The Battle for the Hambach Forest

By Michael Regenfuss of Deep Green Resistance

There is an ongoing fight, just north of Düsseldorf, Germany, to save the Hambach Forest, Germany’s last old growth forest. The forest is a 1,000 hectare old growth oak forest right next to the largest open cast coal mine in Europe. The mine is 12 kilometers long, 4 kilometers wide, and 300 meters deep. The mine produces 100,000,000 tons of coal per year, used to supply 5 power plants.

The coal is used primarily for the weapons manufacturing industry in the nearby Rhineland industrial district. The mine is set to operate until 2045. The forest was acquired in 1978 by RWE, which now operates the mine. The forest was originally 5,500 hectares and since 1972 had been owned by the municipality of Niederzier. Since 1978 the forest has largely been cleared to make way for brown coal mining.

The company has also been using a law that the Nazis used to take land from people to evict people from entire villages. Over a ten year period this relocation process has removed entire village populations and demolished the structures to mine the coal underneath. During the relocation process some elders have died due to the stress and heartbreak of losing their homes. Many people are coming down with cancers, heart disease, and emphysema from airborne toxic particles.

The remaining forest, despite its dramatic diminution, is still a functioning habitat. It consists primarily of oak and hornbeam, who shelter endangered Bechstein’s bats.

An ongoing blockade has been in place since April 2012 to save this remnant forest. The blockade was evicted from the forest in November 2012, but after only one day they regrouped and occupied a meadow next to the forest. In April 2013 they reoccupied the forest. More recent actions included a treesit in a 250 year old oak at the edge of the forest, a group of Earth First! members blocking the loading of coal trucks, and a protest in nearby Bergheim against a newly built coal burning plant.

The struggle continues to save the Hambach Forest. For slides, videos, and more information on past actions and on the current blockade, visit Hambach Forest (English) or Hambacher Forst (German). If you can physically help with the blockade, please join them in person. You can also donate money through their website. Whatever you can do would be really appreciated. Time is running out for this place; the final showdown for this forest will probably happen by August 2015. Thank you for your interest and support to save this beautiful place.

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