Germany Is Turning 62 Former Military Bases Into Sanctuaries for Rare Birds and Threatened Species

On Thursday (6/18), German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks announced that the country would be turning 62 former military bases into protected nature preserves that will provide sanctuaries for some of the country’s rarest birds.

According to Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the protected areas will also provide critical habitat for a number of threatened species, including beetles, bats, woodpeckers and eagles.

In total, the newly protected area will cover 76,000 acres of land, from forests and meadows to moors and marshes. The new additions represent a 25% increase in the amount of federally protected wilderness in Germany.

German chancellor Angela Merkel at a bird park in northern Germany back in 2012 (Photo: Franzi Zöger/AFP/Getty Images)

German chancellor Angela Merkel at a bird park in northern Germany back in 2012 (Photo: Franzi Zöger/AFP/Getty Images)

The move was made possible by a drastic overhaul of the German military in recent years. In an effort to modernize its military, Germany has been shrinking its standing army, focusing instead on making its forces more flexible.

The closing of old military facilities has been a key part of this downsizing. During Thursday’s announcement, Hendricks praised the government for choosing to protect the land (much of which is valuable real estate), rather than selling it off to investors.

“We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion — many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes. We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature,”

she said.

Over the past few years, Germany has turned a number of old bases in the former communist East into nature preserves. The majority of the 62 bases being transformed now are in the western part of the country, however.

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