Bike excursion adventure vol. 6 – Forest management in military training area

Our master students participated in a bike excursion on July 1st – 6th 2019 as part of the module “Organization and Management Systems”. Along a track of about 220 km by the Neiße river at the border between Germany and Poland, various forests and forest organizations were visited. The blog post series, written by the students, reflect the impression and lessons learned.

On Thursday, the 4th of July, the Tropical Forestry master students had the privilege to visit a forest, which is being managed as military training area. This site is incorporated and monitored by the “Bundesforst”, which is the state forest administration of the Federal State of Germany (with their headquarters being in Bonn). With the guide from 3 forest rangers who are currently working at one of the 16 forestry departments, the “Bundesforstbetrieb Lausitz”, our group was able to have a closer look into how the forest management works under the strictly military circumstances. Hence, before starting the guided tour, we had to sign for the commitment to follow some specific rules to be granted access into the normally restricted area. It is worth to mention that at the time of our visit the area was in the period without military practice, which is approximately only 6 weeks in the year, so we had no instances of bullets flying around.

As explained to us there is the responsibility of the Federal State for the military activities, but the single states are mostly in charge of the forestry services. In this case the “Lausitz” office covers the eastern part of Saxony and the southern part of Brandenburg.

Historically, there were a lot of training areas after the Cold War and the government decided to donate the land to non-government organizations for nature protection, under the condition that the forester responsible for the area would also be employed. The foresters for these type of forest management areas, are not only responsible for the military training area but also the conservation purpose. Nowadays, 17500 ha is dedicated to the training area, which makes it the 4th biggest military training area in Germany. Not only the German army makes use of the area but also armies from other countries.

Managing the area is not without its difficulties. For instance, during the mushroom season, the foresters face a difficulties with some Polish mushroom gatherers who cross the border and enter the restricted forests. Other problems the forest manager faces is the fact that the soils of the forest are very poor. This makes it difficult to plant other trees than pine and birch. From experience they have found that pine, because of its vertical structure, is not a well suited species to create a noise barrier between the training area and the surrounding urban settings. The spruce would have been a much better species, but the soil is too poor and dry in some places for spruce to grow.

For the flora and fauna, the whole area is covered by 5% pine, 11% birch, 2% oak and 1% spruce. There is about 5000 ha of open land which creates a perfect habitat for birds, also wolves, and beavers. It was interesting to hear that the first sighting of wolves, after they were thought to be extinct in Germany, was in this same area.

The forestry department managing the military training area has a very delicate and challenging job to find a balance in the triangle task of social, environment and economic priorities. Their work consists of tending to the needs of the army (areas of noise reduction, bullet catching, fire prevention, etc.), the conservation needs (animal sanctuaries, biodiversity, etc.), and at the same time, also maximize timber production from the planted pine, which is also challenging, as one can imagine that the price of wood with bullets in it, is not a very favorable one.

To conclude our tour we were brought to a shooting range, which resembles a real life situation in case of war. From the watch tower we were shown the many different sections and their particular training purposes. Feeling as if we were in the shoes of a sniper (or that of an actor in a war movie) was a nice way of ending our interesting tour through the military training area. For most students coming from the tropical countries it is a whole new concept of forest management, as the military training areas in these countries are not managed by foresters. Therefore, we are grateful to have been introduced to the concept and we can maybe transfer some of the ideas to our own home countries.

By Morena Sanches and Doan Thanh Tung




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