BUND Bitterfeld, BUND / Friends of the Earth Germany

Goitzsche wilderness – giving nature a chance

Dr Heidrun Heidecke, born in 1954, is the former Environmental Minister of Sachsen-Anhalt, a teacher by profession, and a nature’s keeper at heart. She joined BUND / Friends of the Earth Germany as a volunteer at its inception in the east of Germany in 1990, and became head of BUND’s nature conservation policy unit. After her retirement she continued her work as a volunteer in the Goitzsche wilderness in Bitterfeld, helping to restore it to its former glory.

A strong advocate of nature’s right to run its own course, Heidrun’s work allowed the Goitzsche wilderness to become not only a place where this became possible, but also a place where children and adults can experience the changes and creativity of wilderness, as the rewilding of the region heals its ecological wounds.

The Bitterfield area has come a long way. Originally a lovely water meadow landscape around the river Mulde, a century’s worth of brown coal mining wreaked ecological havoc on the region. After the reunification of Germany, open-pit mining ended and the area around Bitterfeld was left a devastated ruin. Thanks to the Heidrun’s ongoing involvement, BUND now preserves 1,300 hectares for nature to develop freely with minimal human interference. Goitzsche has become an ideal refuge for many plants and animals, and crystal clear lakes that support rich animal life have emerged in the pits. The former tailings sands have been transformed, and now dry grasslands and sparse birch forests thrive. Ospreys nests in the area, and cranes, beavers and otters can also be found.

Nature has started to heal the wounds in the landscape and people, and now locals as well as visitors from all over Europe can experience it first-hand. Wilderness camps for children, workshops for photographers, bicycle tours and cooking classes for carefully picked wild fruits are organised by BUND volunteers to show the benefits nature can provide when returned to its own rhythm.

“Since the late 1990s, I have accompanied and promoted this project – sometimes facing strong resistance, until people began to understand the great opportunity it offered the region. I have taken the Goitzsche wilderness into my heart. It is more important than ever to give nature a space of its own for dynamic development and to give people a chance to experience the value of wildness.”Dr HEIDRUN HEIDECKE

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