Message from the Director
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and enjoyed well-deserved time with friends and family. As we move on into Spring, I would love to take this opportunity to share some of the many accomplishments that REPI partnerships have achieved over the past couple of months. As always, Winter 2018 was a busy and exciting time for the REPI team and our broader community.
On December 19th, the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership proudly announced the designation of the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. This marks the seventh designation since the Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, and Department of the Interior established the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership in 2013. The Georgia Sentinel Landscape brings together more than 20 partners at the Federal, state, and local level in an effort to preserve working farms and forests; protect vital habitat for sensitive species; and promote land uses compatible with defense facilities. The Georgia Sentinel Landscape is home to nine key military installations and ranges including: Fort Benning, Fort Stewart, Townsend Bombing Range, Robins Air Force Base, and Naval and Submarine Base Kings Bay. I invite you to learn more about the Georgia Sentinel Landscape and its ongoing projects in the Spotlight
section of this newsletter.
Following this exciting designation, the REPI team and I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Defense Communities (ADC) Installation Innovation Forum in San Diego, CA. During the Forum, we participated in two roundtable discussions: REPI Projects Supporting our Nations Veterans and Navigating Encroachment. In the former, we outlined how REPI partnerships can leverage their project’s resources to provide job training programs to local veterans. While in the latter, we discussed how REPI funds can be used to match any conservation program of the USDA and DOI.
My office also recently released the schedule for the 2018 REPI Webinar Series. REPI webinars are excellent opportunities for our installations and partners to engage with each other and learn more about how projects are being administered from the ground up. The REPI Webinar Series schedule, and its respective topics, can be found in this newsletter and online at the REPI website. Lastly, the REPI team is delighted to announce that the 2018 REPI Report to Congress has been signed and approved for distribution. This marks one more exciting milestone in an already busy year.
Looking forward, the REPI Program is pleased to announce that the Office of the Secretary of Defense will host the 2018 Sustaining Military Readiness (SMR) Conference from August 13 to 16, 2018 in St. Louis, MO at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. All members of the REPI community are encouraged to attend this event, which will provide a forum to share lessons learned and best practices for enhancing military readiness. Starting this week, the REPI team has begun accepting applications for exhibitors at the SMR Conference. If you, or your organization, are interested in participating please contact Amy Caramanica at: Caramanica_amy@bah.com.
To learn more about the SMR Conference, and receive updates on the conference’s guest speakers, events, and schedule please visit: http://www.smrconference.org. Additional information on the agenda and logistics for the 2018 Sustaining Military Readiness Conference will be available in the coming months.
Finally, I would like to thank our partners for your tireless effort in supporting and maintaining the REPI mission. As always, please reach out to my office with your comments and questions.
Spotlight: The Georgia Sentinel Landscape Works Across Conventional Boundaries to Support Military Readiness, Protect Threatened Species and Preserve Clean Water
On December 19, 2017, the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership announced its seventh designation as the Georgia Sentinel Landscape (GASL). The designation will provide the defense, agriculture, and conservation communities of southern Georgia with a framework to streamline investments and enhance outcomes in areas where their priorities intersect. The goal of the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is to protect natural and working lands that surround military installations and ranges and thereby strengthen local agricultural economies, advance conservation efforts, and promote development compatible with the military mission.
Georgia’s long legacy of support for the military, coupled with its wealth of natural resources and working lands, makes it an excellent environment for a Sentinel Landscape. Home to nine of the nation’s key installations and ranges, the GASL hosts critical testing, training, and operational missions for all of the Military Services. In addition to supporting numerous defense facilities, the GASL also has a high concentration of viable habitats for sensitive species, critical watersheds, and prime timber and agricultural working lands.
Given the fluidity of natural resources and sensitive species, the interests of southern Georgia’s defense, agricultural, and conservation communities frequently overlap. The GASL will build upon existing cooperative efforts between the three communities, and provide a framework for future collaboration.
Two ongoing projects that align with the GASL mission, and fall within its borders, are the Gopher Tortoise Initiative (GTI) and the Savannah Clean Water Fund. For years, partners of the GTI and the Savannah Clean Water Fund have worked across conventional boundaries to protect sensitive species and increase the availability of clean water. Now, their leaders plan to use the GASL designation to attract a wider breadth of resources, capture national attention, and accelerate their project’s outcomes.
The GTI was founded in 2015, as an effort to permanently protect and manage enough gopher tortoise habitat to ensure long-term species viability and thereby preclude listing it as an Endangered Species. Through the GTI, Federal agencies, state and local governments, and NGOs work together with private landowners to protect large populations and viable habitats of gopher tortoises. To date, their efforts have protected over 23,000 acres of land and raised approximately $61 million.
The GTI aligns with the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership’s mission as it not only protects an iconic species, but also strengthens military readiness. Military installations that host species listed under the Endangered Species Act face management requirements that can restrict vital testing, training, and operational activities. The GTI provides the military a substantial degree of regulatory predictability, while simultaneously granting conservation benefits to the gopher tortoise.
The GTI has also garnered support from Georgia’s nuclear industry. In a recent publication by National Public Radio (NPR), Georgia Power, the largest electric company in the state, stresses its commitment to protecting the gopher tortoise and its habitat. As a major landowner, Georgia Power voluntarily joined the GTI to promote responsible conservation practices, and to prevent strict federal regulations that could hamper economic productivity.
Partners of the GTI have already turned their promises into results. In 2016, the State of Georgia leveraged the GTI to create the Alapaha River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Previously known as the “Lentile Tract”, this property extends almost 7,000 acres and is home to upwards of 2,000 gopher tortoises. Due to the land’s excellent condition and large population of tortoises, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Department of Defense, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and several private foundations pooled their funds to permanently protect the property. Now, thanks to this innovative partnership, the Alapaha River WMA will focus its resources on the restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem, which provides viable habitat to the gopher tortoise.
Acquisitions such as Lentile Tract are necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the tortoise. Gopher tortoise’s habitats have vastly decreased in the past several years due to rapid development and urban sprawl. Matt Elliot, the Assistant Chief of Nongame Conservation at the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, strongly believes that the GASL will help the GTI in its efforts to protect the gopher tortoise; “the gopher tortoise is an iconic but threatened species in Georgia. The recently designated Sentinel Landscape provides us a high-priority context, both in terms of a physical landscape, and network of partners, within which to work towards ensuring the tortoise’s permanent protection, and preventing the necessity to list it under the federal Endangered Species Act”.
Similar to the GTI, the Savannah Clean Water Fund is a successful public-private partnership that operates in part within the GASL. The Savannah Clean Water Fund aims to protect water quality along the Savannah River and improve land management practices in portions of the 2.8 million-acre watershed. The Savannah Clean Water Fund was established in 2014 by a group of private landowners, state agencies, federal agencies, and NGOs.
The impetus behind the Savannah Clean Water Fund is to ensure that the Savannah River can continue to provide clean drinking water to municipalities throughout Georgia and South Carolina. The Fund benefits water quality through permanent land protection, land management practices, and science and research. The Savannah Clean Water Fund is rooted in the scientific assertion that land use directly impacts water quality. Therefore, the Fund strives to keep 60% of the Savannah River watershed in some form of natural land.
Given the exceptional number of defense facilities in southern Georgia, the need for an abundance of clean water is critical to the Department of Defense. Braye Boardman, the Executive Director of the Savannah Clean Water Fund, stresses the importance of clean water with respect to the region’s quality of life and economic prosperity; “military installations require clean water to provide adequate training to their servicemembers, ensure healthy lives for military families, and continue to serve as sustainable economic engines”. In light of the increasing demand for clean water, the river’s ability to support future growth of Georgia’s defense facilities and communities will be dependent on improving the quality of land surrounding the river.
To date, the Savannah Clean Water Fund has identified approximately 136,000 acres of prioritized land within the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. While the Fund recognizes that natural resources do not abide by the Landscape’s boundaries, the designation will afford the Savannah Clean Water Fund national recognition and align Federal partners with shared interests to its projects. The GASL will help accelerate what is already a successful partnership. In 2017, the Fund’s board approved its first conservation easement on 1,900 acres of farmland south of Augusta. The conservation easement will protect land that will serve as a riparian buffer along the river and help filter out contaminants.
Moving forward, the Savannah Clean Water Fund will continue to pursue its mission of promoting a reliable supply of clean, abundant, and affordable water. Implementing this mission will not only support water quality, but will also preserve rural lifestyles, military readiness, and wildlife habitat.
The gains made by current projects signal towards a promising future for the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. When asked about the potential of the GASL, Tim Beaty, the Chief of the Fish and Wildlife Branch at Fort Stewart, says; “the Gopher Tortoise Initiative and the Savannah Clean Water Fund demonstrate that the Georgia Sentinel Landscape will build upon existing synergy between the defense, agricultural, and conversation communities. While both projects have their own distinct purpose, collectively they serve as an instrument to achieve the Partnership’s larger mission of working with private landowners to promote compatible land-use surrounding military installations, while simultaneously strengthening local economies and advancing conservation initiatives”.
To learn more about the Georgia Sentinel Landscape, and its incredible partners please visit: https://sentinellandscapes.org/
Longleaf pine forests provide important habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species.
Installations and ranges within the Georgia Sentinel Landscape support a wide array of missions for each of the Military Services.
Marines and Woodpeckers Share the High Ground: At Camp Lejeune an Endangered Species Thrives Amidst Simulated Battles
By Daniel Chapman, Public Affairs Specialist
Jacksonville, North Carolina — Above the distant din of 50-caliber machine gun fire and Cobra attack helicopters, John Hammond hears the unmistakable sound of a red-cockaded woodpecker. He is approaching Combat Town, where U.S. Marines routinely assault a mock Iraqi village at Camp Lejeune.
It is an incongruous spot for an endangered bird to make its home – the middle of a war zone where artillery boom and tanks prowl. Nothing, though, seems out of the ordinary to Hammond, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“They do co-exist, absolutely,” said Hammond, who previously worked as the base’s endangered species coordinator. “The woodpeckers get along well with Combat Town. As long as they can find their groceries and a place to stay they’re fine.”
Under a new, unique and far-reaching state-federal partnership, the woodpeckers’ health and well-being is inextricably tied to the U.S. Marine Corps mission at Lejeune. An agreement between the military, the Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the state of North Carolina allows Lejeune to expand training through prime woodpecker territory. In return, the so-called Recovery and Sustainment Program, or RASP, should boost the woodpecker population across eastern North Carolina.
The timing is propitious: the Service is currently deciding whether to de-or down-list the woodpecker or keep it as an endangered species. A decision is expected later this year.
The official RASP roll-out is planned for April at a nearby state wildlife management area whose woodpecker population should grow considerably due to the Lejeune agreement. And, from March 25-30, natural resource officials from military bases around the country will gather in Norfolk, Virginia to share conservation success stories. RASP, and the wily woodpecker, should figure in those discussions.
“The base isn’t going to grow any more land, but we still need areas that tanks can run through, that we can shoot live fire and that we can blow things up,” said Chip Olmstead who manages the firing ranges and training areas at Lejeune. “People might think that live fire and woodpecker habitat are mutually exclusive. But this program shows we can work together without jeopardizing either one.”
Waiting for the ruckus to subside
Camp Lejeune sprawls over 156,000 acres along the New River and the Atlantic Ocean, an ideal spot for sailors and Marines – and red-cockaded woodpeckers. The birds thrive on the base’s extensive longleaf pine forests which once covered 90 million acres in a swath stretching from Virginia to Texas.
Timber, turpentine, agriculture and urban development decimated the longleaf forests. Today, commercial plantations of fast-growing loblolly or slash pine predominate. Maybe 4.5 million acres of longleaf remain.
The Service lists 31 threatened or endangered species that depend upon the fire-resilient trees, including the eastern indigo snake and Cooley’s meadowrue, a perennial herb. The red-cockaded woodpecker joined the endangered list in 1970, one of the first federally protected species.
The smallish black and white bird (with barely visible red marks on the male’s head) requires living pines for roosting and nesting. They seek resin-y trees where the sticky goo deters snakes and other animals from crawling into their cavities. They prefer older pine trees, like longleaf which can live up to three hundred years. Federal lands, military bases in particular, are about the only place to find old-growth longleaf.
Blue-banded trees, signifying woodpecker cavities, surround Combat Town. The birds flit from tree to tree when the low-slung, dun-colored collection of modified shipping containers isn’t under attack. When Marines on patrol approach the town, the birds hunker down or fly away and wait for the ruckus – tanks, trucks and blanks, not bullets – to subside.
“Woodpeckers are not, necessarily, averse to people or noise,” said Craig Ten Brink, a civilian wildlife biologist at Camp Lejeune. “If we start losing RCW habitat around Combat Town, some of those clusters might blink out. But if we continue to maintain good habitat, I imagine most birds will stick around.”
The woodpecker’s listing, at first, proved a formidable foe for the Marines. Training across the pine forests and pocosin swamps of Lejeune – and other southern bases – could have been threatened. Lejeune, by virtue of its location and mission, became ground zero for the bird’s recovery.
Most of eastern North Carolina had been cleared of longleaf for agriculture, development or loblolly plantations. Live-fire exercises burned thousands of acres over the years leaving a fecund understory of wiregrass and bluestem prized by RCWs.
In 1986, only 32 woodpecker clusters remained on Lejeune. (A cluster is a bunch of trees with RCW cavities; each cluster contains maybe three or four birds.) A circle 200-feet wide was painted white around each cavity tree to warn troops away from the birds’ homes.
Fish and Wildlife and the military developed a plan to save the woodpecker and allow artillery, small-arms and armored-vehicle training at Lejeune. Each RCW population milestone would be rewarded with fewer buffered trees and more room to train. The ultimate recovery goal: 173 clusters.
In 2011, Lejeune tallied 100 clusters. Ten Brink says 128 clusters currently call the base home.
Growing the species
The dirt road just a few miles below Camp Lejeune runs arrow-straight through the past, present and future of conservation forestry.
On one side stands row upon row of near-identical 20-foot high loblolly pines awaiting, one day, the woodcutter’s blade. On the other, a mish-mash of various-sized longleaf pines interspersed with wiregrass, fetterbush, bigleaf gallberry and other plants that mimic a historically natural eastern forest.
The Bear Garden tract is part of the 47,700-acre Holly Shelter Game Land owned by North Carolina along the Northeast Cape Fear River. Fish and Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy and others expect to turn much of the wildlife management area into a longleaf pine forest that woodpeckers – and song birds, migratory birds, quail, turkey and deer – love. RASP money will make it happen.
“Usually, restoration projects are rarely over a few thousand acres and this project will be maybe 10 times that amount,” said Casey Phillips, the coastal RASP forester for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “This is a large-scale partnership with dedicated funding which is somewhat novel.”
Today, about 45 clusters of woodpeckers dot the game lands. RASP aims to add 60 more to Holly Shelter and nearby Stones Creek Game Lands by, eventually, translocating the birds from other wildlife areas, like the Croatan National Forest. First, though, Holly Shelter must be transformed into RCW-friendly habitat.
The U.S. Navy has secured perpetual conservation easements on 15,000 Holly Shelter acres. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will manage the conservation fund and ensure that the tract is properly cared for to boost RCW clusters.
The Navy aims to set aside roughly $19 million for an endowment to manage the property for years to come. The wildlife commission, with new equipment and staff funded by the military, will regularly burn the land, plant wiregrass and other woodpecker-friendly habitat and monitor RCW populations.
“We’ve got the knowledge and tools to restore habitat, so RASP gives us a lot of confidence that we can grow up the species here again,” said Hammond, the Service biologist. “It will just take a lot of time because we need older, larger pine trees for the woodpeckers.”
An added benefit: RCW habitat will boost the already popular hunting grounds.
“We’re located near Wilmington and Jacksonville, and Raleigh is just a stone’s throw down the road,” said the commission’s Phillips. “There’ll be a tremendous response from wildlife – deer, quail, turkeys – as the young forest transitions to older forest.”
Camp Lejeune benefits too. The 60 clusters at Holly Shelter and Stones Creek allows the Marines to reduce their original on-base woodpecker goal of 173 clusters to 113 clusters – an amount the installation has already surpassed.
“Marines and red-cockaded woodpeckers both like the high ground, so we’re both fighting for the same turf,” said Olmstead who manages the base’s training lands. “The Marines need to get from the ship to the shore and move inland, to fire and maneuver, to Combat Town. It’s a capability we’re lacking now. RASP gives us a lot of flexibility to develop this capability.”
Lejeune can now expand into RCW territory to enlarge training areas. But it won’t curtail woodpecker recovery efforts on base, despite the addition of the game lands. RASP is the military’s insurance policy in case woodpecker trees or clusters are harmed.
“What’s cool about the program is that it allows certainty for training on base that probably wouldn’t have happened,” said Ten Brink, the base’s endangered speciesspecialist. “While it lowers the recovery goal on base, it expands the landscape that we devote to recovery of RCWs.”
To view the original article please visit: https://www.fws.gov/southeast/articles/marines-and-woodpeckers-share-the-high-ground/
REPI Partners Share Best Practices and Lessons Learned at the Association of Defense Communities Installation Innovation Forum
On February 12-14, the REPI Program had the opportunity to travel to San Diego, CA, to attend the Association of Defense Communities (ADC) Installation Innovation Forum. The purpose of the Installation Innovation Forum was to understand how current and future mission capabilities impact operational readiness, and to protect the availability and condition of land, facilities, and associated airspace. The Forum united over 600 leaders from military installations, communities and industry to share lessons learned and best practices with respect to military readiness. During the Forum, the REPI team participated in two roundtable discussions: REPI Projects Supporting our Nation’s Veterans and Navigating Encroachment.
On the first day, REPI hosted the session REPI Projects Supporting our Nation’s Veterans, which discussed how partnerships generated through the REPI Program can provide opportunities to train, celebrate, and thank veterans for their invaluable service. During the session, we highlighted two case-studies at Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington and Fort Hood in Texas that leveraged their resources to provide agricultural and conservation training programs to local veterans. Our dynamic, and informative panel was made up of representatives from the Center for Natural Lands Management, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, Compatible Lands Foundation, and Joint Base Lewis-McCord.
The following day, REPI participated on a panel that discussed how to unite stakeholders who possess conflicting goals, priorities, and ideas around encroachment. The panel explored lessons learned from several communities that successfully worked with their installations to mitigate encroachment challenges. REPI discussed one of the biggest challenges facing our partners-the ability to identify and secure a funding match for REPI dollars. In response to this challenge, the REPI authority was amended to allow the use of REPI funds as a match for DOI and USDA conservation programs. The amendment turned a persistent challenge into a tool that has expanded the breadth of potential REPI partners.
Overall, the ADC Installation Innovation Forum was a success. The REPI Program values our relationships with organization like the ADC and National Conference of State Legislatures, who are dedicated to examining issues affecting military-community relations and we look forward to collaborating with them more in the future!
REPI Report to Congress is Successfully Signed and Delivered
The REPI Program is pleased to announce that the 2018 REPI Report to Congress is now available on the REPI Program website. The Report summarizes and reviews the achievements of the Program through Fiscal Year 2017. In its 15-year lifespan, the REPI Program has protected 516,413 acres in 93 locations across 31 states!
In conjunction with the release of this year’s Report, the REPI Program has updated the REPI fact sheets on its website through Fiscal Year 2017. State and REPI project profiles, as well as general REPI Program fact sheets, are available under Resources.
SAVE-THE-DATE: 2018 Sustaining Military Readiness Conference
The REPI Program is pleased to announce that the Office of the Secretary of Defense will host the 2018 Sustaining Military Readiness (SMR) Conference from August 13 to 16, 2018 in St. Louis, MO at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. All members of the REPI community are encouraged to attend this event, which will provide a forum to share lessons learned and best practices for enhancing military readiness.
Starting this week, the REPI team has begun accepting applications for exhibitors at the SMR Conference. If you, or your organization, are interested in participating please contact Amy Caramanica at, Caramanica_amy@bah.com.
The REPI team is also accepting submissions for the SMR Film Festival! The SMR Film Festival will take place throughout the Conference and will showcase films that align with its mission of restoring military readiness through partnerships and planning. If you are interested in submitting a film, or have any inquiries about the process, please contact Megan Dougherty at, Dougherty_megan@bah.com.
To learn more about the SMR, and receive updates on the conference’s guest speakers, events, and schedule please visit: http://www.smrconference.org/. Additional information on the agenda and logistics for the 2018 Sustaining Military Readiness Conference will be available in the coming months.
Join us for this online series on best practices, tutorials, and knowledge sharing on REPI partnerships that support the military mission and accelerate the pace and rate of land conservation. The 2018 Webinar schedule is now available on the REPI Website.
Annual REPI Help Session for FY19
Description: Join the REPI Program for our annual special session to learn about changes to the REPI process for FY 2019. Furthermore, we will highlight successful buffer proposal write-ups and answer your questions about REPI policy guidelines and changes involving the online proposal system.
When: Please join us at 1:00PM ET on April 11, 2018.
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.
Sentinel Landscapes and States: Case Studies on State Involvement in the Sentinel Landscapes Partner
Description: Sentinel Landscapes cross conventional boundaries at the Federal, state, and local levels. Hear about the various ways through which state agencies and officials are helping to further the goals of Sentinel Landscapes around the country.
When: Please join us at 1:00PM ET on May 9, 2018
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.
If you missed the two most recent REPI webinars, “Leveraging Federal Funding: REPI Funds as Match” and "Can You Hear Me Now?", please visit the REPI website to view the webinar recordings or contact us for more information. Below are brief descriptions of some key points and lessons learned from the recent webinars.
Leveraging Federal Funding: REPI Funds as Match
•The REPI Program provided an overview on how to leverage REPI funds with other Federal funding resources using the REPI funds as match authority. This webinar discussed how the REPI statute allows REPI funds to be used as match to satisfy the cost-sharing requirement for any conservation program administered by the Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior.
•Ms. Lindsay Tempinson (Atlantic Test Range Team, NAVAIR Range Sustainability Office), discussed an innovative partnership between the US Navy and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service within the Middle Chesapeake Sentinel Landscape, where partners are seeking to match REPI dollars with several DOI funding sources including North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants, Land and Water Conservation Funds, and Migratory Bird Conservation Funds.
•Buck MacLaughlin (Director of Operations, Avon Park Air Force Range), examined how Avon Park Air Force Range can leverage the REPI Program and the NRCS’ RCPP Program to help protect working farms, longleaf pine forests, and threatened and endangered species. Specifically, Mr. MacLaughlin discussed how to merge the NRCS conservation easement template with DoD requirements in pursuit of purchasing land surrounding Avon Park.
Can You Hear Me Now? Addressing Noise Impacts in Your REPI Partnership
•During this Webinar, REPI partners discussed how to use the REPI program to address noise impact on communities and wildlife. Noise from military activities continues to be the number one reason why installations and partners seek REPI funding.
•Chris Jarboe (Head, Atlantic Test Range Team, NAVAIR Range Sustainability Office), examined how the Atlantic Test Ranges NAS Patuxent River Mission addresses noise as its primary encroachment threat. Failing to mitigate noise can result in the reduction in operating hours, loss of range space, and loss of public support for the Patuxent River Mission. As a result, the Navy has leveraged the REPI program to permanently protect a large working farm outside the range and thereby promote development that is compatible with its facilities.
•Linda Fry (Community Planner, Ellsworth Air Force Base), conducted a case study on the REPI Program and its positive consequences for Ellsworth Air Force Base with respect to noise as an encroachment threat.
Watch recordings of past webinars on the REPI website.
REPI in the News
Business and Wildlife Groups Skip The Fight, Work Together To Save a Species
National Public Radio (NPR), reports that the Gopher Tortoise Initiative is working to restore critical gopher tortoise habitat in Georgia, and thereby preclude listing the species under the Endangered Species Act. The Gopher Tortoise Initiative is emblematic of a new approach coined “conservation without conflict”, where private and public landowners voluntarily protect sensitive species to avoid future federal regulations. The Gopher Tortoise Initiative has drawn partners from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, to the Department of Defense, to Georgia Power, the largest electric company in the state. Partners of the Gopher Tortoise Initiative understand that taking preemptive measures to protect the species will not only have considerable conservation benefits, but will also bolster economic productivity and strengthen military readiness.
Southern Georgia Named ‘Sentinel Landscape’ for Readiness Enhancement
The Department of Defense Public Affairs Office (Arlington, VA) reports that the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and the Interior have designated southern Georgia as a Sentinel Landscape to maintain military readiness while preserving local agriculture, natural resources and wildlife habitat. Spanning a significant portion of the southern part of the state, the Georgia Sentinel Landscape joined the cooperative partnership between DoD and the Agriculture and Interior departments, DoD officials said. This designation was also announced in similar press releases by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sustaining the Forests of the Mississippi Headwaters
The U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forestry and Conservation Blog (Washington, D.C) reports that the USDA Forest Service Forest Stewardships Program has helped over 260 private landowners develop forest management plans in areas surrounding Camp Ripley. The forest management plans are tailored to the needs of the individual landowners and range from improving tree help to wildlife habitat conservation to generating income. These partnerships fall under the larger Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape Partnership designated in July 2016. Sentinel Landscapes aim to promote natural resource sustainability in areas surrounding military installations.
Navy, State and Nonprofits Partner to Conserve Land in Dorchester County
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports that 230 acres of family-owned farmland has recently been protected through a conservation easement using federal funds from the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, state funds from Maryland’s Rural Legacy Fund, and private funds from the Chesapeake Conservancy. The farm, located in Dorchester County, consists of 135 acres of prime agricultural fields and 85 acres of forest in the Nanticoke River watershed-one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most pristine landscapes and an important habitat for migratory birds. The corridor of protected land is part of the greater Middle Chesapeake Sentinel Landscape, meaning that is not only preserves working and natural lands, but also protects vital test and training missions conducted by the nearby Naval Air Station and Atlantic Test Ranges.
Osprey Aircraft to Land on Bladen Lakes State Forest
The Bladen Journal (Raleigh, NC) reports that North Carolina Forest Service, the Naval Facilities Command, and the U.S Marine Corps designated 23 acres of land in the Bladen Lakes State Forest as landing zones for the Osprey Aircraft. Bladen Lake State Forest is a working forest, and was awarded this lease after years of collaboration between the state and the Marine Corps. This agreement supports the goals of the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Partnership, a voluntary collaboration between farmers, woodland owners, conservationists, state and federal agencies, and military installations. North Carolina is one of two state that is piloting the Forest Opportunities for Resource Conservation and Environmental Security Program (FORCES), a voluntary program that recognizes and assists woodland owners near military bases who protect their working lands.
How the Military Helps Protect Natural Landscapes
The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) blog reports that following its designation as a Sentinel Landscape, Fort Huachuca and its surrounding communities have evolved into an area that supports natural resource sustainability and protects military and testing activities. One issue area that the Sentinel Landscape has focused its attention on is water; Fort Huachuca and its surrounding communities have faced a historical battle with water scarcity. Located in the Arizona dessert, water scarcity has been an ongoing concern for the Fort, with operations requiring groundwater resources to support its infrastructure and employee population. The USDA Forest Service Cooperative Forestry Program helps mitigate this challenge by providing technical assistance and support for wetlands restoration and protected species. With the help of the USDA, and through the framework of the Sentinel
Landscape Partnership, the Fort has reduced its groundwater usage by nearly two-thirds. Furthermore, the Sentinel Landscape has taken strides to support working ranches and restore critical habitats surrounding the military installation.
522 Acres in Charles County Slates for New Wildlife Management Area
Southern Maryland Online (Annapolis, MD) reports that on February 21, the Board of Public Works unanimously approved a Maryland Department of Natural Resources acquisition of 522 acres in Charles County for the development of a new Wildlife Management Area. The acquisition was leveraged with funds from the DoD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program (REPI) and will protect ecologically-sensitive habitat such as wetlands and woodlands, while providing an excellent location for recreational activities.