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

Partnership Examples

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 resources.

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 (;

The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership, which seeks to preserve one million acres in Alabama and Florida (; 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 (

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 ecosystems.

There are many other excellent examples of productive partnerships (see These include collaborations between military land managers and Indian tribes. (For a document concerning environmental decision making with Indian tribes, see

Educational Institutions

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 sites."9

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

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