Gerhard Klesen, a forester employed by the Ruhr Regional Association, spent a decade campaigning for an animal-only bridge to be built over a motorway in the town of Schermbeck in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Man-made barriers such as roads and canals restrict animals’ natural movement, he said. That limits genetic diversity, which in turn leads to an increase in disease and shortened lifespans. The ‘Green Bridges’ are designed to counteract this effect.
“The area of land east of the motorway at Schermbeck is much smaller than that on the western side,” Klesen told The Local. That’s led to a decrease in species diversity on the eastern side, prompting Klesen to launch his ten-year campaign, which culminated in the opening of the “green bridge” – Germany’s 35th – exactly a year ago.
But it was not always an easy sell. “Bridges cost a lot of money,” Klesen said. However the determined forester persisted in his campaign, which got a financial boost from the Netherlands in 2005, where such bridges are relatively commonplace. “They’re way ahead of us there,” Klesen told The Local.