The demilitarized zone between North and South Korea wasn't the first "involuntary park" to spring up in the ripples of the Cold War. The border between East and West Germany saw similar -- if smaller-scale -- conditions; the space along the border was often a "no man's land," and, left unmolested, plants and wildlife thrived. The "Green Ribbon" stretches from the Baltic to the Franconian Forest, running for about 1,400 kilometers (but only 20-100 meters wide in most locations). The total area of the Green Ribbon is just under 200 square kilometers. About half of the wildlife and plants in the Green Ribbon is considered threatened or endangered -- and therein lies an opportunity.
Recognizing the ecological value of this stretch of land, the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) [Alliance for Environment and Nature Conservation in Germany] and the Bund Naturschutz Bayern [Alliance for Nature Conservation in Bavaria] have started the process of acquiring the Green Ribbon, with the goal of keeping it out of the hands of developers -- as of June, they had purchased 140 hectares. Although the federal government initially promised to help protect the space, the post-reunification conditions and laws made keeping that promise complex; in the vacuum, the German states stepped in. Saxony put its entire stretch of the Green Ribbon under conservation protection in 1996. Federal steps have been less bold, but with a much larger agenda:
A first, but hesitant step was taken in 2001: With funds from the Federal Environment Ministry, the Federal Office for Nature Conservation has financed the comprehensive “Trial and Development Project – Stock-Taking in the Green Ribbon”. The results of the 1,393 km long inventory are clear: the Green Ribbon is not only unique in Germany, but also in Europe. Just under 50 per cent of the biotope type are in the Red Data Book, around 90 per cent of the land is still considered to be semi-natural. With their study, the ecologists have provided a technical foundation for a long-term, nationwide protection concept. [...] In mid-July the Federal Office for Nature Conservation will host an international conference on the Green Ribbon – the ultimate goal is a European ribbon from the North Sea to the Adriatic, maybe even to the Black Sea.
[I haven't found any word on the results of that conference; any German-speakers able to find anything?]
It's clear that Germany recognizes the environmental value of the Green Ribbon -- and its popular appeal. The big question is whether the state and federal governments, along with environmental groups, can piece together an ecologically sustainable portion of the ribbon. A few hectares or square kilometers here and there won't necessarily be enough to support a wide variety of wildlife. But a scenario of success remains possible. More than that -- a scenario of transformation is possible.
(Thank you, wolfgang)
I can well imagine the beauty. At least pictures can be taken in Germany. I was in Korea this summer and visited the DMZ. Breathtakingly gorgeous, especially with the mists and rain the day I was there. Unfortunately the soldiers are very careful to keep the cameras put away, since the DMZ is still, well, demilitarized. Hence pictures would have intelligence value.
My mother's family came from very close to the East/West border in Germany (northern Bavaria), and growing up we visited the actual border once in a while. My relatives always warned us it was full of land mines, and pointed out the watchtowers where you would get shot at from. The last time we visited, 1992, the "wall" had come down - but this no-mans land was still there; you could drive up to it and look, but people were still afraid to cross. It was pretty clear that keeping humans out had been great for the vegetation and wildlife!
My mother's family was from the northern part of Bavaria, close to the East/West border. Growing up, we visited quite often. The relatives always warned us the border area was full of mines, and would point out the watchtowers where people would shoot you if you came too close. Last time we visited, in 1992, the "wall" had come down, but people were still afraid to cross the border; it was pretty clearly vegetation and wildlife had thrived with no people to bother them!
Ah, sorry for the duplicate - must be the new layout here. I submitted the comment and it disappeared, so I retyped again...
No worries, Arthur. We've done some behind-the-scenes changes along with the new look, and some comments got stuck in a moderate-only mode.