Schweinfurt Local Training Area, Germany
In 1998 the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division noted that it was consistently unable to train to standard due to severe maneuver restrictions at Friedberg Training Area. This prompted the 7th ATC to explore options for increasing maneuver space at Friedberg, and at Schweinfurt Training Areas. The Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) at Colorado State University (CSU) is a longstanding partner of USAREUR and the 7th Army Training Command (ATC). By mid-2001 CEMML had completed two major projects for the 7th ATC; one involving proposed expansion of the training areas at Schweinfurt and Friedberg, the other a comprehensive survey of the flora at CMTC Hohenfels.
The Schweinfurt Training Area is large enough to accommodate platoon-sized maneuvers, but thick forest cover currently limits maneuver space and lines of sight. CEMML was tasked to determine how the proposed expansions would affect potential soil erosion and visual impact. At Schweinfurt, approximately 1,130 acres (457 hectares) of additional training area can be opened without causing excessive soil erosion, which is an increase of 136% of the current open area. Because soil erosion was the primary criterion for selecting areas for potential deforestation and slopes are moderate, erosion resulting from the proposed clearing will be minimal and will generally fall below the soil loss tolerance. To determine the visual impact of the proposed deforestation for the increased maneuver space, CEMML used a digital elevation model of the training areas and simulated views of the training areas from several surrounding communities using a GIS. At Schweinfurt, because the terrain is more level, the proposed cleared area would not be visible from any community around the installation.
The Schweinfurt training area during the 1980s was in use by battalion-sized units. By the 1990s, only platoon-sized units used the land. Today, this maneuver area is one of the most picturesgue in USAREUR. It also has a maintenance program in place which keeps roads in good repair, and grass, treese and flowers growing.
During a survey of endangered species in the early 1990s in the US Army training area in Sulzheim, environmental officials discovered a single dragonfly of a particular species. During their survey in 1994, Lothar Rueckert, chief of the environmental division of the 280th BSB Directorate of Public Works, or DPW, and officials from the German government found 33 endangered species in the US Army training area in Sulzheim and 56 species in Area M, just north of Ledward Barracks.
The training that takes place at these areas is actually helpful. There are species out there that need ground disturbance as well as a disturbed grass cover. Some species need the dirt and bare-ground environment. Since 1994 the endangered species program has been a part of the integrated training area management, or ITAM, which now falls under the control of the BSB directorate for plans and operations. They fund the project, and the environmental division takes care of the rest. They design, review and execute the project.
The ITAM controls what is called the Legacy Program. The Schweinfurt community was the first overseas installation to receive funding to coordinate the Legacy Program. One of the main things the program overseas is the coordination for the German government so that more U.S. military training occurs to help preserve some species. In the United States, the presence of endangered species normally renders a training area useless and is therefore left alone. But in Germany, they specifically wanted the Army to use these areas.
As spring begins to make its appearance so does rain-- and problems associated with land erosion in training areas like Schweinfurt's Dittelbrunn ranges and Sulzheim training sites. Nearly 6,000 acres of land, including some 600 open training areas, create a full-time job to observe and manage the unique ecosystem at each. Whatever forestry has been damaged needs to be replanted, so for every area that is cleared another area has to be planted.
Every year, German and American agencies review training sites, and a Land Condition Trend Analysis is produced. This analysis allows range control and the German Forest Directors to make the appropriate intervention and to monitor progress of their projects. Water erosion projects are now making a significant impact in reducing runoff and flooding in local communities.
Another recent addition helping to keep water and erosion activity in check is an onsite water measuring station. With it Range control continually monitors the amount and time of run-off movement, giving a good indicator as to the soil density. When the ground is compacted by heavy vehicles, like American tanks and German logging trucks, the soil becomes increasingly less able to absorb water. The only way to prevent this is to rotate and assign training areas for heavy travel.
The reduced open areas for vehicle traffic allows the soil to accept water and support the flora and fauna, some of which is currently endangered.
In Dittelbrunn there are 310 recognized species, 21 of which are endangered or flagged, and 422 recognized species live in Sulzheim, 71 of which require protection, according to the 1996 Threatened and Endangered Species Survey. The TES, produced by the Wolf Blumenthal Ingenieurburo and the Institut fur Vegetationskunde und Landschaftsokologie, noted a "general massive decline in species," but stated that Sulzheim was "theoretically an optimal habitat for many threatened and endangered species."
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