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Germany Plans to Give Dozens of Military Bases Back to Nature

The country will turn thousands of acres once reserved for training soldiers into sanctuaries reserved for protecting wildlife.

image via (cc) flickr user justinwkern

“Old soldiers,” explained acclaimed general Douglas MacArthur, during his iconic farewell speech to Congress, “never die; they just fade away.”

But what of the bases, barracks, and training grounds used to train those soldiers? Do they simply “fade away,” as well? While some certainly do, a new initiative from Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation will ensure over 60 of that country’s outdated and out-of-use military installations will instead be transformed into pristine natural reserves, totaling tens of thousands of acres, home to multiple species of protected animals.

“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,” explained German environmental minister Barbara Hendricks. All told, 62 former military bases will add an estimated 76,000 acres of forest, marsh, and meadowlands to the so-called “European Green Belt,” a massive ecological conservation project stretching the route of what once was the Iron Curtain.

Agence France-Presse reports that much of the former military land being set aside will be dedicated to the preservation of endangered species such as “bats, woodpeckers, eagles, and beetles,” although some of that land will remain open to the public as well. The German government reportedly mulled around the prospect of selling off the land for profit, before ultimately deciding on the less profitable, but decidedly more awesome, conservation path, instead.

This transformation of military installations to nature preserves is part of a larger, ongoing German effort to pivot their armed forces away from a Cold War footing and toward that country’s 21st-Century needs, explains the AFP.

It’s also a heartening example of how, with enough civic willpower, we can transform the edifices of war into something much, much better.

[via io9]

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