STADTALLENDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Construction workers began felling part of a German forest on Thursday so that a highway can be built despite efforts by around 150 environmental activists to stop them.
Dozens of police officers were deployed to the Dannenroeder forest north of Frankfurt to protect the workers and to remove the activists, who have built tree houses and erected barricades in the area to try to prevent the felling.
"From today the construction company is able to start work in the forest and they intend to do so. We, the police, are here to allow that work to proceed," a police spokesman told Reuters.
Dannenroeder lies in a nature protection area and its trees are around 250 to 300 years old. Part of the forest falls under European biodiversity conservation regulations, the environmental activist groups said in a statement.
"The consequences of the climate crisis and the rapid extinction of species are too threatening for all of us to clear healthy forests to build more motorways," said Greenpeace campaigner Marion Tiemann.
The regional parliament for the state of Hesse, where the forest is located, was due later on Thursday to discuss a motion from the far-left Linke party to halt the construction project.
The felling at Dannenroeder comes two years after German riot police cleared environmental activists from tree houses in another area of ancient forest, dismantling a protest camp set up to block a coal mining project.
Speaking on Wednesday at a United Nations summit on biodiversity, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged countries to "turn the tide on a global scale" to protect the environment.
"We have to use land and sea more sustainably and manage them in a more ecologically sound way," Merkel said in a video statement https://new-york-un.diplo.de/un-en/news-corner/-/2399650.
(Reporting by Reuters TV and Emma Thomasson; editing by Gareth Jones)
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