DoD Biodiversity Conservation Handbook
Chapters:Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11IntroductionCase StudiesAcknowledgements
Chapter 10: Beyond the Fenceline

Plenty of Examples

What are 'risk communications'?
The Army's guide to public participation recommends that a specialist in "risk communications" be part of the basic strategy team. The guide defines risk as "environmental harm or adverse health effects that could result from human activities or exposure to the environmental conditions at a site." The guide goes on to say that "Risk communication is at the heart of effective public involvement," and it's a factor in almost every decision that involves air, land, or water. Dealings with the community cannot avoid frank discussions of risk; the public's trust of the military installation is at stake.

There are abundant examples of effective military-community cooperation. Kyle Rambo, whose work at Naval Air Station Patuxent River3 was described in chapter 9, has much experience with the subject; his installation has gone through three Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) processes (and came out a winner each time) in a community that is highly economically dependent on the Navy. "We're responsible for 80 percent of the county's [St. Mary's County, Maryland] economy," he says. "The Navy pumps $2 billion a year into the local community." Furthermore, Pax River has become the leading agency in its home county for environmental information and activity. Other conservation agencies "call us with questions of a technical nature," he says.

Still, when public hearings were held a few years ago on the base's future in the BRAC process, Rambo was understandably nervous, even though community leaders (many of them retired Pax River officers) had mounted an intense lobbying campaign to keep the base open. When county officials called for public comment at one of the meetings, a representative of the Sierra Club rose to his feet. Rambo listened apprehensively. "He said 'I'd just like to be on the record as saying if St. Mary's County, in terms of development and environment in this county, did outside the gate as well as Pax River does on this Navy base, we would be a lot better.'" (Rambo said his first thought was, "'Did anybody get that on film?' You can't buy that kind of support.")

Buffering has become an important buzzword in military-community relations. At most installations, civilian development and population growth make it highly unlikely that the base itself can be enlarged, even though modern weaponry and training techniques need expanded space. Thus was born the buffering idea.4 The Army led this movement in the nineteen-nineties by acquiring conservation easements on lands around Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that were suitable habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker.5 The Army eventually expanded and formalized this strategy into the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program (ACUB).

The Marine Corps followed soon after by acquiring easements on land adjacent to its Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, also in North Carolina. In 2003, the Department of Defense broadened the buffering idea to allow military departments (in the words of a DoD document) to:

enter into an agreement with a state or private entity to limit development or property use that is incompatible with the mission, to preserve habitat, or to relieve anticipated environmental restrictions that would restrict, impede, or interfere with military training, testing, or operations on the installation.6

Cooperative partnerships have grown in subsequent years to the point where they are everyday instruments in the military land manager's toolbox. The Fort Carson Regional Partnership is helping to protect what remains of Colorado's short-grass prairie and the flora and fauna that inhabit it. The Coastal Georgia Private Lands Initiative was established by Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield and their partners to protect some 120,000 acres surrounding the base. And a well-known and celebrated conservation partnership is the Northwest Florida Greenway, a consortium of military, government, and nonprofit organizations that seeks to protect a hundred-mile-long protected corridor of valued biodiversity that connects Eglin Air Force Base and the Apalachicola National Forest. The area has been identified as one of the six most biologically diverse regions in the United States. Again, The Nature Conservancy is an active promoter of the partnership.7

Proceed to Next Section: Partnerships





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Fred Powledge is a writer and editor.

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