National Park History
Already during the interwar years, intentions to establish a nature protection area around the Neusiedler See were noticeable. It is thanks to the determined effort of some men and women and the work of the Naturschutzbund (ÖNB - Austrias first nature conservation organisation) that the government agreed to carry out the plans. The law that governs the establishment of the National Park was finally passed in 1992 after some tough negotiations.
It was the fascination of the rich biodiversity of the Neusiedler See region that inspired researchers and students to take the first steps in nature conservancy. The University of Vienna is not far away and so the Neusiedler See has always been a popular destination for field trips. Much research on a large variety of lake-linked topics was carried through.
Before and during World War II, famous names such as Varga, Mika, Breuer or Hämpel documented the complexity of the Neusiedler See ecosystem. Wendelberger and Löffler, Machura and König, Freundl and Kasy - among many others - supplied their valuable findings, making a clear case for the need to act to preserve precious habitats. The first land leases by the ÖNB were effected in the mid-1930s.
After first efforts to establish a research support centre in 1942 in Illmitz, the ÖNB, through Dr. Machura, took the initiative. Thanks to foundations and donations it was possible to build the Biological Station in the reed belt near Neusiedl am See in 1954. The site was a former boathouse. The local government of the province Burgenland took over the Biological Station six years later. The building burned down in 1960. In 1971 the Biological Station in Illmitz as we know it today was inaugurated. This facility is a field office of the Conservation Department of the Burgenland government and as such serves all parts of the province.
In 1963, the World Wildlife Fund Austria (WWF) was founded in Apetlon, where concerned conservationists were committed to preserving the last pasture land (Hutweide). This lead to the leasing of the pasture land by the WWF. At about the same time, the first post-war nature conservancy law came into force; it's subsequent directives provided the establishment of several nature reserve areas, among them the Neusiedler See landscape protection area.
- 1926: the first restricted nature protection areas were designated
- 1932: extensive use restrictions based on the law of 1926 came into force e.g. the restricted zones of Zitzmannsdorfer Wiesen and in the area of the saline lakes near Illmitz and Apetlon (1936)
- 1940: delimitation of landscape protection areas and nature protection areas by decree of the Niederdonau governor; draft decree for a national park
- 1959: Amendment prohibiting access to the reed beds between April 1st and July 31st
- 1961: nature conservancy law passed
- 1991: new Burgenland nature and landscape conservancy law
- 1992: Nationalpark-law establishing the National Park
The early dedication of nature conservation organisations and individuals to the preservation of the Neusiedler See's unique habitats is strongly linked with the genesis of the National Park: It was above all due to the efforts of the province Burgenland that the area was preserved to fulfil the requirements of a National Park.
Already the draft legislation of 1939 for a Neusiedler See national park - prepared by the governor of Niederdonau - declared the southern part of the lake as a national park, along with the surrounding area. In 1940, at the Nature Conservancy Day conference in Schladming (Austria), the Neusiedler See national project was on the agenda again - this time, the area on the western lake shore was included.
In the following years, the publication of several brochures on this exceptional region, and the increased offer of the ÖNB to guide tours on natural history, raised the awareness of the Austrian population for the need to preserve this special area.
At the conference of the UIPN (Union Internationale pour la Protection de la Nature) in 1953 in Salzburg, the creation of a Neusiedler See national park was recognised as a very important project. The Biological Station, built in 1954, was the scientific foundation for the future steppe national park.
In 1959, the Austrian Nature Conservancy Day was held in Eisenstadt. The most important topic on the agenda was the Neusiedler See Steppe National Park. In 1971, the very controversial and then rejected project, to build a bridge over the lake, nevertheless gave rise to renewed considerations about positive long-term effects of a national park on tourism.
The 26th Austrian Nature Conservancy Day held in Mattersburg in 1978 was themed "Neusiedler See National Park - a Model of International Cooperation".
The so-called "Mattersburg Manifesto" was not only an important answer to the pressure put on the region by the departments of housing development, agriculture and tourism, but it clearly signalled the necessity to manage the national park in co-operation with the Hungarian authorities.
A survey among tourists during the summer of 1979 showed that the creation of a national park was not only important to nature conservationists, but also to visitors. 92% of the tourists stated that the extraordinary natural landscape was the main reason for their stay.
In 1988, the Burgenland state government entrusted a study group to prepare the creation of a national park. The governments of Hungary and Austria expressed their wish for a cross-border national park.
Finally, in 1992, the national park law came into force.