Hambach Forest

People call the Hambacher forest the last virgin forest in Europe. However it is currently being cleared by Europes biggest climate killer: The Rhineland lignite mining area, producing energy for RWE. Furthermore, entire villages have been destroyed and thereby the health of many people.

Hambacher ForstThe Hambach Forest is a, originally 5,500 hectares large, forest named after the town of Hambach. Since 1972 Hambach belongs to the municipality Niederzier in the district of Düren in North Rhine-Westphalia. The forest is split between the districts Düren and Rhine-Erft. In charge of the forest service is the Forestry Office Eschweiler. Most of the original forest had to give way to the Hambach opencast lignite mine.

The unique Hambacher forest was and is one of the most natural forests of central Europe which has existed continuously for more than 12000 years. It is the biggest forest between Cologne and the Netherlands. Today only 1.100 hectares remain. The rest has been cut by RWE to extend the mine. If we do not stop RWE, even the last bits of this forest will be destroyed. However, we are not solely concerned about the forest. We must also discuss climate, health, resettlement and the question: Who has the power to decide?

The lignite mining area, which includes the Hambacher forest, is the biggest single emitter of CO2 in all of Europe. It produces more fine particles than all cars put together. This leads to health issues concerning a whole area, considering the fine particles are radioactive as well.
Not only the forest is destroyed by the mine; but also whole villages. The forced resettlements bring to light the existing power structures, which are necessary to continue running the mine.

The Hambacher forest has been occupied since the 14th of april 2012. In november it has been evicted brutally by 600 cops; the operation lasting 4days. SInce then a meadow near the forest has been occupied and several new occupations have been already cleared. At the moment there are 3 new forest occupations. The squatters are not only concerned about the forest, but also about how we want to keep house in the future if we do not want to destroy our planet. Surely we do not want to rely on burning fossil fuels. We also want to do away with an economical system which is based on the necessity of growth and where production is not based on the needs of people.

Further information
The Hambacher Forest, also called Bürgewald or Bürge is a forest named after the nearby village of Hambach, used to be 5.500 hectares big. Since 1972 the forest belongs to the comunity of Niederzier in the district of Düren in North Rhine-Westphalia. The forest is divided into the districts Düren and Rhine-Erft. In charge of the forest service is the Forestry Office Eschweiler. Most of the original forest had to give way to the Hambach opencast lignite mine.
The Bürge river splits the Jülich-Zülpicher Börde¹ (map) into the Jülicher Börde in the north and the Zülpicher Börde in the south; it actually belongs to the main entity Jülicher Börde.

[1] translator’s note: Börde refers to a fertile plain with loess base originating in the last ice age. (source)

History
Since the 16th century Bush regulations are documented that govern the sustainable management of forests and put some drastic penalties for timber theft and sacrilege. In the surrounding communities the cooperative users gathered an fixed dates, and held court about issues regarding the forest.
Since 1978 the forest was largely cleared for the further spread of brown coal mining. Northwest of the former forest is the artificially poured Sophienhill.

Flora and fauna
In the remaining remnants of the forest grow hornbeam and oak trees and the forest is home to a colony of the endangered Bechstein’s bat.

source: wikipedia (german)