By Troy Darr, IMCOM EuropeJune 20, 2012
MANNHEIM, Germany (June 19, 2012) -- The German Ministry of Defense and the Federal Real Estate Institute co-hosted a Military Use and Nature Protection Symposium at the Federal Academy for Defense Management and Technology here, June 11-14.
The event, attended by military officers, professors, scientists and foresters from 17 nations, was held to discuss the optimal balance between military use of land and nature conservation.
"It impressed me that there were 150 participants, a compatible blend of military, professors, scientists, biologists, and foresters, yet the entire meeting was conducted in a very professional, cooperative manner working hand in hand and recognizing the value of each others' insights," said Debra Dale, Installation Management Command Europe chief of the Environmental Division.
The four-day symposium included presentations on regional- and national-level conservation issues, such as compensation for military infrastructure projects that impact the natural environment, species conservation, and the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas on military land, according to Dale.
"The main focus of my briefing was about a decade ago we learned that we would not be excluded from Natura 2000 protection; however, what we found was that through intense cooperation with host nation officials we could accept designation of 86 percent of our mission lands in Germany as part of the Natura 2000 protected land while maintaining operable training lands," said Dale.
Dale said Natura 2000 was a big concern for the U.S. military when it was first being implemented.
"It took a lot of high-level diplomacy to get the European Union, or EU, to agree on the reservation that we could continue to train in areas designated as part of the Natura 2000 network," said Dale.
"Our training capabilities have not only improved, because we better maintain the land, they have become sustainable for military purposes as well as become an ecological treasure in the regions where they are located," she said.
Wolfgang Grimm, a forester with the Environmental Division attended the symposium with Dale to represent Installation Management Command Europe and the importance of conservation in military training areas.
"Continuing military training is the best way to continue to protect these areas," said Grimm. "It's because of the military training that these areas have become great national resources."
Grimm explained that in the past a common misconception was that the military destroyed the landscape, but now scientists recognize military training is great for conserving natural resources.
"One of the environmental scientists from Saarland mentioned that Baumholder is an excellent example of land where endangered species are no longer found outside of the training area," said Dale. "A number of scientists at the symposium talked about the greater biodiversity created from the mosaic or edge-rich habitats within the training area landscape."
Dale said that tank tracks and shell craters create the perfect habitat for some animals and plants because of their irregular shapes and infrequent use.
The event also featured site visits to the Baumholder Training Area, Ramstein Air Base and Froehnerhof, a former French military training area that has been converted to a nature preserve available for public use.
"It was interesting to see that a public organization does nature conservation by the same methods we use in the military," said Dale.
Grimm said his participation in the event was helpful, and allowed him the opportunity to discuss the programs of many countries.
"The symposium allowed us to compare the quality of our program with the Bundeswehr, or German Armed Forces, and the other sending state's forces, as well as other EU member nations, and our programs compared very favorably," he said.