Reichsnaturschutzgesetz (Reich Conservation Act)

The establishment of a legal framework was a decisive factor in triggering a dramatic growth in conservation work under the National Socialist regime (1933–1945). The Reichsnaturschutzgesetz (Reich Conservation Act) led to a massive expansion of conservation areas and defined the role of the German state in conservation until the passing of the Bundesnaturschutzgesetz or Federal Conservation Act of 1976. The Reichsnaturschutzgesetz covered the protection of plant and animal species and provided for conservation areas dedicated to the protection of endangered species. Further, the term Landschaftsschutzgebiet, or “area of outstanding natural beauty,” still used today, was first coined therein.

The actual impact of the Act on conservation is the subject of ongoing debate. Doubt has been cast on whether the Act was born of an interest in conservation rather than in the intensive exploitation of resources. Conservation issues were swiftly pushed to the peripheries, for example, in conflicts concerning rearmament, infrastructure construction, or the Reich Labor Service. Questions concerning the degree to which the German conservation movement was shaped by ideas rooted in Nazi ideology, and the level of continuity to which this gave way, have yet to receive conclusive answers.

Further Readings: 
  • Brüggemeier, Franz-Josef, Marc Cioc, and Thomas Zeller, eds. How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005.
  • Reichsministerium des Innern, ed. "Reichsgesetzblatt. Teil 1: Reichsnaturgesetz." July 1, 1935. Berlin. View PDF
  • Uekötter, Frank. Umweltgeschichte im 19. und 20 Jahrhundert. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2007.