The Czech Army will help with forestry efforts and species diversification

Czech military forests are among the best preserved nature areas in Europe, but have suffered in recent years

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 16.09.2020 13:24 (updated on 16.09.2020)

Czech Army members will take part in reforestation efforts this autumn to help repair the effects of recent calamities. Soldiers will help with the renewal of forests in all four military districts after bark beetles, drought and stormy winds have taken their toll. Emphasis will be put on diversifying the species of trees, instead of planting an evergreen monoculture.

This effort follows from an agreement between the Czech Armed Forces Chief of General Staff, Army General Aleš Opata, and the Czech Military Forests and Estates (VLS) director Petr Král.

The military forests, because of their restrictions on outside visitors, are home to many forms of wildlife that are not seen in other Czech nature areas, and they require special care.

“We want to contribute to the improvement of the environment in the Czech Republic and help our partners from VLS to restore the state of nature as quickly as possible after the extensive calamities of previous years,” General Opata said.

“Military districts are not just a space for army training. Thanks to the fact that they have avoided intensive civilization for decades, they are also home to a number of rare animal and plant species — and are among the rarest natural locations. The army is aware of this, and wants to take co-responsibility with this step for the restoration of the rare symbiosis of the army and nature, which has been disrupted in recent years by climate change,” Opata added.

VLS welcomes the army’s initiative, saying that the deployment of troops will have other benefits for them than saving on forestry costs, which have risen to hundreds of millions of crowns annually in recent years.

“We appreciate the socially responsible attitude of members of the armed forces. Thanks to their work, they are physically fit temporary workers that we can use to restore forest stands in more complicated conditions, where, for example, it is not possible to use machinery,” VLS director Král said.

Reforestation with army support should take place on weekends in all four active Czech military districts.

forest
Fallen trees in a forest / via Army.cz

Members of the 153rd Engineering Battalion and the 73rd Tank Battalion started September 5 in the Libavá Military District in the Olomouc region. In Boletice in Šumava, members of the 42nd Mechanized Battalion will help foresters with planting and clearing on November 7, together with an artillery regiment. On the same day, paratroopers from the 43rd Battalion from Chrudim will take part in reforestation in the Březina training area near the Vyškov, South Moravia.

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“Planting and reforestation will not be carried out at the expense of training. Assistance to VLS foresters will be on a voluntary basis,” Brigadier General Ladislav Jung, commander of the army’s ground forces, said.

By planting trees, soldiers will be involved in the ongoing transformation of the species composition of forests in military localities from predominant spruce forests to species-diverse forests, which should better resist climate change and increase the biodiversity of these areas.

“Members of the armed forces will be involved in the planned renewal of forests in military districts both by planting new woody plants and by preparatory forestry work. … VLS will provide working tools, planting material and, of course, methodological support. They will see up close how the transformation into species-diverse forests, which will be better able to withstand weather fluctuations, is taking place in the training facilities as part of the renewal,” VLS production deputy Ondřej Vybíral said.

As in previous years, the majority of this year’s planting consists of a diverse mixture of woody plants, dominated by deciduous trees —mainly beeches, oaks, maples, alders and lindens, as well as red oaks, ash, hornbeams, elms, aspens and cherries.

Deciduous trees make up 60% of this year’s planting. Another 20% will be represented by pines, larch, fir and Douglas fir. Spruce is represented by only 20%.

Transformation of military forests has been gradually taking place for 25 years, but in recent years, the pace has increased due to the need for more intervetnion. In 2018 alone, military forests had plantings of 20 million tree seedlings, and a record 23 million last year. This year, with the help of members of the Czech Army, VLS foresters plan to perform forestry work in almost 2,000 hectares.

The Military Forests and Estates of the Czech Republic (Vojenské lesy a statky ČR) is a state-owned enterprise with a 90-year history, established by the Czech Ministry of Defense. VLS manages approximately 125,000 hectares of forest land in six large locations made up of existing or former military districts.

These locations represent approximately 5% of forests in the Czech Republic and are among the best forest areas not only in the Czech Republic, but also in the whole of Europe.