By Valentin Wallers, USAG Benelux Environmental DivisionNovember 2, 2017
CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- It is well-known that human structures have a significant impact on wildlife and biodiversity. The fragmentation of habitats caused by the construction of highways or the deviation of bird migratory paths due to the presence of tall buildings reflecting lights during nighttime are some examples. Although some impacts can be mitigated in the initial stages of the project's design by the implementation of compensation measures, the construction project itself can create stress for the local wildlife.
The U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division screens each project initiated by the U.S. Army in order to avoid or mitigate any potential negative impacts on the biodiversity. Screening also takes into account other potential environmental impacts, such as asbestos management, soil and groundwater contamination and pollution prevention.
People can take a similar environmental approach during their own construction or maintenance projects at home by adopting simple actions.
TRIMMING HEDGES OR TREES
Several bird species use hedges and trees to roost and shelter. From March to June, they also serve as breeding sites, containing nests to host the newly hatched chicks. In order to prevent disturbing these birds during this critical period, trimming of trees and hedges should be avoided. Avoid use herbicides, because they will often induce collateral damages on fauna. For cutting trees, a permit may be required. Always refer to the local regulations and guidelines of your municipality when performing this kind of work.
KEEPING DEAD WOOD
Dead wood can be found in various forms such as a dead trunk, branches or twigs. It offers board and lodging to numerous decomposers such as insects, fungi, snails and centipedes. Dead wood sometimes provides holes that can also be used by larger animals such as woodpeckers, frogs and bats. Decomposers play a key role in the biodegradation of organic matter and in balancing the ecosystem.
Occasionally, you might find seemingly injured animals in the garden, such as stunned birds that have flown into a window or nocturnal creatures like grounded bats or hedgehogs that are out during day time. Before doing anything, inform yourself and make sure the animal really needs help. If it is a baby bird or other young animal, remember that wild creatures do not take care of their offspring as humans do and can leave them alone for a day before they come back. If necessary, you can take the animal somewhere safe and give it only water until it recovers. For serious injuries, please go to the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center.
If you encounter issues regarding wildlife, please contact the natural resources managers at USAG Benelux DPW Environmental Division at DSN 361-6369 (Chièvres and Brussels) or DSN 360-7283 (Schinnen).