A garden of eden near Weimar for the red-backed-shrike and the barred warbler

Dangers to and loss of biodiverse grasslands

The nature reserve on the southern slopes of the Ettersberg north of Weimar is like a piece of paradise. On 408 hectares, there are no roads or overhead power lines, so this expanse of land is entirely natural. More than 500 species of plants, 36 of them protected or endangered, numerous insect and 90 bird species - among them the endangered grey shrike, the red-backed shrike or the barred warbler, which is highly sensitive to disturbance - are all endemic here.

The extensive semi-arid grasslands of brome, koeleria and gentian came about as a result of sheep grazing in the past. Without constant grooming by these aminals, the land would become overgrown with bushes and trees. Sensitive plants such as the bee orchid or the European centauri would disappear. They in turn are a habitat for a wide variety of insects, which are a food resource for the birds here. An end to sheep grazing would therefore have consequences for the diversity of the entire area, and might cause such species like the barred warbler or the barbastelle to disappear altogether. The Ettersberg was a military zone until 1992 and had been left entirely to nature, and the shepherd and his flock. Following a successful munitions removal, the erstwhile owner (the State Development Corporation of Thurigia) now has to sell the nature reserve. The future of this piece of paradise now hangs in the balance. By buying it, the NABU Foundation ensures the continuation of sheep grazing and thus the preservation of this diverse habitat.


Germany is densely populated. Large contiguous areas of near-natural land are rare. This is particularly true for calcareous grasslands - a refuge for endangered plant and animal species that often do not stand a chance in other habitats. Land sealing and the transition into intensive agriculture are threatening the last remaining wide open cultivated landscapes. Here at the Ettersberg, biodiversity directly depends on the continuation of sheep grazing (Wiesner et al., 2008). For decades, this area was used by the military. Plants and animals were able to settle in with relatively little disturbance. Churned-up soil and wheel ruts have and still do create small temporary bodies of water that serve as valuable living space for insects and amphibians.

In the coming years, large numbers of day trippers from nearby Weimar are expected to make their way here. If the Ettersberg is to function as an area for recreation without disturbing the sensitive plants and animals, careful steps need to be taken (Wenzel et al., 2012).

The good deed

The NABU Foundation has been buying up important protected land in order to ensure its long-term preservation since 2003. Over the coming years, the Foundation will acquire 289 hectares of land that are up for sale, thereby avoiding that they get bought by owners who cannot or choose not to take care of these important grasslands. We will cooperate with the local shepherd and by continuing to use the land for grazing, sustain the Ettersberg's diversity into the future.


Buying and maintaining protected land requires legal, organizational and conservational knowledge. Our long years of experience help us to most efficiently go through the necessary steps such as negotiations, notarizing the sales process as well as integrating the newly acquired land into our professionally run land management focussing on conservation.

Countable output

After around 7 months


After around 3 years

Systemic effect

After around 7 years

Preserving biodiverse dry grasslands near Weimar for the benefit of endangered plant, insect and bird life.
Acquiring the biodiverse grasslands around the Ettersberg and organizing the necessary grazing and caretaking to preserve its biodiversity.
Buying 6.25 square meters for every donation.
Preservation of the biodiversity at the Ettersberg by grazing and taking care of the land, and managing the influx of visitors.
Long-term preservation of the Ettersberg as a nature paradise in the heart of Germany with 500 species of plants and more than 90 species of birds.


NABU-National Heritage Foundation
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Do you have further questions about the project? Please contact our 24GoodDeeds contact person Ruth Ihle Ruth.Ihle@nabu.de ask your question on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/24guteTaten
Initiative Transparente Zivilgesellschaft