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article imageGermany turns military bases into 77,000 acre wildlife sanctuary

By Megan Hamilton     Jun 21, 2015 in Environment
Where once there was war, there shall now be nature.
The German government has announced plans to turn 62 defunct military bases west of the Iron Curtain into nature reserves for wildlife, including eagles, bats, woodpeckers, and beetles.
"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, according to The Independent.
"We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature."
The bases total 31,000 hectares — which is the equivalent of 40,000 football pitches. This additional land increases Germany's total area of protected wildlife by a quarter.
At first, the government considered selling the land as real estate, but fortunately decided to do the environment a favor instead. Now this land will be added to what has become known as the European Green Belt.
Part of the green belt near Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein.
Part of the green belt near Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein.
By Niteshift (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Birds such as the middle spotted woodpecker and the lesser spotted eagle will call the sanctuaries home, Ruth Schedlbauer, a spokeswoman for Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation told The Huffington Post.
Many of the disused bases and training areas are in historic West Germany, near the fabled Iron Curtain. These borderlands that split communist and capitalist Europe had already begun the process of turning back to nature during the Cold War. As part of the European Green Belt, the bases have joined a chain of habitats that stretches from Norway to Turkey.
"In the remoteness of the inhuman border fortifications of the Iron Curtain nature was able to develop nearly undisturbed," a greenbelt spokesperson told the Independent. "Today the European Green Belt is an ecological network and memorial landscape running from the Barents to the Black Sea."
The sites will serve as bioreserves, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation said, per France 24.
Many of the sites will be open to the public and will increase the amount of federally protected wilderness to 156,000 hectares.
Germany is updating its military and turning it into a 21st century institution that can counter new threats, and in so doing, is creating a smaller "footprint" of bases in favor of a more efficient organization, France 24 reports.
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