Army Veteran David Sheehan distinctly remembers training on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and being stopped short by tree markings.
“We had these areas on Fort Bragg that were off-limits to training, in which certain trees were marked with white lines,” says Sheehan. “We couldn’t have any motorized vehicles within a certain distance of these areas, and basically couldn’t disturb the area at all. I knew that the trees were marked because they were habitat for an endangered bird, and I always just assumed someone at the federal level – be it Army or EPA – had marked those trees.”
“It never occurred to me that a non-profit was working with the military.”
The Nature Conservancy has been partnering with the Department of Defense for more than 30 years to:
But there’s another reason for the partnership, says Brigadier General, US Army (retired) Bob Barnes, Senior Policy Advisor for The Nature Conservancy.
“As far as the military’s mission goes, the environment is a stage prop for practicing the art of war, and soldiers need a swamp to be a swamp, a desert to be a desert," says Barnes. "The military has to take good care of the land it’s got, because it’s not getting any more.”
Balancing the protection of natural resources with the military’s primary missions of testing and training is a challenging task. One of those challenges arose during the 1990’s at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Sheehan once trained around endangered woodpecker habitat. Home to a huge expanse of longleaf pine – a habitat that used to extend from Virginia to Texas – it is important habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, a federally-protected species.
In an innovative approach to meeting its legal obligations while continuing its vital training mission, the Army worked with The Nature Conservancy and others to develop a program, termed the Private Lands Initiative. This program aimed to reduce restrictions on training by finding and restoring habitat off the base, creating a functioning population of woodpeckers not in the middle of a training area. This proved so successful that in 2002, Congress enacted legislation based on the Fort Bragg experience to authorize such partnerships at bases and ranges throughout the United States.
This program, now termed the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), has resulted in partnerships similar to the one at Fort Bragg at 60 military bases in 24 states. The Nature Conservancy is active in many of those partnerships. Since the beginning of the REPI program, the military and its partners have together:
These unlikely partners work together to ensure land isn’t lost – either as testing or training areas or wildlife habitat. Regardless of the reason, the end goal is the same. Here are some of the places where The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the Department of Defense.
Please note: List is not all-inclusive, and some locations are no longer active partnerships. Click each location if applicable for more partnership information.
June 24, 2013