Military Goes to War for Endangered Species to Protect Training: The Military Has Come to Realize That Helping Endangered Species Thrive Means Fewer Restrictions on Training Exercises

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The red-cockaded woodpecker has found an unusual ally in the U.S. Army. The endangered bird, which likes the pine woods of Fort Stewart, Georgia, for nesting and breeding, has become a beneficiary of the post's $3 million wildlife preservation effort.

At Eglin Air Force Base, environmentalists have helped the Okaloosa darter, a small endangered fish, make a comeback. And at Twenty-Nine Palms, California, the Marines have built a research and rearing center for the protection of desert tortoises.

It is not that military post commanders have become tree huggers. The military has come to realize that helping endangered species thrive means fewer restrictions on training exercises.

The Army alone owns some 30 million acres that are habitats for countless plants and animals but are also sites for military training. Under such federal laws as the Endangered Species Act, the military must take steps to protect certain plants and animals to avoid curbs on their training exercises.

At Fort Stuart, for example, tanks had been prohibited from going into areas where woodpeckers had nests, but since the protection program has helped to increase the number of woodpeckers, tanks are now allowed to drive among their colonies. …

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