62 disused military bases along the edge of the former Iron Curtain are being turned into nature reserves, providing 31,000 hectares of protected land for eagles, woodpeckers, bats, beetles and other rare or threatened wildlife – increasing Germany’s protected lands by nearly a quarter.
The government initially considered selling the land off as real estate before setting on the environmental solution, reports the Independent. The land has now been added to the European Green Belt, a protected swath of land along the line of the former Iron Curtain that stretches from the Black Sea in the south to the Barents Sea in the north.
“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,” said German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, according to the Independent.
The land is now available because Germany’s military abandoned conscription in 2011 and is downsizing its military as part of a long-term reform plan towards a professional service, reports the New York Times.
While the Iron Curtain left many a human life scarred, the land around the border fortifications of the Iron Curtain was nearly undisturbed, allowing nature to flourish and serving as a retreat for many endangered species.