The Siebengebirge has been a nature reserve for a long time. Today, many endangered plants and animals have found a home here, and there are strict rules to ensure that they can live in peace. We humans are very welcome in these protected areas as long as we follow the rules of conduct, and there are hiking paths, forest inns and refuges for us.
Natura 2000 and Habitat Directive
The Siebengebirge is also a Natura 2000 site. This means that it is part of a European network of protected areas in accordance with the European Union’s Habitats Directive and Bird Directive.
This directive, formally the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, is a nature conservation directive. Fauna comprises animals, flora plants. It has been transposed into German national law.
According to the Habitats Directive, the woodrush-beech forests, the woodruff- beech forests, the stitchwort-oak-hornbeam forests and of course the bats convey the Siebengebirge’s significance for Natura 2000. Moreover, there are the birds: nightingale, kingfisher, kestrel, eagle owl and many others.
Natural forest cells
The natural forest cells at the mountains Nonnenstromberg and Petersberg were designated much earlier, in 1987. At Mount Nonnenstromberg, we have 140-150 year old beeches, and oaks near the summit. In the north and south 155 and 120 year old sessile oaks. In the natural forest cell at Mount Petersberg, 145-165 year old beeches stand together.
Third oldest nature reserve in Germany
The Siebengebirge has been a nature reserve since 1922/23, only the nature reserve Neanderthal (1921) and Lüneburger Heide (1921) are older.
At that time, the Weimar Republic, the Rhineland was part of the Free State of Prussia. After the defeat in World War I and the Versailles Peace Treaty, the Allies occupied large parts of the Rhineland.
For many years, the Verein für die Verschönerung des Siebengebirges (VVS) had been fighting for the preservation of the Seven Mountains. Money had been raised again and again, land had been bought up and procedures had been gone through. But after the war, almost everything was lacking, and the VVS had no more money.
Now old quarries were to be reopened. The VVS and the Rheinische Verein für Denkmalpflege und Heimatschutz (Rhenish Association for the Preservation of Monuments and Cultural Heritage), founded in 1906, protested. They got prominent support: The Lord Mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, joined forces with them. “The Siebengebirge”, he said, “is a Rhenish national park, whose destruction, even if only partial, would cause a strong outrage among the entire population of the Rhineland”. People were counting on our Siebengebirge as recreation area for the poor urban population, he continued.
And something else was fundamentally new. The Weimar Constitution of 1919 laid down nature conservation as State responsibility. In 1920, Prussia issued an authorization to designate nature reserves. On June 7, 1922, the Siebengebirge was designated. Since the Allied Rhineland Commission had to confirm it, several months passed. On January 20, 1923, it came into force.
Nature Park and European Diploma
In 1958, the Siebengebirge received the status of a nature park according to German law.
On 15 October 1971 the Siebengebirge was awarded the European Diploma for Protected Areas. The memorial stone stands at Mount Weilberg. This diploma is awarded by the Council of Europe and is intended to safeguard biological, geological and landscape diversity. Since 1999 it is called “European Diploma for Protected Areas”.