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Message from the Director

In our last newsletter, we shared three great spotlight articles about REPI partnerships at Ellsworth AFB, Fort Stewart, and Buckley AFB that are contributing to their communities while also protecting military readiness. Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback that we received on these articles, we decided to continue this theme in our Spring Newsletter. In this edition, we are highlighting partnerships at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania and Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Both of these installation partnerships represent examples of how military; local and state government; and non-governmental partners are combining forces to deliver incredible results to their communities.

In this spirit, I’d like to take the opportunity to share the names of several organizations that might help you strengthen ties with your local installation or community. While this list is by no means exhaustive, the REPI Program appreciates the work of the following organizations to support collaborative efforts to protect military readiness in the communities around installations and ranges:

As always, please reach out to the REPI Program office with your comments and questions.

Happy spring!

Kristin Thomasgard-Spence

As seen from a helicopter, Fort Indiantown Gap's Northern Aviation Training Area encompassing the DeHart Dam Reservoir. (Courtesy, Fort Indiantown Gap).

The DeHart Dam, owned by Capital Region Water, provides water to the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Courtesy, Fort Indiantown Gap).

Spotlight: REPI + Communities, Part II

At DeHart of It: Protecting Aviator Training and the DeHart Dam Reservoir in Pennsylvania

As the helicopter flies, Fort Indiantown Gap’s special use airspace, within the northern training area, is just around 10 miles from the densely populated capital of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. However, pictures taken of the scenic and critically important DeHart Dam and reservoir, which are located nearby, suggest otherwise. The landscape surrounding this vital dam, which is under Fort Indiantown Gap’s northern aviation training area, might appear to the unknowing observer as if it is 1,000’s of miles from the nearest city. Fort Indiantown Gap hopes to keep it this way by leveraging tools like the REPI Program and Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) Program.

Fort Indiantown Gap is unique. The installation is the busiest National Guard Training Center in the country, with over 120,000 troops – including pilots from all four military services; all 50 states and territories; and thirteen foreign military partners – heading to the small Pennsylvania post annually to train. Muir Army Airfield is the second busiest heliport in the nation when ranked by the number of daily takeoffs and landings, and pilots undergoing the Flying Hours Program log an average of 12,000 to 15,000 flight hours annually. The importance of Fort Indiantown Gap’s aviation training mission is even more impressive when taking into consideration the relatively small footprint of the installation itself: the Fort’s boundaries encompass an area of roughly 18 square miles.

Key to Fort Indiantown Gap’s ability to train so many pilots on a limited amount of land are its neighbors, chief among them the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Capital Region Water, the water utility serving the City of Harrisburg and surrounding municipalities. Together, these two agencies own the majority of the land under the installation’s northern aviation training area, which is comprised of about 17,500 acres of sparsely populated woodlands and lakes. The pristine nature of this landscape helps to not only improve the water quality of the Susquehanna River watershed, which drains into the Chesapeake Bay, but also protect the regions’ dark skies from light pollution.

In many parts of the country, light pollution from expanding city and suburban centers has prevented realistic nighttime training.  Moreover, the growth of residential areas near military facilities has limited the number of training hours due to concerns over noise associated with training activities. At Fort Indiantown Gap, the rural character of the northern aviation training area enables aviators to fly at night, under realistic conditions, without the concerns associated with incompatible development increasingly observed elsewhere. Additionally, pilots are able to practice emergency landings and low hovers in specially maintained clear zones on Pennsylvania Game Commission lands thanks to a special agreement. Fort Indiantown Gap could not as easily facilitate this training mission within its small footprint. 

Unfortunately, those factors that made the northern aviation training area a valuable asset from a training perspective – its quiet, pristine, rural character – also makes it attractive for developers looking to construct homes or other amenities. Army Lt. Col. Chris McDevitt, Pennsylvania National Guard’s chief of construction and facility management officer said, “Any development of this land would impact our aviation mission here. One of the concerns of aviators is light pollution at night. By keeping the rural, pristine nature of this land, we can ensure our aviators have the training they need, and conserve it for future generations.” 

Recognizing the importance of maintaining the remote quality of this area, Fort Indiantown Gap worked with Capital Region Water, the City of Harrisburg, the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and several other partners to use REPI Program, ACUB, and partner funds to place the area around DeHart Dam under conservation easement. In one move, this ensured aviators’ continued ability to use the entirety of the Northern Aviation Training Area; provided a cash inflow to the Capital Region Water Authority; and protected a key watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. Ward Burton of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation summed up the project by stating, "It has been an honor for the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation to be involved with the REPI and ACUB work at Fort Indiantown Gap. This has been a community-driven effort, and through working with the great staff at Fort Indiantown Gap and Capital Region Water, we reached an agreement that is a win-win for everyone: the National Guard, the City of Harrisburg, Capital Region Water and their stakeholders, and the local community. We're elated that the project will be completed and that we were able to be a part of it."

Looking forward, Capital Region Water plans to use the funds from the easement to finance updates to aging water infrastructure downstream from DeHart Dam, which will hold down costs to its customers in the City of Harrisburg – something that is sure to excite the local community and the service men and women at the Fort alike.

For more information, please contact: LTC Christopher McDevitt at christopher.d.mcdevitt.mil@mail.mil.

A Winning Relationship: Fort Huachuca and the City of Sierra Vista, Arizona

In 2016, the City of Sierra Vista, Arizona received the Community Excellence Award from the Association of Defense Communities (ADC), a non-profit focused on strengthening the connections between military installations and their local communities. More recently, Sierra Vista was also designated a 2017 Great American Defense Community by the non-profit. When Sierra Vista City Manager Charles Potucek looks at history between Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca, he finds these accolades unsurprising. In his words, “the Fort is simply part of our community.” At the heart of this statement is a decades-long relationship and a proud tradition of cooperation between Fort Huachuca and the City of Sierra Vista.

Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista are located in a remote region of southeast Arizona.  Tucked into a high-altitude plain, the Fort and surrounding community are about an hour south of Tucson, separated from this densely populated city by a mountain range and the Upper San Pedro River Basin. The rural landscape and unique geography of this part of the state are critical to the military mission at Fort Huachuca and, in turn, shed light on why a strong relationship with the City of Sierra Vista is so critical to the test, training, and operational activities at the Fort.

The location of Fort Huachuca gives the installation its greatest assets, the R2303 Restricted Airspace and Buffalo Soldier Electronic Testing Range, as well as significant water conservation responsibilities. The ring of mountains separating the installation and the City of Sierra Vista from Tucson create an electromagnetically “quiet” space, where there is minimal interference from telecommunications towers, transmission lines, or any other sources of electromagnetic spectrum interference commonly found in developed, populated areas. As a result, the Army is able to conduct essential electronic equipment testing and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) training in an unparalleled environment. However, it also means that the Fort’s missions are uniquely vulnerable to types of development that are not typically of concern to other installations.

Simultaneously, due to the intense reliance on groundwater and the limited rate of recharge in this arid region, Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista must continuously monitor proposed development to ensure sufficient capacity to support increased demand for water. Thus, collaborating on issues related to land use is of vital importance to not only Fort Huachuca’s unique military mission, but also the local community that relies on groundwater resources in the Sonoran Desert.

All of these concerns have created a number of opportunities for Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca to work together. The installation and City collaborate across a number of issues: traffic management, library services, high school education, public safety, recreation, public transportation, and water conservation. Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista share a new local hospital and host a reoccurring monthly meeting between City and installation leadership, and the Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce honors “Soldiers of the Month” at monthly lunches.

Most significant to protecting the ongoing mission flexibility of the installation, Sierra Vista has placed zoning restrictions on parcels of land that could impact the installation’s operations if incompatibly developed, created a process to refer all electromagnetic-emitting development to the installation for final approval, and joined Fort Huachuca as a charter member of the Upper San Pedro Partnership. The Partnership, which also includes a number of other local governments; Federal and state agencies; and conservation organizations, collects, analyzes, and employs a vast amount of data to identify the lands most critical to recharging groundwater supplies and the San Pedro and Babocomari Rivers. In parallel to these activities, Sierra Vista engages in ongoing dialogue with the community to ensure that local residents understand best practices in water conservation, how to protect the San Pedro River watershed, and other issues pertinent to both the installation and the community at large. "We are fortunate to have neighbors like Sierra Vista and Cochise County," said Col. Whit Wright, Fort Huachuca's garrison commander. "What we're able to achieve at the installation in terms of protecting our current and future mission capabilities is a direct result of the positive relationships we have with our community partners. Our collaborative efforts are critical to supporting the needs of the Army and our nation's defense."

“People recognize our interdependence,” Mr. Potucek says. “If the Fort was not here, many jobs – both direct positions on-post and secondary businesses – would not be here.” From a REPI Program perspective, the strength of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca’s relationship with one another and other key regional entities amplifies REPI’s funds and contributions within the Fort Huachuca partnership area.

But the key takeaway from the vast array of initiatives, programs, and efforts co-sponsored by Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista is that they are, according to Mr. Potucek, “two entities, but one community. That’s how everyone in town sees those at the Fort.”

For more information, please contact Sierra Vista City Manager Charles Potucek: charles.potucek@sierravistaaz.gov.

The Arizona Land and Water Trust helps protect ranchlands within the Buffalo Soldier Electronic Test Range to prevent incompatible development harmful to Fort Huachuca's mission. (Courtesy, Arizona Land and Water Trust).

A scenic view towards Fort Huachuca and the City of Sierra Vista. The installation and City are located in the arid, high-altitude Sonoran Desert about an hour south of Tucson, Arizona. (Courtesy, Jaime Simon).

Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Receives 2017 REPI Challenge Award

The REPI Program is pleased to announce the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Partnership as the recipient of the 2017 REPI Challenge award. The Partnership is a joint effort between the Army; Marine Corps; Air Force; other Federal agencies; state and local governments; and non-profit organizations that is coordinating to protect rural and natural lands important to the Nation’s defense mission around a number of military installations and ranges in North Carolina.

The total award of $9.2 million in REPI funds will leverage $10.1 million in partner contributions to protect more than 17,600 acres in the eastern portion of the state.

The REPI Challenge is an annual competition that seeks to cultivate projects that conserve land at a greater scale, thereby helping the REPI Program meet its ambitious goals in spite of limited funding.  Since the initiation of the REPI Challenge in 2012, $37 million in REPI Program funds have been leveraged with $117 million in partner contributions to protect nearly 110,000 acres of working lands, habitat and open spaces at 12 locations nationwide.

More information about the award is available in the 2017 REPI Challenge fact sheet and in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service's press release.

Camp Ripley, Eglin AFB, Travis AFB Win the 2017 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards

Each year, the Office of the Secretary of Defense honors installations for outstanding conservation achievements, innovative environmental practices, and partnerships that improve quality of life and promote efficiencies without compromising mission success. Congratulations to these winning installations who are a part of the REPI family:

  • Camp Ripley, winner of the 2017 Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation award.
  • Eglin AFB, winner of the 2017 award for Sustainability, Non-Industrial Installation category.
  • Travis AFB, winner of the 2017 award for Environmental Restoration, Installation category.

More information about the Environmental Awards and winning installations can be found here.

Fort A.P. Hill Awarded the 2017 Governor's Environmental Excellence Gold Award

The Fort A.P. Hill ACUB and REPI partnerships were awarded the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Gold Award for land conservation. This award recognizes significant contributions of environmental and conservation leaders in Virginia. Fort A.P. Hill’s work to sustain military readiness while protecting the installation from incompatible development resulted in the installation’s first win of the award. Congratulations to Fort A.P. Hill! More information about the award can be found here.

Sign up for Natural Resources Conservation Service Updates

Interested in receiving updates from our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)? Want to learn about NRCS programs or hear about specific funding opportunities? If so, we encourage you to sign up to receive email updates directly from NRCS! To do so, please go to the NRCS website and navigate to the “Media Resources” webpage. You can customize updates by technical area, program, state(s), and other areas of interest. More information is available here.


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. Our 2017 REPI Webinar Schedule is available for download here.

Upcoming Webinar

The Gopher Tortoise Conservation Strategy as Model to Protect At-Risk Species
Summary: Across the Southeast, DoD installations support important habitats and populations of listed and at-risk species. Regulatory protections for species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may sometimes conflict with military training. In coming years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will evaluate numerous at-risk species for potential protection under the ESA. If all of these at-risk species are listed, this conflict could be significantly increased. In response to this challenge, DoD, USFWS Region 4, and state wildlife agencies in the Southeast collaborated to developed a strategy to address the conservation of the Gopher Tortoise, a candidate species for protection under the ESA. This final strategy establishes a process for targeting conservation investments on non-military lands to establish “credits” that will allow for regulatory predictability and flexibility in the event that the species is protected under the ESA.  Furthermore, this system provides a framework to protect other at-risk species; promote the military mission; and provide regulatory predictability to DoD installations for future ESA Section 7 consultations.
When: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 1:00PM ET.
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.

Past Webinar

If you missed the most recent REPI webinar, "REPI and RCPP: Collaborative Natural Resource Conservation on a Regional Scale,” please visit the REPI website to view the webinar recordings or contact us for more information. Below is a sampling of some key points and lessons learned from the recent webinars.

REPI and RCPP: Collaborative Natural Resource Conservation on a Regional Scale

  • Kristin Thomasgard-Spence, REPI Program Director, provided background information on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is already benefitting the military mission at a number of installations around the country.  From Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 to FY 2016, nine RCPP projects have helped to directly or indirectly protect the military mission, representing a total proposed investment of over $40 million to regional conservation partnerships around installations nationwide.
  • Rebekah Lauster, Senior Program Analyst, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, USDA NRCS provided background on NRCS and RCPP and discussed the FY 2018 application process. RCPP encourages partners to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of natural resources on regional or watershed scales.  The Program seeks to encourage innovative, locally driven conservation and increase investment through partner contributions to the shared conservation mission.  There are three available RCPP funding pools: national, state, and critical conservation areas (CCA).  Though RCPP is not a grant program, NRCS makes funding available to awarded projects through other programs that it administers.  NRCS makes RCPP awards on an annual basis through a two-phase application process.
  • Peter Stangel, Senior Vice President, U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities, Inc. presented on the three RCPP awards that he helped to coordinate around REPI projects in the southeast.  Mr. Stangel noted that the Endowment serves as a facilitator and administrator for these awards, which help to advance the collective goals of the REPI Program, NRCS, and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).  Mr. Stangel also explained that funding from the REPI Program is available for use as matching contributions to funds received through RCPP awards, though partners are still working through several challenges associated with merging easement provisions from the Military Services, NRCS, and other funding partners.  Mr. Stangel concluded by stating that RCPP is a “game changer” for conservation of longleaf pine forests and working forest retention; the goals of the REPI Program; and the conservation of at-risk species.

Watch recordings of past webinars on the REPI website.

REPI in the News

Federal Grant to Help Limit Development near NC Military Bases. WRAL (Raleigh, NC) reports that Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced that North Carolina will receive more than $9 million in Federal funding to protect areas around military bases. "We all know that there's been encroachment around our military bases. This means that they can't train like they want to or as much as they want to," Troxler said. "When you marry forestry, agriculture and the military together, and we could use agriculture and forestry to protect the military, that's as good as it gets." The Federal grant will be matched by money from the military, the USDA, and the state. Similar stories also appeared in the News & Observer and the North State Journal.

Camp Ripley Named Secretary of Defense Environmental Award Winner. The Brainerd Dispatch (Brainerd, MN) reports that the Department of Defense selected Camp Ripley as the winner of the 2017 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation. The award in part recognizes Camp Ripley’s conservation and encroachment protection efforts through the Army Compatible Use Buffer program and the Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape partnership, which seeks to conserve natural habitat and working lands that are compatible with the Camp’s training activities. "Our mission is to complement and support the military mission of the Camp Ripley Training Site by promoting sound natural resource stewardship principles," said Josh Pennington, the Camp's environmental supervisor.

Proposed Land Purchase by Town Could Also Benefit Military. The Jacksonville Daily News (Jacksonville, NC) reports that the Town of Emerald Isle is moving forward with the acquisition of the final remaining parcel of land in a project to buffer an auxiliary landing field used by units training out of nearby MCAS Cherry Point. The town proposes funding the acquisition of the parcel, which is located directly underneath a military flight path, using funds from the DoD REPI Program, several state programs, and the town’s operating budget. The town intends to use the property for recreational purposes, conveniently located near an existing recreation center.

Protecting Military Readiness and the Iconic Gopher Tortoise at the Same Time. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region (Atlanta, GA) reports that the Gopher Tortoise Conservation and Crediting Strategy was officially unveiled at a ceremony at the Alapaha River Wildlife Management Area in Irwin County, Georgia. The Strategy encourages the proactive conservation of the gopher tortoise, a candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act. This final strategy establishes a process for targeting conservation investments on non-military lands to establish “credits” that will allow the military to continue its mission throughout the Southeast, the historical range of the species, in the event that it is protected under the ESA.

Outside Camp Ripley, Pine Trees and Prairie Stand Sentinel. The Duluth News Tribune (Camp Ripley, MN) reports on a public meeting held at Camp Ripley to celebrate the progress of the Sentinel Landscape Partnership and inform community members about opportunities for future participation and collaboration. Sentinel Landscape Partnership efforts around the installation benefit the local community, environment, and the military mission of the base. Coverage of the public meeting invitation from Camp Ripley appeared in the Brainerd Dispatch.

Florida Seeks Funds to Match REPI Dollars. Florida Politics (floridapolitics.com) reports that about $3 million in REPI Program funds could be lost if the State of Florida does not provide matching funds by the end of 2018. REPI Program funds have invested over $19 million in the state since 2002 to protecting installations from incompatible development that restricts or inhibits military missions. The Florida Defense Alliance is calling attention to the potential loss in order to sustain the military mission in Florida and “continue to gain and add to the economy.” Under the REPI Program’s authority, DoD can fund cost sharing partnerships with states, local governments, or non-profits, but cannot be a sole funding source.

Get to Know Camp Ripley. The Brainerd Dispatch (Brainerd, MN) introduces readers to local National Guard installation Camp Ripley. In 2016, the installation conducted 254,000 man-days of military training and 60,500 man-days of training for state interagency partners. The installation encompasses 18 miles of pristine Mississippi River waterfront, and manages the area for water quality and habitat preservation. Camp Ripley is also one of six Federally-designated Sentinel Landscape locations, and works together with Federal, state, and local partners to preserve the local landscape, rural character, and natural resources of the area.

Partnering to Protect Longleaf Pines and the Military. The Conservation Fund (Arlington, VA) reports in their blog post that they are working to help the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conserve the 19,577-acre forested Sansavilla property. The Conservation Fund (the Fund) and Georgia DNR are restoring key sites on the property back to longleaf forest using Federal funding from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the REPI Program. The project benefits approximately 400 threatened gopher tortoises and protects the military’s ability to conduct low-altitude flight training at nearby Townsend Bombing Range by maintaining this large tract in a compatible land use.

Camp Blanding to Benefit from $400K in Military Grant Money from the State of Florida. WJXT News4Jax (Jacksonville, FL) reports that Clay County, Florida received $400,000 in funding from the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant Program to purchase land adjacent to the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. The land acquired by the Clay County Development Authority will buffer Camp Blanding from incompatible development, thus protecting the test and training mission of this installation that comprises nearly one fifth of the county. “This is a remarkable opportunity not only to strengthen our part in national security, but promote jobs and economic development at both the local and state levels,” said Josh Cockrell of the Clay County Development Authority.

REPI Manager Recognized by Commander for Contribution to Buckley AFB Project. The 460th Space Wing Public Affairs Office (Aurora, CO) reports that Col. David Miller, Jr., 460th Space Wing Commander, presented Hillary Merritt, a project manager with The Trust for Public Land, with an Air Force-level award recognizing her contribution to the Buckley Air Force Base (AFB) Compatible Use Buffer Project. The award recognizes services and achievements as a private citizen for contributions to the accomplishment of the missions of an Air Force Agency. Ms. Merritt played a significant role in the development and implementation of the Buckley AFB REPI project, which has led to the protection of 262 acres of land surrounding the base from incompatible development.