At their best, efforts at public participation, conservation easements, and memoranda
of understanding are examples of effective partnerships between the military
and that part of the public that worries about conserving biodiversity. In
such cases, "the public" can mean a small but concerned group of citizens who
live near an installation, or it can be a nationally known nonprofit organization
that's interested in environmental protection or it can be pretty much anything
in between. There are many examples of partnerships currently in operation that
both protect the environment and further the military mission.
Partnerships may have become almost commonplace in the military's treatment
of biodiversity conservation today, but the services have not always emBRACed the
idea of working with outside organizations focusing on environment or they
have agreed with the idea in theory but done less in practice. In a report on endangered
species management to congressional requesters in 2003, the General
Accountability Office found:
DoD and other federal land managers have taken some steps to implement interagency cooperative
efforts to manage endangered species on a regional basis, but the extent to which they
are using this approach for military training ranges is limited. Federal land managers recognize
that cooperative management of endangered species has several benefits, such as sharing landuse
restrictions and resources and providing better protection for species in some cases. The
Departments of the Interior and Agriculture have issued policies, and DoD has issued directives
to promote cooperative management of natural resources. They have also outlined specific actions
to be taken such as identifying geographic regions for species management and forming
working groups. However, follow-through on these actions has been limited, without many
of the prescribed actions being implemented. A few cooperative management efforts have been
taken but were generally in response to a crisis such as a species' population declining.
. . . A strategy that includes a systematic methodology to identify opportunities for cooperative
management efforts, funding sources, science and technology sources, and goals and criteria
to measure success would facilitate federal land managers sharing the burden of land-use
restrictions and limited resources, and potentially help avoid exacerbating constraints on training
at affected military installations.8
GAO said there were several reasons for this lack of cooperation: Federal agencies
were not all that good at sharing information; there were lots of policies but
not enough follow-through; land managers sometimes had different thoughts
about priorities for endangered species.
Today there's a vastly changed attitude. Military commanders eagerly seek out
the expertise of skilled partners, both within and outside of government. The
agency that's probably at the top of everyone's list is the U.S. Fish andWildlife Service
(USFWS), a bureau in the Department of the Interior. USFWS is one of the two
federal agencies responsible for managing the Endangered Species List, and so it
is in constant demand for consultation by military land managers. Jane Mallory,
the natural resource specialist at DoD's Legacy Resource Management Program,
lists the Fish andWildlife Service as a sterling example of a successful partnership.
Asked to define such a collaboration, she said:
There are several common themes that always come up with successful partnerships. One of
them is to provide additional resources. It also enhances available expertise. It builds a network
based on trust and teamwork. It facilitates sharing of information and nurture of natural
So with these goals in mind, of the successful partnerships we've had, the first one on my
list is U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But we also have successful partnerships with other agencies
Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service.
Among nongovernmental agencies, Mallory puts The Nature Conservancy at
the top of a lengthy list that includes NatureServe.
Many partnerships stand out at the more local level:
The Onslow Bright Conservation Initiative, a collaborative forum that seeks to
protect environmentally sensitive terrain and wetlands around Marine Corps Base
Camp Lejeune (http://www.cooperativeconservationamerica.org/viewproject.asp?pid=727);
The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership, which seeks to preserve one million
acres in Alabama and Florida (http://www.cooperativeconservationamerica.org/viewproject.asp?pid=544); and,
The Sonoran Desert Ecosystem Initiative, which protects the desert ecosystem
in a 55-million-acre area in Arizona, California, and the Mexican states of Sonora
and Baja California Norte (https://www.denix.osd.mil).
The Sonoran initiative, writes DoD, is "landscape in scale and collaborative in
nature," and focuses on three connected components:
- Monitoring the ecosystem and coordinating management,
- Biodiversity management that is tailored to specific sites "and yet provides
model lessons to apply to other sites . . . across the region", and
- Management of invasive plants, which are a major threat to the desert
There are many other excellent examples of productive partnerships (see https://www.denix.osd.mil). These include collaborations between military land managers and Indian tribes. (For a document concerning environmental decision making with Indian tribes, see http://www.epa.gov/Compliance/resources/publications/ej/ips_consultation_guide.pdf).
Educational institutions are important DoD partners in the effort to conserve biodiversity,
as was detailed in the chapter 9 discussion of Cooperative Ecosystem
Studies Units (CESU).
An example of the value of universities in partnerships may be seen at the Warren
Grove Gunnery Range, a 9,416-acre Air National Guard facility situated in
the New Jersey Pinelands. The Pinelands, which include the ecologically famous
New Jersey Pine Barrens, form an ecosystem that historically has been characterized
by periodic fires. When the gunnery range started compiling its Integrated
Natural Resources Management Plan, it needed answers to the basic question:
Were the range's activities (which cause a great deal of disturbance to the environment)
compatible with the best biodiversity conservation methods?
Fortunately for the range, Drexel University was an eager research partner. It
was a match made in heaven: Warren Grove needed conclusive scientific studies,
and Drexel's Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology had dozens of students
eager to do them. Drexel also had Walter F. Bien, the director of Pinelands research
at the university and a native of the region.
"I guess we've done close to a dozen ecological studies since around 2000 or
2001," Bien said in an interview. "The military would tell you that they get a big
bang for their buck . . ." A big part of that bang is the sheer number of Drexel students
involved. "We probably have had easily close to two hundred different people
and organizations in those years, so we bring a big network with us," said
Bien. And the payoff is large for the students as well. "Our students will get a
thesis out of some of the work they do. They contribute to the reports we give to
the government in support of the inrmp. But along with that, they'll take their
research a step further and do maybe a bit more comprehensive work than what
was required for the military, and they present at scientific meetings, they publish
whereas a regular contractor might not be doing these kinds of things."
Nor, he said, would an ordinary contractor be expected to put in the hours the
students devote to their work. "For example, this young man working with me
on snakes he probably puts a lot of extra hundreds of hours in a month on his
projects simply because he's trying to get a thesis out of it and he loves what he
does. . . . And I learn a lot from my students, and they make me look good. The
trick is having good personnel around you."
One of Bien's own specialties is the Knieskerrn's beaked-rush (Rhynchospora
knieskernii), a federally listed threatened plant that was practically wiped out by
development, but that grows happily near and within target zones at the gunnery
range. Bien and his students discovered that the plant (its name means
"beaked seed") actually thrives in areas that are periodically disturbed. Bien has
written that "military operations, such as mechanical disturbance, ordnance delivery,
and prescribed burning, appear to be providing the necessary disturbance
regime required for maintaining established sites and colonizing newly disturbed
As a result of the Drexel group's findings on the beaked-rush and other plant
and animal species, the Air National Guard and Fish andWildlife Service are committed
to long-term monitoring of biodiversity, and they plan continued research
into the effects of prescribed burning on seeds and their germination.
Bien is understandably happy about Drexel's partnership with the Air National
Guard. "We're very fortunate that we have evolved this relationship," he says.
"We almost feel like we're family at this point. Because we practically live out
there. They have been very receptive to what we have done. They work with us;
we just have a very good working relationship. I guess that could work in most
places, as long as the military would be receptive to that type of a partnership."
The productive partnership extends, he says, to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Because of the Drexel group's relationship with the federal agency, "we have gone
on to do studies that are probably not even required by the military like greenhouse
experiments, germination experiments, survival experiments. . . . Again, this
will help not only the military but maybe down the road will help to find out
about life cycles and maybe aid in delisting a species. These are the kind of things
that I'm not sure other people would be doing. That would be a very good example
of the value of having a university involved."10
Proceed to Next Section: Partnership Essentials