Denmark is a small country of merely 43 000 km2. The land is intensively used: 62% is farmland, 11% (mainly production) forest and 17% is covered by cities, roads and infrastructure. Thus, only about 10 percent remain for nature protection. Yet, although nature areas may generally be small and scattered, they offer great variety in terms of different landscapes and nature types. From an international point of view, the most important nature types are coastal cliff dunes and shallow sea areas.
Denmark got its first Nature Protection Act in 1917. Today, the Nature Protection Act includes a general protection of different nature types (e.g. heath, meadows, lakes) and rules for public access. Many specific areas have been preserved according to the Act.
Denmark has two National Parks, Thy and Mols Bjerge, which were established in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Three other areas, Vadehavet, Skjern Å and Kongernes Nordsjælland, have been designated by the Danish Parliament and will be established National Parks in the years to come.
International nature protection in Denmark includes 252 Natura 2000 areas, 261 Sites of Community Importance and 113 Special Protection Areas covering 8,3 % of the land and 17,7 % of the sea. Also, 27 wetland areas have been designated as Ramsar areas.
For the last almost 20 years, Denmark has been very active in restoring nature areas such as rivers. The largest restoration projects being the River Skjern Nature Restoration projects, where about 2 200 hectares of meadows, reed beds and lakes where restored, together with 40 kilometres of river. Afforestation is another important theme and Denmark aims to double its forest area within 80 -100 years.
Agencies protecting Danish nature
The Nature Agency or "Naturstyrelsen" (formerly Danish Forest and Nature Agency/Skov- og Naturstyrelsen) is responsible for nature restoration, national parks, leisure activities and forestry. The agency manages about 200 000 hectares of forests and nature land owned by the Ministry of Environment.
With experiences from the processes of establishing national parks and the many nature restoration and afforestation projects, the Nature Agency has a strong expertise in citizen involvement in larger scale land-use projects involving private landowners and other stakeholders.
The Agency for Spatial and Environmental Planning, also under Ministry of Environment, is responsible for nature protection, Natura 2000 and other issues related to the open land.