Maintaining Readiness, Sustaining Biodiversity
Spring wildflowers, Edwards Air Force base, California. In years of abundant rainfall, Edwards AFB is ablaze with Mojave Desert wildflowers. (Photo: Douglas Ripley)
The primary mission of the U.S. Department of Defense is to fight and win wars.
To that end, military lands are important national assets for training military
forces and testing and deploying new weapon systems. Training provides troops
with the combat skills they require to be successful and to ensure their safety, and
realistic training increases their success and survivability in combat. Similarly, realistic
testing enhances the reliability and effectiveness of weapons systems to be
used in combat. Realistic training and testing requires the availability of natural
environments that reflect the conditions under which troops may expect to face
combat operations. As a result, maintaining healthy and functioning ecosystems
on the nation's military lands is not a luxury, but rather an essential component
of maintaining military readiness.
Biodiversity is the overarching concept used to refer to the variety of species
and ecosystems that make up the natural world, and maintenance of realistic training
conditions depends on conservation of these biological and ecological resources.
Many defense installations are found in some of the nation's most biologically
rich regions, and accordingly, military lands harbor a particularly rich
array of wildlife, including a significant number of the nation's federally listed endangered
species. As a result, the Department of Defense's land management responsibilities
include stewardship for hundreds of our nation's rarest species and
most characteristic habitats. And while these stewardship obligations can create
conflicts with operational needs, a growing body of experience such as the successful
recovery of red-cockaded woodpeckers at Fort Bragg indicates that when
these issues are approached creatively and with a solution-oriented spirit, biodiversity
conservation and maintaining military readiness can go hand-in-hand.
Proceed to Chapter 2: Understanding Conservation Science