For a year, activists have been occupying the Dannenroder forest to prevent it from being cleared. Now the loggers moved in.
The first clearing work in the Herrenwald forest near Dannenroder Forst Photo: Andreas Arnold/dpa
In the barrio "Okay in the North" nothing is okay anymore since Thursday morning, October 1 – police officers have surrounded it. "Barrios" are the names of the tree house settlements that climate activists* build in threatened forests, like in Hambacher Forst in 2018. This year, the hotspot of the radical tree protectors is the Dannenroder forest in the Vogelsberg district of Hesse. For a year now, they have been on the ground to prevent the clearing of the mixed forest in favor of the A49 highway, which is to connect Kassel and Giessen.
Since October 1, the vegetation phase is over – now trees may be cut down. Shortly after sunrise, the activists reported on Twitter the arrival of the first police vehicles at the edge of the forest.
At nine o’clock, the police is on site with a large contingent, the highway company Deges arrives with chainsaws. At ten, the first tree falls. "We are angry and horrified," says Marie K., activist of the alliance "Forest instead of asphalt". "The fact that the black-green state government is clearing a forest for a highway in 2020 is a sign of an absolutely misguided transport policy."
The first area to be cleared, however, is not directly in the Dannenroder Forest, but in the Herrenwald to the north of it – a fauna-flora-habitat protected area (FFH) with animals and plants that have become rare. The Dannenroder Wald and the Herrenwald are also drinking water protection areas, which also supply the population of the Rhine-Main area.
Conservationists and local residents have been fighting against the construction of the A49 for decades. Most recently, in July, the Federal Administrative Court rejected two lawsuits filed by BUND, although it followed the environmentalists’ argumentation to some extent.
No simple eviction
The police are also preparing for the fact that the eviction will not be a simple matter. Several hundred activists have made themselves as comfortable as possible on the trees over the past year. Bridges several meters high connect the tree houses, common rooms and kitchens hang in the branches. On the ground, the activists have erected barricades and tripods that are difficult to clear. Police expect the operation to last several weeks.
After the Ende Gelande blockade weekend in the Rhineland, some activists stayed in the region to join the protest in Dannenroder Wald. At noon on Friday, supporters set up sit-in blockades to block the logging machines. Parliamentary observers and members of the press reported on Twitter that the police did not allow them to enter the scene. Several journalists nevertheless managed to enter the forest.
The photographer Bjorn Kietzmann reported to taz that the police took him out of the forest with the threat of having his car towed away. Under pressure from the reporters, the police set up zones cordoned off with flutter tape for reporting – but at some distance from the tree houses.