The Oostvaardersplassen debate: A content analysis of the framing of the management of the Oostvaardersplassen by stakeholders in newspapers
Beemt, E.P.A. van den
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There has been a lot of scientific and social debate about the rewilding of the Oostvaardersplassen. The idea behind the nature reserve is to let nature run its course without human intervention, in order to halt biodiversity loss and reverse land degradation. Perspectives on rewilding, and other management measures, differ between stakeholders. How stakeholders frame the management, especially in the media, strongly influences public opinion. Moreover, understanding the different perspectives can improve the management of the Oostvaardersplassen. Therefore, this study aims to provide insights into the different stakeholder perspectives on the management of the Oostvaardersplassen by analysing how it is framed in the media. A content analysis of a local newspaper was conducted to study the stakeholder perspectives. The management measures that the stakeholders mentioned, and the tone and emotions they expressed regarding these measures were coded for 80 articles published in 2010 or 2018. The analysis resulted in five frames, one for each stakeholder group: duty of care for the grazers (activists & NGOs); agricultural interests above rewilding experiment (locals); publicly approved management (politicians); wilderness without suffering (State Forest Service); and human-wildlife coexistence (scientists). Overall, the focus of the stakeholder statements was on passive management (rewilding), hunting management, expanding the Oostvaardersplassen and reactive shooting. In most cases, a positive tenor was expressed, but a negative tenor was also often present. Emotions regarding the management – such as compassion, aversion or anger – were mainly showed by activists & NGOs and locals. These insights into the stakeholder perspectives help to understand their opinion better, which makes it more feasible to form a compromise about the management of the Oostvaardersplassen. Implementing a consensual form of management will result in more support and success. If the nature reserve is well-managed, this will lead to an increase in biodiversity, and land restoration.