DoD Biodiversity Conservation Handbook
Chapters:Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11IntroductionCase StudiesAcknowledgements
Chapter 11: Building a Strong INRMP

At the basis of virtually every aspect of biodiversity conservation on military lands is The Plan – officially known as the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, or INRMP. It is, to the natural resources manager, the equivalent of the mariner's or flyer's chart, the foot-soldier's topographical map. The INRMP declares the installation's environmental intentions and offers a checklist of how to execute them.

Every natural resources manager interviewed for this guide spoke of the need to work from a realistic INRMP, and the willingness to correct the course if it becomes necessary.

Such a plan is necessary because of the sheer number and importance of conservation issues facing land managers today. These include, but certainly are not limited to, the evolving science of biodiversity conservation; endangered species; invasive and non-native species; funding sources; the need for reliable partnerships; the sustainable multipurpose use of resources; disturbance both natural and human- caused; the plethora of laws and regulations; encroachment by the outside world; public attitudes, and much more. A well-written INRMP takes all these components into consideration and fits them into a master plan that, in a perfect world, both protects the environment and furthers the military mission. The INRMP is more than just an organizing device: Without it, it's quite likely that everyone involved would be free to run off in separate and quite likely conflicting directions.

And there's another excellent reason for having an integrated natural resources plan: It's the law (or rather the laws, as J. Douglas Ripley points out in chapter 3). The Sikes Act of 1960, which is the premier of these laws, provides that the "Secretary of Defense shall carry out a program to provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations." The purpose of the act, named for a Florida congressman, is "the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations; the sustainable multipurpose use of the resources, which shall include hunting, fishing, trapping, and non-consumptive uses; and, subject to safety requirements and military security, public access . . ." In 1997 the Sikes Act was amended to require that the military services write Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and appropriate state agencies (usually fish and game departments). A key provision of the act was the establishment of chronologies by which components of the plans must be completed, and each plan had to be revisited and revised, if necessary, no less than every five years.1

Military Mission, Conservation, and Tension

As important as it is for the conservation of biodiversity, the INRMP has another essential element. It must support the military mission. Interestingly enough, "the military mission" is rarely, if ever, defined in INRMP discussions, although for most people it is one of those concepts that one knows when one sees it.

At first glance, there would appear to be an inevitable tension between natural resources and the military mission; oftentimes it is the job of the military to bomb, burn, run tracked and wheeled vehicles over and otherwise destroy the trees, shrubs, wetlands, soils, and nesting areas that fall under the general category of "natural resources." Are nature lovers and military commanders natural enemies?

It can happen, says Mary Hassell, natural and cultural resources manager at the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

"I do believe, however, that we can serve both," she says. "I think the key word is 'compatible use,' and ensuring that natural resources conservation managers and military activities are integrated. It takes a lot of collaboration and cooperation with different groups that we have. It's part of our stewardship requirement as a federal agency.

"I'm a forester by training. My grandfather was a farmer. The idea of taking care of the land is nothing new. It's been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. And that's our goal: to be sustainable. And [to employ] multiple use. And integrate all that with the military mission. If you weren't practicing land management for sustainability you would soon destroy your land. So the concept isn't new. It's a good-management, best-management tool for keeping our activities ongoing."

What is the military mission?

The mission of the U.S. Army is defined in Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 3062(a):

It is the intent of Congress to provide an Army that is capable, in conjunction with the other armed forces, of

  1. Preserving the peace and security, and providing for the defense, of the United States, the Territories, Commonwealths, and possessions, and any areas occupied by the United States;
  2. Supporting the national policies;
  3. Implementing the national objectives; and,
  4. Overcoming any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.

Tim Beaty heads the fish and wildlife branch of the natural resources division at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, the home of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Beaty agrees that there can be a stereotypical gulf between environmental thinking and military mission. "Some folks don't see conservation as their number one priority," he says. "When you're a military commander in charge of ten thousand or fifteen thousand soldiers who are fixing to go in harm's way and put their lives on the line to defend the freedom we all enjoy, your number one priority is probably not worrying about salamanders. That's very understandable."

But, Beaty adds, that coin has two sides. "There may be a conservationist who you have to convince that not every tank commander is an evil guy. Once you can move past those preconceptions and prejudices and get folks to slow down and look at the facts and talk to one another, very often – I'd say in almost every case – you can find common ground. And begin to work from there and develop trust and develop working relationships. If we can do that one commander at the time, I think we're beginning to create a culture of understanding within DoD on both sides that the conservation mission has to be sensitive to the training mission. That's what comes first. That's what we have to do: meet both missions and not compromise training realism and effectiveness in pursuit of some unreasonable conservation goals.

"It's frustrating when you face these challenges, but it's very rewarding when you get there. I love it when the plan comes together."

But what tricks and techniques does Tim Beaty employ when he's putting together an INRMP that he hopes will contribute to that culture of understanding?

"It's going to sound like a cliché, but it's all about communication and team building. If you don't know your trainers or your testing community folks, if you don't understand their culture, and where they're coming from, then you've got to work on that. You've got to get to know those guys; take them to lunch; take them to the woods; show them what you know, and be open to learning what they know. Recognize that the reason the land is here is because the DoD needs to meet the military mission. And gradually you'll get an opportunity to help them understand that they do have a stewardship – that the Army does have a stewardship responsibility that has to be met. And that you can meet that responsibility by sticking your head in the sand and keeping people out and ignoring and arguing that that responsibility doesn't exist, or you can meet it by recognizing that that responsibility does exist and you can find a way to meet that responsibility in a way that doesn't compromise and in fact supports the training mission. One of the buzz phrases we have around here is that a disagreement doesn't equal disrespect."

Kyle Rambo, the natural resources manager at the Navy's Patuxent River Air Station, also appreciates the importance of honoring the wisdom of those who carry out the military mission. "You've got to learn how to see things from the military guy's perspective," he says. Rambo recalls a story about a land manager from another base who complained about the difficulties of convincing flyers that they shouldn't drop bombs on woodpecker habitat. "Then somebody got the bright idea to take the woodpecker colonies and make them part of the training center. Make them 'missile sites'." Score aviators on how well they avoided the 'missile' installations. It became, he said, "a real training scenario."

Said Rambo: "The thing is to put on the guy's training hat and try to think like him. And all of a sudden these guys are getting scored on how well they avoid woodpecker colonies. At Fort Bragg, they do the same thing; they call them 'land mines' and 'mine fields.' And they get scored down on an exercise if they find themselves stumbling around in a 'mine field.'

The Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps hosted numerous public meetings to obtain comment and input for the inrmp for the two million acre Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona. (Photo: Douglas Ripley)

"Learn the mission. Learn who you're working with and what they do. Learn to speak their language, and hone your people skills, because you're going to be working with people who maybe see the world differently than you do." Learning the mission was an important first step for Rambo when he started working at Pax River. "We were out there in the middle of an airfield putting up wood duck boxes. It never occurred to me that getting big ducks to fly along the runways was a problem. This was back in 1981. We were doing things that were counter to the military mission. We were not being supportive at all. It took me a while to figure it all out."

(Rambo says more recent innovations have made it less likely that natural resources managers will make what in the future will be regarded as silly mistakes. "Nowadays, we have annual meetings of military biologists. We can share things with each other; use e-mail, the Internet. We can all share and contribute case studies and say, 'Here's how we did it.' We didn't have that back then. We were all going our own way and trying to figure out how to do it.")

Proceed to Next Section: The Mission and the INRMP

© Copyright 2008. NatureServe.

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Fred Powledge is a writer and editor.

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