Out with the guns, in with the wildlife! That is the plan for military bases in Germany. Sixty-two disused military bases on what used to be the edge of the Iron Curtain in West Germany will be turned into bio reserves for rare eagles and woodpeckers, as well as threatened bats and beetles and other critters.
“We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion – many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes,” said environment minister Barbara Hendricks. “We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature.”
The bases take up 31,000 hectares, the equivalent to over 40,000 football pitches. The government considered selling off some of the assets as real estate, before settling on the environmental solution. Implementation of the plan will raise Germany’s total area of protected wildlife reserves by a quarter.
When Communist Europe collapsed in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it was discovered that the no man’s land between the Western and Eastern powers, rarely visited by humans, was one of the most flourishing habitats on the continent. This led to the formation of a European Green Belt, which snakes down almost continuously from Scandinavia all the way into Greece.