Environmentalists back Grafenwöhr fence relocation
January 10, 2005
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — As plans to build up Grafenwöhr roll along, some residents in the military community have expressed concern about a project to move a fence line that they fear would have a negative impact on wildlife in the training area.
In calls to the 100th Area Support Group and 7th Army Training Command, and a letter written to Stars and Stripes, residents said they were worried about what they believed were plans to put 230 kilometers — about 142 miles — of fence around the training area, trapping wildlife inside.
The plan, however, is not to fence in the training area. Rather, it is to move an already existing fence that separates the training area from the part of the base where people work and live, commonly referred to as the cantonment area.
The fence line is being moved to make way for construction projects under Efficient Basing Grafenwöhr, part of the transformation in Europe that will likely involve closing some bases in Germany and opening new ones in eastern European countries. Grafenwöhr will remain open, and construction projects are planned to build new housing, a post exchange and a commissary among other things.
The portion of the training area affected by moving the fence is about two square kilometers, or roughly one-thousandth of the 62,000-acre training area, according to Dwane Watsek of the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office of the 100th Area Support Group, based in Grafenwöhr.
The fence has been up for many years, and the area that will now become part of the cantonment area was rarely used for training, Watsek said.
“This area was a buffer between the tank trail and the cantonment area,” he said, adding that eliminating the buffer area won’t cause safety concerns of rounds hitting within the garrison, because the tank trail is a fire-free area and firing is done well inside the training area.
Grafenwöhr’s environmental and planning staffs are obligated to consider the protection of the environment and ecosystems in the planning phase of all training and construction projects in the training area, said Manfred Rieck, the 100th ASG’s environmental officer.
The training area planners regularly meet with the German federal forestry office to discuss the impact of training on the environment, and the German government must approve all projects within the area, Rieck said.
If any plants or trees are removed for a construction project, similar plants or trees are planted elsewhere in the training area to make up for it, Rieck said.
Additionally, the environmental office expanded some wetlands in the training area and modified the shore of the bodies of water to make it more attractive to the animals that exist there, Rieck said.
The environmental office works with units that use the training area to identify sections that are off-limits to training to protect endangered or threatened species that live in those areas. In other parts of the training area, the training actually helps wildlife flourish, Rieck said.
“Threatened and endangered species like when the landscape changes,” he said. “With tanks moving through, the land changes and animals are attracted to that.”
An information paper from the environmental office said the tanks compact the soil, creating puddles that the endangered yellow-bellied toad uses to lay eggs.
Ulrich Maushakey, the forest director for the Federal Forestry Office in Grafenwöhr, said if the training were to stop and the area no longer monitored, much of the existing wildlife would likely die off.
“If you keep the land open, all the trees come back, the area would be [overgrown] with weeds and the most parasitic species would take over,” Maushakey said. “With the land kept free of these threats, there is more of a chance for threatened and endangered species to come back.”
Maushakey said forestry workers in the training area have reported spotting bobcats, which had all but disappeared from the area.
Another example of a species making a comeback in the training area is the beaver, which is endangered throughout Germany, said Ron Biederman, 100th ASG command group plans specialist. Biederman also is an instructor for the 100th ASG hunting program.
Special tunnels were made so that smaller animals such as beavers can pass safely under the tank trails of the training area.
While species such as the beaver and some birds of prey are endangered, other types of wildlife are thriving, Biederman said.
Residents of Grafenwöhr need not be concerned about red deer, roe deer, wild boar and jack rabbits which number in the thousands in the training area and will be unaffected by the moving fence line, he said.
“They’ve grown up in the training area; they are very used to the training,” Biederman said. “They are not bothered by it.”
More environmental projects at Grafenwöhr
In addition to the project that will move the fence line around the garrison at Grafenwöhr, the 100th Area Support Group and 7th Army Training Command have several ongoing environmental projects for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 to protect wildlife and the environment in training areas at Grafenwöhr and Vilseck, Germany. The projects and estimated costs include:
Sampling and analyses of ground and surface water, $475,000Improving storage of water-endangering substances, $350,000Hiring of two pollution prevention managers, $200,000Additional reduction of wastewater flow to the sewage plant at Grafenwöhr, $350,000Construction of rain retention basin for cleaning and retention of low contaminated surface water from maintenance areas at Vilseck, $380,000.— Rick Emert