***image1***If you were to compile a list of the most unlikely places to find a protected natural sanctuary, an Army ammunition depot would probably register somewhere near the top.
Nonetheless, there is a wildlife sanctuary, also called a biosphere, smack in middle of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s ammunition storage area at Miesau Army Depot.
The area lies within a restricted military zone that houses a number of ammunition storage facilities operated by the Ammunition Center Europe, which belongs to the 21st TSC’s Theater Logistics Support Center – Europe.
With virtually no outside disturbances and almost no vehicular and pedestrian traffic, nature has had the opportunity to reclaim the land.
Professor Dr. Peter Wolff has been the preserve’s guardian for more than three decades; he has been the appointed caretaker and researcher since 1972.
Despite having retired from the faculty of the University of Saarbrücken, he continues to watch over the sanctuary and to document its development.
“I safeguard the area, make sure it remains open and I also check water levels,” Dr. Wolff said. “The goal is to keep the swamp as wet as possible and to conserve its natural evolution. This is, of course, also true for the forest surrounding it.”
The project’s success is evidenced by an abundance of flourishing plants and animals.
More than 20 different types of peat-bog mosses and an ever-increasing number of wild boars, even bobcats, thrive in the protected habitat.
“The flora and fauna that prosper here are indicators that we are doing well – that we provide the right environment,” said Franz Frajer, chief of physical security for the ammunition depot. “The depot is located on an upland moor and we see plants, especially lichen, and animals return that actually have been red-listed and can’t be found anywhere outside this biosphere.”
Mr. Frajer, a hunter and a certified game warden for the state of the Rhineland-Palatinate, has taken a special interest in the 10.67 square kilometer area, which falls under the administration of the German agency for federal real estate and forests, know here as the Bundesimmobilien und Bundesforst.
He explained that “red lists” are established by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and provide a comprehensive inventory of the conservation status of plant and animal species worldwide.
Furthermore, Mr. Frajer said the area is full of historical significance.
It houses Celtic graves, had a Roman fire power road run through it and was part of the Siegfried Line during World War I and of the Westwall during World War II.
“Now, nature has taken its course,” Mr. Frajer said. “Camouflaged by the flora that reclaims the area, two of the bunkers provide shelter for a rare type of bat.”
Dr. Wolff makes annual visits to check on the condition of the biosphere and looks to the future as well.
“Observing and documenting how the area evolves allows you to predict what it will look like in approximately 100 years,” he said. “If left undisturbed, we will have a pine bog forest here.”
Hopefully, the peaceful forest will outlast the legacy of an area filled with war.