Why We Care about Endangered Species: The DoD Natural Resources Program

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The Department of Defense (DoD) mission is to defend our nation, train our troops, and test equipment needed for national defense, peacekeeping, and emergency response. It requires air, land, and sea space for training and testing activities. Such activities may not immediately conjure thoughts of environmental stewardship. However, L. Peter Boice, Deputy Director of Natural Resources for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, offers 20 years of experience and a different perspective on this subject. During a short interview near his office in Arlington, Virginia, Peter spoke with me about DoD's commitment to natural resources conservation, and he discussed some of the natural resource policies and partnerships that have driven DoD's successes during his career. Our conversation provides a glimpse into the extensive conservation efforts underway within the United States military, and reveals that the link between our military services and environmental stewardship is clear.

KS: What is DoD's natural resources mission?

LPB: DoD's core mission is to enable our military service men and women, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to train as they would fight. DoD pursues its natural resource goals to provide realistic training lands while at the same time meeting legal requirements to provide habitat for a wide variety of threatened, endangered, and at-risk species.

KS: Why does DoD care about endangered species?

LPB: DoD protects endangered species to comply with the Endangered Species Act and to avoid the need for critical habitat designations, which could restrict training. To achieve this wildlife protection goal, the military services must also comply with the requirements of another law, the Sikes Act. Congress passed this law in 1960, requiring DoD to assess natural resources on installations, complete Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs), and coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and state fish and wildlife agencies to manage natural resources with no net loss to the military mission. However, legislative compliance is not the sole reason for protecting endangered species on military lands. DoD manages over 29 million acres of land and more listed, threatened, endangered, and at-risk species per acre than any other federal agency. As development increases in areas surrounding military installations, some installations have become islands of biodiversity that provide habitat for certain species. In fact, more than 40 species occur only on DoD lands. DoD recognizes that part of defending our nation involves defending these natural resources for future generations.

KS: Which DoD programs are involved with threatened, endangered, and at-risk species conservation efforts?

LPB: There are four main programs involved with conservation efforts within DoD. …