Some might consider supporting the stationing of six additional battalions, a population increase of 8,000 and construction of 50 new facilities daunting, but for the Environmental Management Division staff of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, Germany, this task was just part of their ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship.
The staff's ability to successfully meet the garrison's expansion-related challenges, as well as other environmental goals, has earned them the Environmental Quality award for an overseas installation in the fiscal year 2010 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award program. They are now competing with other services as the Army's representative for this category in the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards program.
"Grafenwoehr Training Area demonstrated outstanding stewardship commitment in managing hundreds of endangered flora and fauna species, protecting soil, surface and ground water, while supporting a world-class training area," said Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar, commanding general of the Joint Multinational Training Command.
Cooperation and collaboration with all stakeholders, a lot of hard work from a dedicated team of professionals, to include the German Federal Forest Service, and a well-balanced and comprehensive environmental program is what Manfred Rieck, environmental chief at Grafenwoehr, attributes to their success.
The garrison's environmental program is fully incorporated into the garrison's strategic sustainability plan with 25-year milestones, which were established by a joint U.S. and Germany working group. The plan's goals includes optimizing sustainability, partnering with German authorities to provide state of the art training facilities, preserving natural resources and meeting the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum standards.
Achieving those goals takes more than the work of one division. A cross-functional team, established in conjunction with the Environmental Management System, annually evaluates more than 200 garrison activities, along with their environmental aspects and impacts.
Two noteworthy actions helped contribute to Grafenwoehr garrison's ability to successfully meet environmental goals while supporting the military training mission.
In the first, the implementation of a comprehensive erosion control program developed by the garrison's Environmental Management Division, the Integrated Training Area Management team and German Forest Service reduced erosion, previously impacting 5,000 acres of training land, to almost zero.
Another initiative, removed more than 500 pounds of ozone-depleting-substances from 78 facilities. Under this program, an interactive database tracks asbestos, lead-based paint and other toxic substances within facilities to make working and living environments safer. Additional remediation projects are ongoing for seven buildings identified by this system as having high risk ratings.
In addition, the results of garrison's waste reduction efforts are notable. In spite of the increasing population, the overall waste stream diversion rate improved from 29 to 65 percent. A comprehensive hazardous material management program has reduced hazardous material procurement and hazardous waste disposal.
The garrison's environmental successes are shared through numerous awareness and outreach activities, which have enhanced their reputation with other U.S. military installations and local, state and federal German authorities. This was affirmed when the Grafenwoehr garrison won the 2010 Environmental County Award.
"Grafenwoehr Training Area is a complex ecosystem of central-European significance to the preservation of endangered species and their habitats," said Heinrich Stetter, senior biologist for the district government of the Upper Palatinate in Germany.
About 90 percent of the training area has been designated a European Natura 2000 nature sanctuary which requires additional training area maintenance and special approval procedures for construction projects.
The training area provides habitats for more than 3,000 plant and animal species; 1,272 of those are threatened, endangered or legally protected. Grafenwoehr boasts one of the largest populations of red deer in Germany which is managed through a cooperative partnership between the German Forest Service and U.S. Army.
To ensure the military mission is not negatively impacted, eliminate potential delays and conserve valuable resources, Grafenwoehr's environmental staff coordinates all actions with the German Forest Service and Nature Conservation Board.
Their ability to partner and collaborate with others is why organizations often request visits to the area to learn from Grafenwoehr's experience. The Tanzania People's Defense Force and African Wildlife Fund visited Grafenwoehr Training Area to adapt the U.S. Army's approach for a coexistence of dense wildlife populations in a high-use military training area.
Environmental Management Division staff have also provided presentations and environmental tours for German, Bulgarian, Albanian and Georgian forces; local mayor and county commissioners; the Westphalian Natural Science Society; and German Forest Service liaison officers have supported the European Sustainable Range Program workshop.
The University of Bayreuth and the Colorado State University conducted a study at Grafenwoehr to determine the effects of military disturbance on biodiversity. Cross comparison to similar off-post studies provides scientific proof that military training significantly enhances biodiversity. As a result of the study, previously restricted areas are reopened for military training.
"USAG Grafenwoehr is a model organization for a systematic and exemplary environmental program and for smooth cooperation on various levels, such as the comprehensive network of environmental facilities, the methodical investigation and remediation of contaminated sites, as well as the monitoring for ground and surface water," said Emilia Mueller, State of Bavaria Minister for European Affairs.
Through its efforts and proven ability to find solutions to numerous challenges, the Environmental Management Division staff and its partnerships have increased the realistic training space and the variety of training patterns at Grafenwoehr Training Area, while increasing biodiversity and preserving its natural resources.