The Alfred Toepfer Academy for Nature Conservation (NNA) was founded on April 1, 1981. It is a state institution under the administration of Lower Saxony's Ministry of the Environment. Its main office, however, the old heathland farmstead Hof Möhr, is a little removed from government bustle in Hanover, the state capital.
Hof Möhr and the NNA's conference facility, Camp Reinsehlen near Schneverdingen, are ideally suited for the academy's scope of business. Its three main concerns are research, education and training, and public relations work in the wide field of nature conservation.
It is the NNA's intention to act as a mediator between the sciences, the administration, the economy, and the public. The academy wants to show that while conservation is necessary for human life and well-being, it need not run counter to economic interests. Conservation is the common cause of the academy's 35 staff members, whose cooperative approach to and close identification with their matter of concern continues to provide them with new and creative ideas.
Alfred Toepfer and the Lüneburg Heath
Boundless heathland, quiet forests, extensive peat bogs, and clear streams - all these are characteristics of the Lüneburger Heide nature reserve. It is one of the oldest and, extending over 234 sq km (ca. 90 sq miles), one of the largest strictly protected areas in Germany. Throughout his life, Dr. Alfred Toepfer, a Hamburg businessman, was committed to the preservation of the area's variety of landscapes. Toepfer, who died in 1993 at the age of 99, was the initiator of the F.V.S. foundation. Founded in 1931, it provided the financial means for the Verein Naturschutzpark (VNP) to buy Hof Möhr, the Moehr estate. The VNP then placed the farmstead at the state's disposal on the condition that Lower Saxony houses an academy for nature conservation there. This institution was originally called Norddeutsche Naturschutzakademie; and although it changed its name in 1996 in honour of its founding father, the well-established acronym NNA is still in use.
Large parts of the nature reserve were used as military training grounds until 1994. Since then, the heathland has been restored on wide areas; in other places, the landscape is akin to the austere beauty of the Hungarian Puszta. Camp Reinsehlen, the NNA's conference facility, is situated right on the edge of that area.
Have you always asked yourself how a natural sewage plant works? Or are you wondering how the heathland could regenerate after enduring decades of military training? All your questions will be answered by our Department of Research and Documentation. In cooperation with universities and other academic institutions within the state, the academy accompanies and supports research projects, putting an emphasis on the Lüneburg Heath. Some of the academy's main concerns are sound forest ecology, heathland management, the ecological restoration of streams, and finding feasible ways to include farming interests in the achievement of these goals.
As a mediator between local nature conservation associations, the administration, and the sciences, the NNA is exceptionally well suited to pinpoint areas where research projects are needed. The academy provides research results that facilitate practical conservation work; and it makes these results accessible to the public through seminars and publications.
Training and Education
At the core of our training department a comprehensive program is offering competent training and possibilities for the exchange of knowledge and ideas in about 100 courses, seminars and conferences every year. Administrators, political decision-makers, and many interested individuals make use of the opportunity to learn more about such topics as conservation, communication, and the Agenda 21.
At our Regional Education Centre (RUZ), schools and kindergardens as well as organisations of different kinds can discover the secrets hidden in the countryside around Hof Möhr. Forests, natural meadows, heathland, streams, and marshlands - all these can be playfully explored using all our senses.
Both young and old are invited to take part in our guided tours of Hof Möhr's surroundings. Also, visitors can explore the Uhlenstieg, a footpath with information about the different habitats near Hof Möhr, at their own leisure.
In preparing our programs, we are lead by the belief that conservation can only be successful if people come to understand nature as the basis for human life.
Public Relations and Library
Three key elements in the work of the academy - training, education, and research - are also reflected in the fourth: public relations work. It is our aim to make every area of our work meaningful to the public, to transport the message that conservation is not only necessary, but fascinating as well. While the daily press covers the academy's work for the general public, experts obtain information through scientific journals.
In addition, the NNA's newsletter "Mitteilungen aus der NNA" provides information about what is new at Hof Möhr and Camp Reinsehlen, and the "NNA-Berichte" reviews the results of our conferences.
Our reference library at Hof Möhr includes 4500 volumes and 280 different journals on nature conservation, with an emphasis on literature about the Lüneburger Heide nature reserve. Nearly 1300 papers and books about this area have been published so far; and almost all of them are available at our library. The library is open to the public after prior appointment.
Where we work
Over the years, Hof Möhr and the academy have become one. Sheep, bees, a sparse orchard, and our traditional farm garden are parts of the working environment cherished by the NNA's staff.
Almost every habitat typical of Northern Germany can be reached on foot from the academy. Staff members and seminar participants spend their breaks relaxing in fields or meadows, walking through forests and peatlands or strolling through the heathland and along small streams.
The landscape around Camp Reinsehlen, where most of the seminars take place, provides a fascinating contrast: Lower Saxony's largest Puszta-like grassland has the spacious and austere aura of a prairie. When the wind races through the grass, the lights of the academy, the nearby hotel, and the restaurant beckon with appealing and comfortable warmth.
Where we are active
Firmly rooted in the Lüneburg Heath, the NNA is concerned with more than its immediate surroundings.
- in Northern Germany, with research projects and educational programs;
- throughout Germany, with seminars and conferences which attract speakers and participants from all parts of the country and
- internationally, as a member of trans-regional expert groups and as a partner in cooperative projects.
Moreover, the academy is:
- a member of BANU, a group of government-supported educational organisations in the field of nature conservation and environmental protection
- a member of the parent organisation of Europe's large scale protected areas, the EUROPARC Federation.
Alfred Toepfer Akademie für Naturschutz (NNA)
Tel.: +49-5198 - 9890-70
Fax: +49-5198 - 9890-95