BRUNSSUM, Netherlands – At U.S. Army Garrison Benelux's three Army prepositioned stock sites in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, Europeans and Americans work together to receive, transfer, maintain and store vehicles and other equipment in support of U.S. Army Europe and Africa missions.
Enabling this logistical mission, the Directorate of Public Work's Environmental Division collaborates with knowledgeable authorities to ensure the continued health of local flora and fauna.
“APS operations and infrastructure development are incredibly layered,” said Dwayne Key, APS program manager at USAG Benelux. “The work of our Environmental Division facilitates the execution of millions of dollars of US-funded projects on time and in support of USAREUR-AF.”
A case in point is the estimated 38 million-euro modernization upgrade at APS-2 Eygelshoven, the Netherlands, which houses 15 protected species, including salamanders, lizards and grass snakes.
“Before the construction begins, the area has to be inspected and cleared for threatened and endangered species by external ecological specialists,” said Hans Verwasch, environmental engineer. “Based on that, we know if a project is allowed in the area.”
During the process, which takes six to nine months, external experts use various tools to survey the area, including bio-screens – gray shields that cordon off future construction areas, within which mats are placed upside-down. After experts inspect the mats for bugs and animals that gather underneath, they release the creatures into the ecological preservation areas on-site.
Environmental preservation takes place at each of the APS-2 sites in the USAG Benelux footprint. If you look hard, you will find traces of it everywhere: branches that serve as breeding places for grass snakes, nest boxes, floating bucket traps and more.
While some surveying depends on traditional methods, like searching for bat droppings, the environmental division also employs high-tech tools. At APS-2 Dülmen, Germany, for instance, specialists used a special bat recorder, set at different frequencies to detect all bat species. After the experts identified three endangered species, the serotine, Bechstein’s and whiskered Bats, they recommended lowering artificial lighting around ponds and forests to avoid disturbing on the bats’ hunting paths.
Preservation is even present in the way the grass is mown.
“Because the area around the runway at APS-2 Zutendaal (Belgium) is protected, the mowing has to be done at just the right intensity,” Juliette Vermeulen, external ecological specialist, said. “It’s a rare habitat that’s very important to the protected Glanville fritillary butterflies, so there is a specific nature management plan for this site.”
The Environmental Division partners with local, regional and national authorities, including municipalities, water authorities and forestry commissions. And as each site is located in a different country, the division also navigates regulations in three countries.
“When you cut trees in Flanders you have to compensate by planting trees,” said Vermeulen. “During deforestation in Zutendaal last year, we worked in coordination with the Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos (ANB, the Belgian nature and forestry agency), to identify compensation measures. Rather than natural afforestation, they advised planting native shrubs and broad-leaved trees. That’s much better for nature than the pine trees that were less interesting for biodiversity.
“In Eygelshoven (the Netherlands), we collaborate with German partners,” continued Vermeulen. “As we’re right on the border, a tree that has fallen over in Germany could affect our site in the Netherlands. It’s great to be working with so many organizations; it gives a much better picture and allows us to take a more comprehensive approach.