Congratulations to Hubert Weiger, Chair of the board of BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany, who has jointly received the 2017 German national Environmental Prize (Deutscher Umweltpreis) with the coordinator of the ‘Green Belt’ project, Kai Frobel and Inge Sielmann, chairman of the Heinz-Sielmann Foundation.

The German Federal Foundation for the Environment, which awarded the prize, acknowledged their role as trailblazers for the first and biggest nature protection project in a united Germany. The ‘Green Belt’ is a symbol of the end of the cold war – a nature zone spanning the 1,400 kilometers of the former border between West and East Germany.

The General Secretary of the German Federal Foundation for the Environment, Werner Wahmhoff, praised the three men as “pioneers of the first and largest comprehensive German nature conservation project.

Through Sielmann, Frobel and Weiger, the vision of a European initiative for the Green Belt was launched in Germany and a symbol for overcoming the Cold War,” Wahmhoff continued. “It was only through their commitment that the old 1,400-kilometre-long border has been preserved for the plant and animal world, which has found a refuge within the former ‘death strip’.

We are very pleased that the award has gone to Inge Sielmann, Hubert Weiger and Kai Frobel,” said Olaf Bandt, Federal Director for Policy and Communication at BUND, “three untiring contributors to an intact environment and nature.”

BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany has created one of the largest and most important conservation projects since the fall of the Wall. This recognition is an acknowledgment of achievement and an incentive for many conservationists to preserve and secure habitats in the long-term.”

Kai Frobel is the initiator of the Green Belt, and the man who gave it its name. Long before it began, he laid the foundations through preparatory work and his contact with colleagues in the former GDR. In the 1970s and 1980s, Frobel’s scientific work demonstrated the high natural potential and the outstanding importance of the border strip for the first time. With a large conference with participants from East and West, Frobel laid the groundwork for the resolution on the protection of the Green Belt. In 1998, he founded the Grüner Band project office in BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany, and continues to coordinate it.

The chairman of BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany, Hubert Weiger, has advanced the project beyond the borders of Germany and developed the vision of a Green Belt Europe. As a member of numerous committees, he has acquired particular expertise in the preservation of the former border strip.

Since 1993, the German Environment Foundation has awarded the German Environment Prize annually. It recognises achievements that are exemplary for the protection and preservation of the environment or will contribute to clear environmental success in the future. The German Environment Prize 2017 will be awarded in Braunschweig on 29 October by the Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

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