German museum highlights 'Green Paradise' at US Army's Grafenwoehr facility

Information on fruit bats and trees being preserved at the Grafenwoehr Training Area on display at the Culture and Military Museum Grafenwoehr, in Grafenweohr, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.


By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 1, 2019

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Deer don’t seem to mind routine artillery fire at an American military base here, and bats like to breed in old bunkers, a local German museum exhibit says.

“Eco-friendly” might not be what springs to mind when most people think of military bases, but the special exhibit called “Green Paradise and Military Training” highlights the efforts being made by the U.S. Army training installation’s environmental protection division.

The Culture and Military Museum of Grafenwoehr is showcasing geological, plant and animal specimens from the training area, along with explanations about how the Army’s practices have impacted them, often in surprisingly positive ways.

For instance, the red deer population is found in larger concentrations on the installation than anywhere else in Germany. It’s believed to be the largest concentration of red deer anywhere in Europe, the exhibit says.

Exhibit photos show a herd of deer in the artillery impact area during the autumn mating season. Other displays show the base’s natural, scenic beauty, from its rocky Jurassic zone in the west to floodplains, forests, bogs and heath in the east. Glass cases hold arrays of colorful moths.

The Army has catalogued at least 3,000 types of plants and animals in the training area, including more than 800 animals classified as threatened or endangered, such as the bats that use former bunkers as breeding grounds.

Base environmentalists are crossing their fingers that a pair of wolves that recently returned to the area will mate soon. They belong to a species that was overhunted in the 19th century.

The reason for the proliferating deer, bats and (hopefully) wolves?

“Many people may be surprised to know that military training areas tend to be areas of high preservation and conservation significance,” said the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria environmental division.

Because they are relatively undisturbed parts of military bases, training areas “provide the most suitable hotspots and habitat stepping-stones for preserving sensitive species in an otherwise developed world,” the division said in a statement.

The museum shows projects the environmental division has done over the years, such as soil erosion prevention, water conservation and reseeding.

In addition to preserving natural habitats, the base includes more than 100 abandoned human settlements, including former fruit orchards featuring varieties no longer found outside the training areas.

The exhibit, which is sponsored by Stadt Grafenwoehr and the Heimatverein Grafenwoehr, began last month. It will continue until March 2020.

Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

Pictures of the large number of red deer at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, on display at the Culture and Military Museum Grafenwoehr, in Grafenweohr, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.