: biodiversity. Biodiversity simply means a variety of life forms, both flora and fauna.
A landscape is largely defined by its vegetation. Maintaining a specific landscape means maintaining its vegetation. This, in turn, calls for the removal of certain species to make room for others or to ensure a greater variation in vegetation. Grazing animals – such as deer, roe deer, mouflons, and wild boars – help to naturally maintain the park's biodiversity. In recent years, cattle have also been used for grazing, such as the Sortbroget Jysk Malkerace, a Danish heath breed.
But grazing animals alone are not enough. In the 1970s, the Friends of de Hoge Veluwe introduced the pine shoot beetle in the hopes of actively removing pine trees in open areas of the park to prevent encroachment. Without them the heaths would quickly become overgrown and would ultimately disappear. The result would be a relatively uniform landscape of pines; uniform in the sense of little variation in flora and fauna. Since 1980, peat cutting has taken place on the heaths to prevent encroachment by grasses. Other interventions include mowing and burning.
The forests are also actively maintained. While trees are planted on a smaller scale, the emphasis lies on natural regeneration, or allowing the trees to grow naturally. Indigenous oak is being planted and protected on a limited scale. This because natural regeneration is being stunted by animals eating the young oak trees. To protect the young trees, electrical grids or tree guards are used.
The once monotonous forests in the park have become much more diverse now that other tree species are given the chance to thrive through selective thinning. The variation in trees is much greater than it once was. By alternating between light and heavy thinning, a greater variation was also created between light and dark forests, and dense and less dense forests.
Thinning creates greater forest variation by mixing tree species, but also by mixing trees of different ages and sizes. By harvesting less and allowing more to grow, the trees get the chance to grow older and we see more dead wood on the forest floor. This helps the forest to become more diverse and more natural.
The harvested timber is then traded and the revenues are funnelled back into the park.
Landscape management is intimately connected to the management of the animals that feed on the vegetation. The park can encourage the propagation of certain species by increasing the number of plants they feed on. This is an indirect form of management aimed at the multiplication of certain species.
Other species, however, need to be reduced. This is done through hunting. Red deer, mouflons, and wild boars have no natural predators in the Netherlands, and without human intervention their numbers can quickly grow at the expense of the plants and animals they feed on and the landscapes the park hopes to protect.
Spring targets have been set for certain animals. When these targets are met, the vegetation is not damaged beyond repair. The spring targets:
Red deer: 200
Wild boars: 50
Each year, an estimate is made for each species. This estimate is then used to determine how many animals can be hunted. Hunting is prohibited during the breeding season. Wild boars, for example, are only hunted from July to late January, and red deer from August to late January, with the exception of the rut in September. These periods also apply to mouflons.
Hunting in the park is a means and not an end, as illustrated by the special position occupied by the deer. Deer may not be hunted. They were hunted for a time in the past, but this had minimal impact on the targets and so hunting stopped again. Apparently, the number of deer are maintained naturally. This is most likely due to predation on young deer by foxes and wild boars, and by natural mortality in the winter.