The United States spends lots of dollars on the environment at military
installations some $42 billion in the past ten years. Even considering
that this sum is spread over almost 30 million acres, that's a lot
of money. But the people who manage those acres are rarely heard to
complain that their projects are overburdened with funding.
On the contrary: military land managers are always scrambling for more funds
with which to conserve biodiversity. There's hardly ever enough in the budget to
conduct the inventories, swat the invasive species, protect the threatened and endangered
plants and animals, write, update, and implement the Integrated Natural
Resources Management Plans, administer the Environmental Management
System, keep up to date with (and execute) the growing number of rules, regulations,
and executive orders that govern environmental protection on military
bases and keep pace with the latest findings and discoveries in environmental
science, explain all they have learned to their base commanders, civil works engineers,
and trainers, and, while they're doing all this, support the main mission
of the military, which is to train people to win wars.
Monitoring to assess the impacts of military
training on the endangered Black capped
vireo and Golden-cheeked warbler at Fort
Hood, Texas, is accomplished through a cooperative
agreement with The Nature Conservancy.
(Photo: U.S. Army)
Interest in and understanding of the need to conserve biodiversity have grown
in recent years as scientists, the public, and policymakers have probed deeper into
the interconnectedness of nature and natural processes, as well as the growing public
awareness of climate change and its influence on life. This has come at the same
time that the military's main mission fighting a war has become even more all important.
Thomas Warren, chief of environmental programs at Fort Carson, Colorado,
has a reputation for being one of the most innovative of dollar-finders. But,
he recently commented, the coordinated suicide attacks on American targets on
11 September 2001 had changed all that: "Most innovative funding sources have
virtually dried up since the implementation of the global war on terrorism over
the last five years," he said. Many other installations' natural resources managers
would agree with his assessment.
To supplement their conservation budgets, managers have found it necessary
to come up with innovative ways of finding money, and some of them have become
quite expert at it. Kyle Rambo, the director of the conservation division at
Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, does a lot of his work in coordination
with the community surrounding his base (Rambo's operation is discussed
in greater detail in chapter 10, Beyond the Fenceline.) And much of the money for
his conservation operations comes from organizations outside the base.
"Remember back to our smoking days?" Rambo asked. "What's the cheapest
brand of cigarette out there? It's OP's ‘other people's.' The best kind of money?
Other people's money."
What DoD spends on the environment
According to its Fiscal Year 2006
report to Congress, the Department of
Defense in that year obligated approximately
$4.1 billion for environmental
activities at more than 425 military
installations. The breakdown for environmental
- $1.5 billion for compliance with
applicable federal, state, and local
- $1.4 billion for environmental
restoration at active and formerly
active military sites
- $568.2 million for activities required
by the Base Realignment and Closure
- $261.3 million for environmental
- $204.1 million for conservation
(natural and cultural resources
- $125.2 million for pollution
Sources: Defense Environmental Programs:
Annual Report to Congress: Fiscal Year 2006.
Compliance: Better DoD Guidance Needed
to Ensure That the Most Important Activities
Are Funded, GAO-03-639
, June 17, 2003.
With that rule in mind, and with the knowledge that biodiversity conservation
must proceed from a base of knowledge about what's out there to be conserved,
Rambo has produced detailed inventories of species on his base. "We've invested
a lot of money in inventory," he said. "So we know what we have." The database
shows where endangered species are, where archaeological sites are, where
water, sewer, and electricity lines run all of which helps Pax River plan future
expansion. But the inventory also serves as a magnet for scientific researchers,
who will pay with in-kind expert research for having access to military installations
to conduct their information gathering. And the researchers' findings go
back into the database, so the inventory keeps growing.
"We don't ever pay a dime for research. There's plenty of people with research
questions out there; we provide the laboratory, the space, and the opportunity.
We provide human-wildlife interactions that are interesting to study and have
other people pay to come in and do our work for us.
"We can offer access to the base, in a controlled environment and in an area
with security they can leave equipment out there. Cornell [University] is putting
out automated listening devices, tracking big bird migrants and tracking migrations.
We've got the land there; we've got controlled access. The researchers can
then link what they find to on-the-ground bird researchers and say ‘We know
these species arrived on this day because we caught them in our nets this day.'
They can add this information to the data from the listening devices, and it compounds
the benefits of their research."
Pax River's own outlay for such services is small and consists mostly of staff
time. "And the other people are bringing in money," says Rambo.
Proceed to Next Section: Other People's Energy, Too