Lina Hähnle – making nature conservation popular

Lina Hähnle (1851-1941) was more than 45 years old when she began her involvement in bird protection in Württemberg. She soon discovered that protection of biological diversity was only possible by protecting species’ habitats. However legal instruments were lacking. Thus Lina Hähnle pursued nature conservation through acquisition of land and from 1898 created private sanctuaries, for which she repeatedly spent considerable amounts of family funds. In the same year, Lina Hähnle launched the ‘Bund für Vogelschutz’ (BfV, Association for the Protection of Birds), which she directed for 40 years, shaping its goals and structure according to her personal ideas.  She worked for it during the entire period of the German empire. In 1913, the BfV leased 50 sanctuaries; by 1928 the number had increased to more than 100.

Lina Hähnle built and expanded a successful network. After decades of campaigning, public education and outreach she was able to win over influential personalities from the nobility, business and politics.

Lina Hähnle organised the exchange of expert information through countless exhibitions and excursions. It was important to her to consolidate pro-conservation forces to increase their overall effectiveness.

Lina Hähnle’s specific concern was to bring the idea of nature conservation to large sections of the population. To accomplish this she kept membership fees for the BfV low and ran intensive publicity campaigns. Into her old age she went on lecture tours and her rhetorical skills were highly praised. The large BfV membership (already 40,000 by 1916) and its inclusion of men and women from all social classes reflect her efforts.

“Often I have to hear: ‘How did you get involved in this issue? Did you not have enough to do otherwise?’ With six children, two households, a large garden and other commitments I had more than enough work. But I simply could no longer watch the ruthless exploitation of nature.”


Text: Marlies Dittberner, Roswitha Kirsch-Stracke & Dagmar Krüger (1997)
Translation and Editing: Sabine Dentler (Bonn), Anna Gyorgy (WLOE e.V., (2008)