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Message from the Director

By the time you read our Spring Newsletter, two very exciting things will have happened for the REPI Program: the return of warm spring weather and the designations of Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges as Sentinel Landscapes. 

Designating Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges as Sentinel Landscapes was a tremendous joint effort between our partners and the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior. In the past months, countless meetings, conference calls, and late-night emails have gone into ensuring that the second round of Sentinel Landscapes would live up to and surpass the high benchmark set by Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 2013.

My colleagues at USDA, DOI, and I believe that Sentinel Landscapes have demonstrated how federal resources should be shared among us, and it shows in the expertise and resources Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River leveraged from over 40 private, local, state, and federal partners. Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River have made impressive strides towards protecting their natural and agricultural resources and military capabilities for the future, and I am proud that REPI was able to contribute to efforts that will have a lasting impact in each landscape.

We’ll go into further detail on the new Sentinel Landscapes later in this Newsletter, and also share information about the 2015 REPI Challenge RFP, longleaf pine restoration activities, and REPI’s efforts developing off-installation regulatory solutions related to gopher tortoise conservation. For now, let me wish a hearty congratulations to Fort Huachuca, NAS Patuxent River, and their partners.

Happy spring!
Kristin Thomasgard-Spence

2015 Sentinel Landscapes Designations Announced at Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges

On April 8, 2015, the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Interior designated Fort Huachuca (AZ) and Naval Air Station Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges (MD) as Sentinel Landscapes.

The collaborative Sentinel Landscapes Partnership supports efforts to promote working lands, protect wildlife habitat, and ensure military readiness at military bases across the country. The 2nd and 3rd landscapes encompass vital military ranges needed to test and train with new and advanced aircraft and communications systems necessary to meet new threats as they arise.

"What excites me the most about this announcement," said John Conger, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment, "is how this partnership will protect the test missions at Pax River and Fort Huachuca. The Sentinel Landscapes will be a magnet for conservation activities, but the real motivation at DoD is creating the buffer we need to protect these critical missions."

Within the Fort Huachuca Sentinel Landscape, the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and DoD are working with the Arizona Land and Water Trust, the Arizona Department of Forestry, and more than 40 other local, state, and federal partners to reduce land and water development while preserving native grassland and ranches. A significant initial step for this partnership focused on preventing the drilling of up to 1,475 new wells and conserving nearly 5,000 acres of working ranchland will buffer and protect the remote, arid, and unique landscape surrounding Fort Huachuca which creates an electromagnetically quiet area perfect for the Buffalo Soldier Electronic Test Range and its electronic test mission.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, the Navy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Conservancy, and many other partners are working together to conserve a wildlife corridor spanning 1,385 acres of forests, wetlands, and farmland along the Nanticoke River and under the Atlantic Test Ranges. This landscape is home to a vibrant agricultural economy and the Chesapeake Bay’s waters support important fisheries and seafood industry, as well as public hunting, fishing, and nature tourism. Protecting lands beneath the Atlantic Test Ranges preserves one of the most pristine and ecologically significant areas in the mid-Atlantic region, reduces noise and safety concerns, prevents costly testing delays, and protects the Navy’s premier aircraft research, development, test, and evaluation location. 

Together, the Sentinel Landscape partner agencies, along with state, private and non-profit partners, have committed over $25 million in funding to Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges from 2014-2017 to conserve and restore habitat, implement conservation practices on working lands, and build strong local economies in Arizona, Delaware, and Maryland. 

Learn more about the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership and Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges designations at www.sentinellandscapes.org.

2015 REPI Challenge RFP Available Now

The 2015 REPI Challenge Request for Proposals is available for download on the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities website.

In 2015, the REPI Program is committing up to $8 million in FY15 funding for the REPI Challenge. Among other criteria, winning REPI Challenge projects will emphasize protecting land in areas already targeted by installations, attracting at least a 1:1 match in funding and multiple and diverse partners, coordinating with multiple levels of government, and conserving large parcels of land. The 2015 REPI Challenge is open to all installations, including those without an established REPI buffer project.

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities will administer the application process, and serve as the primary point of contact for application questions. Full proposals are due by 8 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 29, 2015.

For more information, please see the full proposal and proposal form on the U.S. Endowment website. Questions on the application process should be directed to Peter Stangel and questions on the 2015 REPI Challenge and state and federal engagement should be directed to Kristin Thomasgard-Spence.

REPI Program Accomplishments Detailed in 2015 Report to Congress

In early March, the REPI Program finalized and submitted its annual Report to Congress. Through Fiscal Year 2014, REPI has protected 362,501 acres at 80 installations in 28 states. Since 2003, over $508 million in combined REPI and Military Service funds have been leveraged with over $473 million in partner funds, benefitting the DoD mission, local communities, and our Nation’s natural and cultural resources.

The full Report to Congress summarizes key projects, initiatives and REPI Program focus areas over the past year, and provides details on all 80 REPI projects. It is available for download on the REPI website

Restoration Activities Benefit 1.55 Million Acres of Longleaf Pine in 2014

Picture of longleaf pine; Credit: Renee Bodine, USDA NRCS

Did you know that longleaf pine forests play an important role for military testing and training within the Southeastern United States?

For a century, longleaf pine forests were decreasing from the landscape at alarming rates - this iconic southern forest once covered 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas but declined to roughly 3 million acres by the 1990s. But longleaf pine is making a comeback, and today we see signs of encouragement and success through a diverse public and private partnership named America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI). Recovery efforts by many partners, including DoD, are successfully restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem and have resulted in trends of increasing growth over the past decade.

ALRI recently published its annual Range-wide Accomplishment Report for 2014. We’re excited to report that over 1.55 million acres of longleaf restoration activities were accomplished by partners in 2014. DoD was a major contributor to these efforts with a total of 320,289 acres benefitting from on-the-ground restoration activities.

What do these impressive numbers mean for national defense?  Responsible management of longleaf pine forests leads to:

• Reduced wildfire risk through proactive use of controlled burning
• Realistic training space for our men and women in uniform
• Natural buffers that limit incompatible development near military installations
• Protection and recovery of imperiled species, thereby reducing restrictions placed on mission capabilities due to Endangered Species Act regulations

DoD’s commitment to longleaf pine stewardship has real results for our nation’s armed forces.  To learn more about DoD’s longleaf accomplishments in 2014, access the Range-wide Accomplishment Report on the ALRI website.

REPI, USFWS, Southeastern States Continue to Develop Gopher Tortoise Crediting System

Picture of Gopher Tortoise. Credit: Randy Browning, USFWS

Gopher tortoise experts representing the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps gathered in Atlanta on March 5th and 6th to meet with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the REPI Program to begin developing a Gopher tortoise crediting system. The crediting system is part of the ongoing development of a candidate conservation and crediting agreement for the Eastern Population of Gopher tortoise.

Over the course of two days, the participants shared information regarding the status of Gopher tortoise in their respective locations, conservation needs and opportunities for the species, and military installation training needs for those installations hosting the Gopher tortoise. 

DoD and USFWS are working in concert with state partners and the military services on a programmatic pre-listing conservation strategy for the tortoise, focused on the acquisition and management of conservation properties located off of military installations to offset the effects on the tortoise from ongoing and planned military activities on military lands.  The agencies believe that the development and implementation of the strategy will spur new and expanded conservation actions benefiting the tortoise.

One of the principal goals of the effort is to generate direct conservation benefits to the species, which, in addition to significant ongoing state, federal government, and private landowner conservation, will provide for the needs of the species without the additional protection of a federal Endangered Species Act listing.  Another of the principal goals is to provide the mechanism for ensuring mission activities may continue with minimal additional restrictions in the event the species is listed in the future. As a habitat-driven and landscape-scale conservation strategy, the parties anticipate that efforts to benefit the Gopher tortoise will likewise benefit other wildlife species that share the habitat needs of the tortoise.

Stay tuned for more details in the Summer Newsletter.


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 2015 REPI Webinar Schedule is available here

Upcoming Webinars

REPI Help Session
: Our annual special session to learn about changes to the REPI process for FY 2016, highlighting successful buffer proposal write-ups and answering your questions about the updated proposal criteria, REPI policy guidelines, and changes to the REPI Program Guide for Buffer Partnerships.
When: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 1:00 PM ET.
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.

Better Integrating Natural Resources Management with Your REPI Project
As development, climate change, and other factors impact threatened, endangered, and at-risk species, off-installation habitat conservation is increasingly important to preserving access to critical testing and training assets. Hear about ways to better integrate and coordinate Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs) with your REPI buffer projects.
When: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 1:00 PM ET.
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.

Past Webinars

If you missed the most recent REPI webinars, "Conservation Finance Strategies Survey” and “JLUS – What Happens After?” 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.

Conservation Finance Strategies Survey
• Be creative with your sources of funding for land conservation: gifts and grants from foundations, individuals, or corporations; state tax credits or federal/state tax deductions; public funding from ballot initiatives; federal conservation programs; private investment capital from strategic partners; income from the land, like timber and agriculture; and bridge financing or loans from philanthropic, private, or public sources.
• Monetized ecosystem services are an emerging source of funding. Wetlands mitigation banking has an established multi-billion dollar market in the U.S. and a few REPI projects have incorporated wetland banking. Carbon is also a developing market.
• Recommended resources for more information are LegacyWorks Group, the Conservation Finance Network at IslandPress, and the Conservation Fund. 

JLUS – What Happens After?
• To really get value from your Joint Land Use Study it is important to implement the study’s recommendations. Some traditional follow-on activities include: establishing a Military Influence Area or Overlay District encompassing the military mission footprint; adopting special land use regulations or zoning regulations; and supporting state legislation that promotes compatible development near military installations. At Fairchild AFB in Washington, Spokane County took the lead to organize an Implementation Coordination Committee and developed model ordinance to implement specific JLUS recommendations
• Maintaining momentum when transitioning from planning to implementation requires buy-in beyond the JLUS Committee members. Key players in implementing JLUS recommendations are not always the key players from JLUS planning and varies with each community and region.
• More information on JLUS implementation plans and grants can be found on OEA’s Compatible Use Program site.

REPI in the News

Managing Growth around a Growing Buckley Air Force Base
The Aurora Sentinel (Aurora, CO) reports that a REPI proposal to protect land around Buckley AFB has received initial approval. The project aims to thwart incompatible development adjacent to the base by transferring ownership of federally owned and private land to the city of Aurora. The city would then turn much of the newly acquired land into greenway and open space. The project is designed to both improve the long-term viability of the base and provide resource protection by expanding bike trails and pedestrian paths surrounding the base.

New York Contributes $500,000 to Fort Drum Land Buffer Program
The Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, NY) reports that New York State will contribute $500,000 to a buffer program at Fort Drum that limits outside interference of the installation's training. This latest contribution is in support of a joint REPI and ACUB project to buy permanent development rights on properties near Fort Drum.

Louisiana Receives Conservation Funding for Rare Snake and Fort Polk
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA) reports that the rare Louisiana pine snake and Fort Polk are the beneficiaries of a new conservation project, which will purchase 6,300 acres of land near Fort Polk in an effort to provide habitat for the Louisiana pine snake. If the snake is listed under the Endangered Species Act, training exercises on the military base could be seriously hampered. Fort Polk is trying to get ahead of this by preserving the snake's habitat outside the installation.