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

Partnership Essentials

Military land managers who are seeking partnerships may not all enjoy the good fortune of having a Drexel University nearby. Jane Mallory feels that a successful partnership is one that brings with it additional resources – expertise, information, maybe even money – to a conservation plan. Partnerships may be established at many levels – between the installation and nongovernmental organization, or university, or other governmental agency. What's important is the collaboration that the partnerships foster. Such a collaboration produces "a network based on trust and teamwork," saysMallory, and it "facilitates sharing of information." Partnerships to avoid, she said, are those in which the potential partners "have an agenda already, or they have their minds made up [negatively] about the Department of Defense." Sometimes those mindsets can change, however: "It's exciting to people to find out that DoD does conservation and natural resources management."

It helps, say many natural resources managers, to set forth the rules of partnerships in writing. This is often done in a "cooperative agreement" or memorandum of understanding. A typical agreement would explain:

  • why the agreement is necessary
  • why the parties to the agreement have been selected (or have selected themselves)
  • the purpose of the agreement
  • the responsibilities of the agreeing parties
  • financial understandings: Is any partner committing to the expenditure of funds?
  • an understanding of how powers are delegated and administered, how the agreement may be modified and terminated.

An example of such an agreement, between the Department of Defense and The Nature Conservancy, may be found at Steve Helfert of the Fish and Wildlife Service (see chapter 9) is a huge fan of what he and others call "conservation partnering teams," which provide a framework for productive partnerships. A major benefit of such organizations is that its structure practically guarantees "very strong communication lines" among its members. "A typical partnering team," he said, "would be a group that would agree to meet face-to-face, other than by telephone or e-mail. Meeting face-to face could mean once a year, perhaps four times a year. An example would be the South Texas Natural Resource Partnership. They formally meet four times a year with a facilitator."

The South Texas group, which covers an area that contains three military installations, takes matters a step further by making sure that installation commanders are part of their process. "They say, 'We want to add an annual executive briefing to our three installation commanders, to brief them on results of the prior year: what have we been doing, what have we succeeded in, what do we continue to do, what issues there are, what solutions.'" The result, he said, is that the conservation planners remain linked "to that component of the military we call the 'operations training and range' part of the military command – the folks in uniform who basically are training our troops. It's very important to stay engaged and linked with that."

In addition to creating a more formal conservation planning process and keeping commanders involved and up to date, the teams sometimes are good sources of ideas about how to find more money for biodiversity conservation. How inclusive should the conservation partnership teams be? Helfert thinks that's one of the first questions the team must tackle. "I would advocate that if indeed there is a conservation partnering team or one in the making, then those local folks look at their local needs. They should ask, Do we need to bring in the county, the local school district, other local governmental entities, that may want to be part of a new 'partnership'? It may still be that you have just a core group of the military, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state natural resources agency. They may be the nucleus of that group to look at any and all particular issues and solutions. Or sometimes the solution is to bring in more local folks as stakeholders or part of the team."

Helfert said it would not be unusual for the partnering team to seek out local groups, saying "You've got something we want you to bring to the table." Such an invitation would be obvious if one of the problems facing an installation is encroachment. The partnership team needs members "who are willing to think outside the military fence line. They think, 'Aha, the answers to these issues, including encroachment, obviously are going to involve outside players; I need to put on my beyond-the-fence hat and think externally. I need to invite them in. I need to seek their wisdom, their input, if we're really going to tackle and solve this issue.'"

Who are the best potential partners (and those most likely to help financially)? Helfert is naturally biased toward his own organization, the U.S. Fish andWildlife Service – and for good reason. USFWS devotes a great deal of its energy to holding conferences and workshops and publishing information of value to military land managers, and its name comes up constantly when military land managers are asked to name their friends. But USFWS is not a source of extensive funding. Helfert's list also includes the other large national land management agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service. "They can bring in additional grant funds; they can bring in people on the ground. Say, they have a salamander that's endangered in the Atlantic coast area, and it's on Forest Service lands, military lands, state lands. They effectively can be a very positive partner."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can bring in funds under its Natural Resources Conservation Service (, which formerly was known as the Soil Conservation Service. "Those USDA funds can go into helping conserve fish and wildlife, endangered species, species at risk, migratory birds; the list is endless," says Helfert. Some of the large-scale regulatory programs of the Environmental Protection Agency can be helpful in planning and financing programs that concern water quality, watersheds, and air quality – all of which are as important on military installations as anyplace else. The Fisheries branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and co-guardian, with USFWS, of the Endangered Species Act, "is another group that we deal with, more so along the coastal areas, that can be a very good partner," said Helfert. The Bureau of Land Management is on his list, too. As for individual states: "I wish I could tell you all 50 states are equal in terms of funding and conservation. But some states are ahead of others in this respect." One way to judge state involvement is in the quality and detail of their wildlife action plans.11

Steve Helfert uses New Mexico as a good example of a state that has an effective partnership with the military in protecting the threatened gray vireo. Three military ranges – Kirtland Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and the Army National Guard's Camel Tracks training range – now have protected areas set aside for the migratory species. "We promote this as an example of where a state has jumped out and said, 'We have the desire to conserve this bird,'" said the USFWS official. "`We need to seek input from the public, from the federal agencies, from the military, from the state agencies, from private landowners, ranchers, The Nature Conservancy, everyone out there on the landscape where this bird occurs.'"

There are good examples of effective partnerships, said Helfert, throughout the United States, and many of them are the product of conservation partnership teams. "The important thing is we all like to think it's led principally by the military because we're focusing on military land. But it also could go off the lands; it could go around the fenceline. And the leadership may change among the partners, depending on which initiative, which solution. But it's always going back to the tenet that it will benefit the military."

Proceed to: Chapter 11 - Building a Strong INRMP

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