A Naturschutzgebiet (abbreviated NSG) is a category of protected area (nature reserve) within Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act (the Bundesnaturschutzgesetz or BNatSchG). Although often translated as 'Nature Reserve' in English, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) refers to them as 'Nature Conservation Areas'.

The use of the term Naturschutzgebiet or terms that could be confused with it for anything other than the legally protected areas is forbidden under this law.

Because legal restrictions are placed on activity within German nature reserves they have to be signed on the ground. Only by this means can e.g. walkers know that they are entering a nature reserve and may not e.g. leave the tracks and paths. For historical reasons there is no standard sign used across Germany.

Nature reserves in the "old states" of the Federal Republic of Germany are marked by green signs with the silhouette of a white-tailed eagle. In the new federal states of the former East Germany they are marked with a pentagonal yellow sign bearing an image of a long-eared owl. The reunification of Germany the 36th Environmental Minister's Conference in 1991 recommended the use of the owl symbol in future in the whole of Germany to designate nature reserves. This recommendation was not universally adopted by the states, in whom the jurisdiction for conservation policy was vested. For that reason there are de facto three different signs being used alongside one another in Germany today.

Owl on pentagonal sign

New sign with long-eared owl

This page was last edited on 14 February 2018, at 18:00 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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