MANNHEIM, Germany - Members of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, U.S. Baden-Württemberg's Directorate of Public Work's Environmental Division and Soldiers from Echo Company, 1-214th Aviation Regiment gathered at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim Feb. 27.

Their mission was to enhance the habitat of the Lacerta agilis, a sand lizard and threatened species, and to help ensure the survival of owls breeding in the halls of an old nearby shooting

The team trimmed bushes, blackberry briars and small trees and created special piles of soil that the sand lizards could use to sunbath, lay eggs and cover themselves.

Grassy areas were also cleared to provide a dry and sunny environment with open soil, which the animals require for survival.

The team moved bushes and small trees into the shooting range halls to provide a safe place for the baby owls to escape from foxes that target the young birds as easy prey. "The first days they leave the nests they are not able to fly very well and are exposed to all predators if they have to sit on the ground," said Dr. Thomas Gladis, USAG BW Environmental Division.

"The project was originally planned for Earth Week in April, but due to the breeding season of birds, cutting trees and bushes is forbidden past the end of February," said Samantha Rogers, USAG BW Environmental Division.

Rogers is also the lead organizer for the garrison's Earth Week celebration scheduled for April 16-22.

During this time, community members will have the opportunity to participate in a series of
activities designed to raise awareness about environmental issues, encourage resource conservation and promote appreciation for the Earth's natural environment.

Earth Day is celebrated around the world April 22.

Team organizers said they plan to come together again this summer to survey the success of their efforts.