Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is the
Marine Corps' largest amphibious training base and is home to
47,000 Marines and sailors; the largest single concentration of
Marines in the world. Its tenants include the II Marine Expeditionary
Force, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, U.S. Coast
Guard, and the U.S. Naval Hospital, Camp Lejeune. Camp Lejeune encompasses
approximately 143,000 acres, including the onshore, near shore, and surf areas
in and adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and the New River.
Eastern North Carolina provides a diverse array of ecologically important habitat
types and ecosystems. The Onslow Bight region, in which Camp Lejeune is
situated, stretches from Cape Lookout to Cape Fear. It consists of a rich mosaic
of saltwater marshes, wetlands, longleaf pine savannas, and other coastal ecosystems,
and it supports several rare and endangered plant and animal species, including
the red-cockaded woodpecker.
The Onslow Bight region is developing rapidly and is beginning to lose its rural
character and ecological integrity. New commercial and residential development
near Camp Lejeune's boundaries can restrict the type of activities that can be
safely conducted on the camp's training ranges. Noise complaints from nearby
residents can also restrict military training and serve as a serious and contentious
subject of confiict between the Marine Corps and local communities.
The Marine Corps and The Nature Conservancy jointly established the Onslow
Bight Conservation Forum in 2002 to address encroachment issues and protect
the natural heritage of coastal North Carolina. Subsequently, many other partners
joined the forum, representing land managers and conservation advocates
who are working to identify areas that should remain in a natural state. In addition
to MCB Camp Lejeune and The Nature Conservancy, the forum now includes
Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, the North Carolina Coastal Land
Trust, other non-governmental organizations, several North Carolina State agencies,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.
In March 2003, MCB Camp Lejeune and mcas Cherry Point entered into a memorandum
of understanding (MOU) with the North Carolina chapter of The Nature
Conservancy and other federal and state government agencies and non-governmental
organizations to establish the Onslow Bight Conservation Forum. In
January 2006 the mou was updated to include new member organizations.
In 2003, some 2,500 acres adjacent to the Camp Lejeune tank and rifle ranges
became available for purchase. The area excited the interest of a developer who
hoped to construct 3,000 housing units. The land was purchased by The Nature
Conservancy (with partial funding provided by the Marine Corps) and was transferred
to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for inclusion into
the state game lands system. The Marine Corps, in exchange for its funding contribution,
received a restrictive use easement that prohibits any land use or development
of the parcel that is incompatible with Marine Corps training requirements.
In 2005, Onslow Bight Conservation Forum partners assisted MCB Camp Lejeune
and mcas Cherry Point to acquire conservation interests on several other
parcels in the vicinity of both installations. Known as the Camp Lejeune-Holly
Shelter Corridor, the acquisitions will create an additional buffer to military activities
that will allow for land management vital to the maintenance of ecological
functions in the coastal plain.
In 2006 the Onslow Bight Conservation Forum made possible a project undertaken
by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT) and the North Carolina
Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to acquire 1,378 acres in the vicinity
of mcas Cherry Point's Piney Island bombing range. The area will become
public game lands.
There is also a potential that, with habitat enhancement, some parcels of land
in the vicinity of MCB Camp Lejeune could be developed as habitat for the federally
listed red-cockaded woodpecker.
As of 2007, over $60 million in state trust funds and over $15 million in federal
dollars, including funds from DoD's Readiness and Environmental Protection
Initiative (REPI), have been awarded to projects sponsored by the Onslow Bight
MCB Camp Lejeune's outreach efforts, resulting in the establishment of the Onslow
Bight Conservation Forum, have succeeded in reducing the impact of encroachment
on the Marine Corps' mission in North Carolina. This has been accomplished
while simultaneously enhancing environmental quality and biodiversity
conservation on surrounding lands through the establishment of public parks and
the restoration of wetlands. The process has also helped the U.S. Marine Corps establish
very positive relationships with a wide range of governmental and nongovernmental
organizations and individuals.