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Bavarian Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf, left, and Installation Management Agency-Europe Director Russell Hall unveil a U.S.-Bavaria Environmental Working Group at Grafenwöhr, Germany, on Thursday.

Bavarian Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf, left, and Installation Management Agency-Europe Director Russell Hall unveil a U.S.-Bavaria Environmental Working Group at Grafenwöhr, Germany, on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. forces and the Bavarian government have formed the U.S.-Bavaria Environmental Working Group to coordinate environmental protection at Grafenwöhr, Vilseck and Hohenfels.

The working group was unveiled Thursday in Grafenwöhr by Installation Management Agency-Europe Director Russell Hall, Grafenwöhr Garrison commander Col. Brian Boyle and Bavarian Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf.

The group will focus on such issues as water protection, waste disposal, waste water disposal, soil protection, contaminated sites, emission control and protection of nature and landscape, according to a fact sheet provided by U.S. officials.

“The working group will take up matters of mutual interest in environmental protection and will strive to ensure close and mutually acceptable collaboration of both sides in finding basic solutions for environmental issues,” the fact sheet said.

IMA will represent U.S. forces at an annual meeting alongside the Bavarian State Ministry of Environment, Health and Consumer Protection, the fact sheet said.

Hall said past environmental discussions between U.S. forces and German authorities were at local and regional levels.

“This is a time of increased ecological awareness and rapidly changing environmental legislation. Much of that legislation … is originating from the European Union. These changes — and we believe they are extremely positive — make direct and continuing contact with the state government absolutely imperative,” he said.

Hall said the working group’s first meeting will be in September when it would discuss:

The U.S. Army’s contaminated-sites cleanup program in Bavaria.

The U.S. forces environmental program.

A recent study on how military operations may positively affect biodiversity.

Natura 2000 — a European Union-wide ecological network affecting training areas at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels.

Boyle said Grafenwöhr had won many awards for its environmental programs. Its Environmental Division, which has 15 staff members and an annual budget of $4 million, won the U.S. Army Europe’s Outstanding Environmental Program Award this year.

“We are very proud of our environmental record here,” Boyle said.

U.S. forces had followed good environmental practices at Grafenwöhr for many years, Schnappauf said.

“It is a good idea that we formalize it through the working group,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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