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

In an era of increasingly demanding and ever-changing requirements for our nation's military forces, the conservation of biological diversity on the lands used to train those forces, and to test the weapons they will need in battle, may strike some as a curious, and even unnecessary, priority. But long experience by the Department of Defense (DoD) with the management of the natural resources on its nearly 30 million acres of land has shown that the environmental health of these lands is absolutely essential for realistic and sustainable military testing and training.

Biological diversity refers to the variety of life and the ecological processes that sustain it. It plays an essential role in the sustainability of the many diverse and complex ecosystems upon which the military relies. Thanks to over two decades of comprehensive inventorying of the plants and animals on military lands, we know now that many of those lands possess a remarkably high level of biological diversity. In many cases, military lands are more biologically diverse and provide more habitats to more threatened, endangered, or sensitive species than public lands specifically managed for their biological values. Maintaining that level of biological diversity, which contributes to the ability of the land to withstand both natural and man-made disturbances, is critical to our national military preparedness.

The DoD has long recognized and complied with the requirements of a wide array of national environmental laws to protect its land, water and air resources and the organisms they support. Indeed, the department has become a leader in compliance with major natural resources laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and many others. Thanks to conducting extensive biological inventories of its lands, the dod knows that its lands support the highest density of federally threatened, endangered, and sensitive species of any federal land management agency. Likewise, other analyses of DoD lands, typically performed by respected independent environmental groups such as The Nature Conservancy and NatureServe, have revealed that many of those lands represent some of the best-preserved natural landscapes in the country.

The outstanding condition of most DoD lands can be attributed to a number of factors, some more obvious than others. Among the most important is the comprehensive management approach the DoD has employed known as Integrated Natural Resources Management. This approach considers and coordinates all significant natural resources issues in a comprehensive planning document. Those issues range from considerations of the effects of military operations on soils, vegetation, wetlands, and species at risk, to strategies for the management of forestry, agricultural, and hunting and fishing programs. Key to the implementation of the dod's integrated natural resources program is the dedicated cadre of civilian and military natural resources managers whose job it is to ensure the accomplishment of the military mission in a way that sustains and enhances the natural resources on their installations. But their job can only be accomplished effectively by working in close cooperation with military operators whose support and understanding are critical to success.

It is primarily for the dod natural resources manager and the military operators who use the land for testing and training that this guide has been prepared. But, as was shown to be the case with the earlier edition of this guide, we hope that the information it contains may prove useful to land managers in other government agencies, environmental organizations, and interested private individuals.

Building on the success of the 1996 DoD Biodiversity Handbook, this updated version, which is also available in an electronic, interactive format, is intended to provide an overview of major DoD natural resources issues with a specific emphasis on biodiversity conservation. As well, much of the original handbook will still be of use to natural resources managers as a supplement to the updated revision. The major subject areas of the revised guide include:

  • Biodiversity and the military mission
  • Conservation science
  • Legal and policy context
  • Encroachment issues
  • Balancing biodiversity among multiple uses
  • Endangered species
  • Invasive species
  • Landscape disturbance
  • Funding for natural resources programs
  • Partnerships and issues beyond boundaries
  • Building a strong Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP)
I hope that all military and civilian dod natural resources managers and operations personnel will refer to this revised dod biodiversity conservation guide often. Its new interactive format allows frequent updating and the opportunity for readers to contribute to its improvement by providing comments, feedback, and other suggestions. It is my sincere wish that this new tool for DoD natural resources managers and operators will play an important role in helping the DoD maintain the long-term sustainability of the many complex ecosystems on which the military and our nation rely.

—Alex A. Beehler
Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense
Environment, Safety and Occupational Health

© Copyright 2008. NatureServe.

Additional Information

NatureServe DoD