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

Tips From Experts

Any defense installation's natural resources manager who has been through the INRMP writing process probably deserves to be called an expert in the field. The process is akin to compiling the data for, and then writing, a comprehensive nonfiction book. As Kyle Rambo points out, land managers frequently meet with each other, and stay in touch by e-mail and the Internet, and so a great deal of expertise is available.

Mary Hassell, the Marine Corps's natural and cultural resources manager, believes a key need for the INRMP writer is to have a clear vision of the plan's goals, for most everything else flows from those. "What needs to be concentrated on," she says, "are the goals and objectives, and how well we're doing in implementing the projects that we are listing [in our INRMP]. So, for example, our goal would be compatible with integrated land management, and an objective would be that in order to support that goal would be minimizing soil erosion. And then the project would be a soil erosion control project. So what you're doing is, every year you're sitting down with your colleagues at the Fish and Wildlife Service and your colleagues with the state fish and game or wildlife agency, and you're going over the goals and objectives and projects and your work plan, and you ask 'How well are we doing here? Are the goals and objectives still valid? Do we need to drop some, add some? Is it supporting the recovery of any endangered species that we have? Is it supporting biodiversity; is it minimizing invasive species?'"

To aid in this process, the Navy has developed a Web-based tool, called the "Natural Resources Metrics Builder," that its installations are now required to use. The Metrics Builder is actually a database that lists all the Navy and Marine Corps INRMPs, with categories for seven focus areas. "We look at our partnership effectiveness; we look at opportunities for public recreation – hunting and fishing – and we go into all these focus areas and we actually require our installations that have INRMPs to fill this out in collaboration with our partners, and give a score, from zero to 100, how well they're doing," says Mary Hassell.3

Tim Beaty, at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, says an INRMP effort must always keep the military mission at the top of its list. In addition to managing thousands of acres of forest to accommodate endangered, threatened, and rare species, and drawing up schedules for prescribed burning, as well as cooperating with nearby landowners and cleaning up toxic spills from the past, Beaty is aware of the need to involve the base's military trainers in his plans for conservation.

In Fort Stewart's case, as at Fort Benning (see chapter 1), the red-cockaded woodpecker was instrumental in joining the concepts of conservation and mission.

"For close to twenty years," recalls Beaty, "there was friction between the woodpecker and the mission." Finally, the base started getting "jeopardy opinions." 4 Similar warnings were received by Fort Benning and Fort Bragg, also "over the damage that was occurring as a result of training."

When land managers at Fort Stewart began more forcefully applying existing timber harvesting rules that left woodpecker habitat untouched, they got flak from another direction. "The Army said, 'Hey, this isn't going to work. This is impacting training'," said Beaty.

The solution would have thrilled the heart of any dedicated INRMP-writer. "We began to realize that one of the reasons we were having so much friction between the mission needs and the woodpecker's needs was that we were fighting over the same ground," says Beaty. "What we thought was good woodpecker habitat, places that had woodpeckers in it, was the same place the Army thought was good training land – it was high and dry and open up so they could see and maneuver to it.

Wildlife Biologist Jim Ozier, (left), Georgia Department of Natural Resources, assisting natural resources managers at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, with the development of the base Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan. (Photo: Douglas Ripley)

"We began to realize that there were a lot of parts of Fort Stewart that didn't look like that. This was about the same time the conservation community was starting to appreciate anew the importance of fire – natural fire – and particularly to recognize that the way we had prescribed fire in the past had been a little too timid – that what this ecosystem really needs is fire in the growing seasons, whereas our prescribed fires tended to be winter fires. As we started doing more proactive use of fire, particularly growing-season fire, we were really liking the results for the woodpeckers, and the Army was really liking the results for training.

"I think what's made our programs here successful, and supportive of the mission as well as the endangered species, is that the habitat needs are the same. As we focus on trying to make the habitat better, it's had positive effects on both the woodpecker and the Army.

One lesson Tim Beaty learned from all this is that to compose a solid INRMP, you must "Go back to the mission. Involve your trainers early on. If you don't already have a good understanding of the mission and what the trainers' needs and priorities are, get one. And then involve those folks; seek their input and constructive criticism.

"You always have to remember when you're working with the trainers, especially now, is that we are a nation at war, and these are awful busy folks. It's really hard for them to find time and drop what they're doing and read a 600-page, or 100-page, even, management plan. You want to always coordinate with those folks and get their input in a way that makes it easiest for them. You have to ask them what that way is. To send them a 100-page document to review and get their comments back in 10 days is not the best way to do it."

If a natural resources manager is working on a large installation, such as Fort Stewart, said Beaty, "you've got to realize that you can't eat that cow all at one time. You've got to eat it a bite at the time. What we did was come up with some overall objectives and goals and then pencil in the INRMP along with a plan to do more specific prescriptions, as we call them, training area by training area. There's 120 training areas that make up Fort Stewart – subdivisions of the whole post that can be used to schedule training activities and that kind of thing – to make sure that Company A is not shooting bazookas while Company B is learning how to raise an antenna. Develop a prescription for each one of those areas that identifies the current condition and what are the desired future conditions. Was there an old agricultural field that we want to restore longleaf pine in? Where's a stand that's too dense that we need to thin? Where's a wetland that we want to restore? Those kinds of things.

"Our INRMP is a five-year plan, so we can say, Okay, for the next five years we're going to do prescriptions on each of these 120 training areas. So we're trying to do about 25 training areas each year – about two prescriptions a month is what we're turning out."

Once the trainers have been consulted, the databases studied, and the prescriptions prescribed, the INRMP must be sold to the base commander. Tim Beaty advocates taking as many expert helpers along for such presentations as possible. "When you do go in to talk to the commander about the plan or anything else, if you talk about the mission and about how your plan supports the mission, and all the good things you're doing for the mission and what the mission means, be sure to take somebody along from your directorate of plans, mobilization and security, or whatever you call your training organization, and let him tell the commander that. If you're going to have to tell the commander about how this is the law and you need to be in compliance and you're going to go to jail if he doesn't do this, take your lawyer along. Let your staff judge advocate tell him that.

"You sell the other staff elements on the idea, and let the guy that the general's paying to be his expert on a particular subject tell him how your plan is going to help him do well in that area."

Proceed to Next Section: Adaptive Management

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Fred Powledge is a writer and editor.

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