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

Encroachment: MCB Camp Lejeune

MCB Camp Lejeune Addresses Encroachment Through the North Carolina Onslow Bight Conservation Forum

Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is the Marine Corps' largest amphibious training base and is home to 47,000 Marines and sailors; the largest single concentration of Marines in the world. Its tenants include the II Marine Expeditionary Force, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Naval Hospital, Camp Lejeune. Camp Lejeune encompasses approximately 143,000 acres, including the onshore, near shore, and surf areas in and adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and the New River.

The Setting

Eastern North Carolina provides a diverse array of ecologically important habitat types and ecosystems. The Onslow Bight region, in which Camp Lejeune is situated, stretches from Cape Lookout to Cape Fear. It consists of a rich mosaic of saltwater marshes, wetlands, longleaf pine savannas, and other coastal ecosystems, and it supports several rare and endangered plant and animal species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker.


The Onslow Bight region is developing rapidly and is beginning to lose its rural character and ecological integrity. New commercial and residential development near Camp Lejeune's boundaries can restrict the type of activities that can be safely conducted on the camp's training ranges. Noise complaints from nearby residents can also restrict military training and serve as a serious and contentious subject of confiict between the Marine Corps and local communities.

The Solution

The Marine Corps and The Nature Conservancy jointly established the Onslow Bight Conservation Forum in 2002 to address encroachment issues and protect the natural heritage of coastal North Carolina. Subsequently, many other partners joined the forum, representing land managers and conservation advocates who are working to identify areas that should remain in a natural state. In addition to MCB Camp Lejeune and The Nature Conservancy, the forum now includes Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, other non-governmental organizations, several North Carolina State agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

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In March 2003, MCB Camp Lejeune and mcas Cherry Point entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy and other federal and state government agencies and non-governmental organizations to establish the Onslow Bight Conservation Forum. In January 2006 the mou was updated to include new member organizations.

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In 2003, some 2,500 acres adjacent to the Camp Lejeune tank and rifle ranges became available for purchase. The area excited the interest of a developer who hoped to construct 3,000 housing units. The land was purchased by The Nature Conservancy (with partial funding provided by the Marine Corps) and was transferred to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for inclusion into the state game lands system. The Marine Corps, in exchange for its funding contribution, received a restrictive use easement that prohibits any land use or development of the parcel that is incompatible with Marine Corps training requirements.

In 2005, Onslow Bight Conservation Forum partners assisted MCB Camp Lejeune and mcas Cherry Point to acquire conservation interests on several other parcels in the vicinity of both installations. Known as the Camp Lejeune-Holly Shelter Corridor, the acquisitions will create an additional buffer to military activities that will allow for land management vital to the maintenance of ecological functions in the coastal plain.

In 2006 the Onslow Bight Conservation Forum made possible a project undertaken by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT) and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to acquire 1,378 acres in the vicinity of mcas Cherry Point's Piney Island bombing range. The area will become public game lands.

There is also a potential that, with habitat enhancement, some parcels of land in the vicinity of MCB Camp Lejeune could be developed as habitat for the federally listed red-cockaded woodpecker.

As of 2007, over $60 million in state trust funds and over $15 million in federal dollars, including funds from DoD's Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), have been awarded to projects sponsored by the Onslow Bight Conservation Forum.


MCB Camp Lejeune's outreach efforts, resulting in the establishment of the Onslow Bight Conservation Forum, have succeeded in reducing the impact of encroachment on the Marine Corps' mission in North Carolina. This has been accomplished while simultaneously enhancing environmental quality and biodiversity conservation on surrounding lands through the establishment of public parks and the restoration of wetlands. The process has also helped the U.S. Marine Corps establish very positive relationships with a wide range of governmental and nongovernmental organizations and individuals.

© Copyright 2008. NatureServe.

About This Case Study's Author
By Mary Hassell
Natural Resources Manager
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
Code I&L/LFL-1, 2 Navy Annex
Washington, DC 20380-1775
Phone: 703-695-8240

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