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Message from the Director

A central tenet of a REPI partnership is the idea that working together will benefit all stakeholders, even those not officially signed on to the partnership. This newsletter features three incredible partnerships at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, Fort Stewart in Georgia, and Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado where communities have benefitted from the innovative plans and efforts of REPI partners.

Having just recently opened up applications for 2017 Sentinel Landscapes designations (see this Newsletter for more details!), I am inspired by these stories of partnerships that create value across military, environmental, and agricultural spectrums; and also for regular Janes and Joes living in the local communities that are so critical to REPI partnerships. At a regional level, this is what Sentinel Landscapes in Washington, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, and Minnesota do; but the projects featured here remind us that multi-dimensional impact can also occur within a small community.

As we move into 2017, I hope you will be inspired as well to take a moment and consider what role your REPI partnership plays in your greater community. And as always, please remember that the REPI office is always available to listen to your ideas, concerns, and questions.

Best regards,

Kristin Thomasgard-Spence

Artist rendering of the planned sports complex outside of Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. (Courtesy, South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority)

Sustainable harvesting techniques demonstrated at the McIntosh SEED Community Forest outside of Fort Stewart, Georgia. (Courtesy, McIntosh SEED)

Spotlight: REPI + Communities

School, Sports Center, and Business Park Protect Compatibility and Enrich Community in South Dakota

When it comes to neighbors, Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB) won the jackpot. Located in western South Dakota between Rapid City and the City of Box Elder, Ellsworth AFB benefits from the support of a state, county, and local community that are invested in the installation’s long-term mission viability. But together, the installation and its REPI partners are ensuring the benefits flow both ways.

The warm relationship between Ellsworth and the surrounding community owes a lot to the South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority (SDEDA), which the State Legislature created in 2009. SDEDA’s mission is to work as a liaison between local governments, businesses, citizens, and the installation in order to protect community needs, Ellsworth AFB’s current mission capacity, and the installation’s future growth potential. This charge has resulted in a number of efforts improving the quality of life for civilians and military families within the Ellsworth community. 

The 28th Bomb Wing, one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the world, operates out of Ellsworth’s single runway. In addition to providing access to nine million acres of training airspace, the runway supports regular overseas missions. Because of Ellsworth’s specialized mission, the runway and installation are uniquely vulnerable to incompatible development.  While one end of the runway is compatible ranchland, the other end stretches close to the City of Box Elder.

Therefore, SDEDA, Ellsworth AFB, Box Elder, country governments and a local foundation stepped in to protect the installation in a fashion that also enriches the town. In exchange for land within the installation’s Accident Potential Zone (APZ), Ellsworth AFB donated a large parcel outside of the main base and APZ to SDEDA, which then acquired adjacent lands using state funds. SDEDA transferred the nearly 60-acre donation to the local school district, which built a new K-5 elementary school on the property. The school is now in the middle of its second year of operation, and together with the South Dakota National Guard, the school district runs a program to introduce elementary children to science, planes, and space, with special field trips to Ellsworth AFB.

Now, SDEDA is working with the town to design and build a sports complex that will develop the remaining land donated by Ellsworth. Local sports teams are helping fundraising efforts for the facility, which will feature a baseball diamond, soccer fields, and a football field with artificial turf. At the same time, SDEDA is also working with a developer to further protect the base and grow the local economy by creating a “certified ready” business park next to the sports complex. Local government is coordinating with SDEDA to ensure appropriate zoning for the park, and SDEDA is in the process of actively recruiting businesses. While adding economic and social value to the community, the school, sports complex, and business park ensure a long-term solution to the installation’s concerns of incompatible development inhibiting mission flexibility and future encroachment.

Executive Director Scott Landguth summed up his team’s efforts over the last half a decade: “The Authority is very motivated to work on projects that impact the community around the base, specifically if our efforts can improve the quality of life for the local community and our children.”

For more information, please contact:
Glen Kane, South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority at glen.kane@ellsworthauthority.org.

McIntosh SEED Community Forest Fosters Resource Education and Economic Development Outside of Fort Stewart

In 1997, a small group of citizens from McIntosh County, Georgia gathered to discuss an unmet need for economic development and environmental and natural resource education in their local community. McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) emerged from this meeting with the mission to “create and sustain healthy and diverse rural communities through community and economic development, community organizing, conservation, and direct services across the Southeast.”

In partnership with The Conservation Fund, the Army, the REPI Program, and a multitude of other partners, the organization purchased over 1,100 acres of land outside of Fort Stewart in 2015 and established the McIntosh SEED Community Forest. Just now entering its second year of operation, the Community Forest is already positively impacting the lives and livelihoods of people across three counties.

According to John Littles, Executive Director of McIntosh SEED, “the Community Forest is helping to incorporate conservation practices into communities of color.” Recently, the Community Forest hosted 75 landowners at demonstration sites for a pilot “university” in forestry best practices, including harvesting and reforestation techniques. With many local landowners growing timber, the Community Forest aims to increase the use of sustainable forestry practices and in doing so increase jobs and productivity in the local timber economy. Over 25 acres of the Community Forest have been restored to longleaf pine as well, demonstrating best management practices and partnerships with federal conservation agencies. Based on the success of the “university,” McIntosh SEED is hoping to develop relationships with local high schools and colleges to spur interest in forestry careers.

In parallel with its forestry education efforts, the Community Forest is building amenities and programs to benefit local youth. A core element of McIntosh SEED’s mission is to provide environmental education and experiences to youth in historically underserved communities of color, in order to build a strong generation of future leaders within local communities. Eagerly anticipating hosting local church and school groups, Boy Scout troops, and other youth groups at the Community Forest, McIntosh SEED is building an archery range and planning to develop a series of nature trails. The trails will provide members of the community access to habitat that is home to over 40 different species of birds as well as bobcats, foxes, and wild turkeys. Eventually, McIntosh SEED plans to build a Community Center, which will serve as the hub for educational, youth engagement, and community activities. “The McIntosh SEED Community Forest is a new rural model to drive economic development that’s good for nature and good for people,” says Will Allen, the Conservation Fund’s Vice President of Sustainable Programs. “By conserving natural resources and using them sustainably, McIntosh SEED is supporting job creation and small business development, while enhancing outdoor recreational access and providing educational opportunities in agriculture, forestry and landownership.”

While the Community Forest continues to develop and provide opportunities to an estimated 4,000 people in southeastern Georgia, it is also playing an important role as a critical buffer along Fort Stewart’s fence line. Fort Stewart is the largest military installation east of the Mississippi, and conducts live-fire, maneuver, and paratrooper training for up to 50,000 soldiers annually. These activities are sensitive to incompatible development, and the Community Forest ensures a measure of flexibility and certainty for Fort Stewart’s training mission. “We recognize the importance of being a protective buffer for Fort Stewart,” says Littles, “and look forward to working with the installation more.” In the meantime, the McIntosh SEED Community Forest will continue to educate, engage, and serve its community.

For more information, please contact:
John Littles, McIntosh SEED at johlit@darientel.net.

Biking Along the Buffer: the Buckley Air Force Base Greenway

Enjoying the outdoor landscape just became a lot easier for the people of Aurora, Colorado.  Thanks to a partnership between the Air Force and the Trust for Public Land as well as the city, Arapahoe County, and state governments, the local community of Aurora will soon have access to miles of interconnected recreational trails around Buckley Air Force Base (AFB) for wildlife watching, walking, and biking.

A short distance east of the Colorado statehouse and downtown Denver, Buckley AFB is home to a number of aviation alert, training, and refueling missions. Buckley’s home unit, the 460th Space Wing, serves a unique mission, providing unencumbered “look angles” for antennae to ensure constant communication with space surveillance and missile tracking systems. However, the installation’s diverse mission set has come under pressure in recent years as the rate of urban development increased in proximity to Buckley’s fence line, particularly along the E-470 highway corridor. In fact, development on Buckley’s western boundary recently forced the base to close one of its two runways.

With a decades-long history of collaboration, Buckley AFB and the local community are no strangers to working in partnership. So, when Buckley invited organizations and leaders from the community onto the base in 2014 to explore new opportunities to address issues of compatible land use, it was no surprise that a natural partnership took form.

Seeking to protect Buckley’s unique military mission and the economic activity that it brings to the area, the Trust for Public Land leveraged funding from the REPI Program and the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to acquire a 124-acre property on the east side of Buckley AFB between the installation and the highly-developed E-470 corridor. The acquisition was made possible by the commitment and contribution of the State of Colorado as well as the partnership of the City of Aurora, which now owns and manages the property. In March 2016, partners at all levels, as well as Congressman Mike Coffman, came together at an event at Buckley AFB to celebrate the completion of the project. The efforts of the partnership will not only ensure that military operations and training can continue without affecting local residents, but also that the community has wide access outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Future efforts plan to build on and add to this first success. The buffer around Buckley AFB will create an interconnected network of new and existing parks and trails, including the future Triple Creek Greenway, a 27-mile open space corridor stretching from the South Platte River in north Denver to the Aurora Reservoir. The buffer will also protect key wildlife habitat, connecting previously isolated habitat areas that will allow wildlife to move outside of the installation’s boundaries and access the Sand, Coal, and Senac Creek ecosystems. All of these planned areas will be open to the public and allow wildlife viewers, walkers, and cyclists to enjoy outdoor recreation right in their backyards.

The collaboration around Buckley AFB is a prime example of how REPI buffer partnerships can improve the lives of local communities while also leading to better outcomes for natural lands and the military.  By incorporating community recreation into Buckley AFB’s REPI project, the partners at Buckley AFB are helping to build lasting relationships between local residents and the installation that will ensure a safer, more prosperous community in the future.

“The Trust for Public Land is proud to work with the Air Force, the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Arapahoe County and Aurora to bring this project to fruition,” said Hillary Merritt, The Trust for Public Land project manager. “The buffer project is a win-win-win project for the local community.”

For more information, please contact:
Kasia Kubiak-Smulka, Buckley Air Force Base at katarzyna.kubiak-smulka.1@us.af.mil and Hillary Merritt, The Trust for Public Land at hillary.merritt@tpl.org.

Above: A bicyclist rides down a trail near Buckley Air Force Base that will connect to the proposed buffer trail. (Courtesy, Darcy Kiefel, TPL). Left: McIntosh SEED Executive Director John Littles and Assistant Managing Director Cheryl Peterson at the Community Forest. (Courtesy, The Conservation Fund).

2017 Sentinel Landscapes Applications and 2016 Accomplishments Report Now Available

The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is now accepting applications for designation in 2017. The Request for Applications is open to all eligible entities interested in promoting natural resource conservation and the sustainability of working lands in areas surrounding military installations and ranges. To be considered for a Sentinel Landscape designation in 2017, applications must be submitted via the online portal by 8:00pm EDT on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

In conjunction with the opening of the 2017 Application window, the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership has released the 2016 Report on the accomplishments of the Partnership to-date. More information on the Partnership’s accomplishments and goals moving forward can be found in the 2016 Report, which is available for download on the Sentinel Landscapes website.


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 now available for download here.

Upcoming Webinars

Environmental Law Institute Brief: Sentinel Landscape Partnership Authorities and Opportunities
Summary: The Environmental Law Institute has analyzed ways to enhance Sentinel Landscape Partnership implementation and will brief on the opportunities and roadblocks presented by the various partner agency's authorities and programs. (NOTE: Rescheduled from 12/7/16)
When: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 1:00PM ET.
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.

Conservation Finance Tools and Strategies
Summary: This webinar is designed to help you and your partners enhance their organizational readiness and to introduce them to conservation finance tools and techniques - from borrowing funds to finding new sources of capital and revenue for your REPI deals. This session will walk through the range of conservation finance strategies while emphasizing the systems and internal know-how that need to be in place to use them.
When: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 1:00PM ET.
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.

Past Webinars

If you missed the most recent REPI webinars, "Incorporate Some Fun and Recreation into Your REPI Partnership” and “How to Submit Applications to Become a Sentinel Landscape,” 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.

Incorporate Some Fun and Recreation into Your REPI Partnership
•Mary Hollow, Executive Director of the Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT) in Helena, MT, presented on PPLT’s Peaks to Creeks Initiative, which includes two properties buffering Fort Harrison that total more than 550 acres. These properties, the Ten-mile Creek and Seven-mile Creek parcels, offer important opportunities for community recreation and waterway restoration.  The Peaks to Creeks initiative, made possible in large part by the contribution of REPI funds, will finally create a non-motorized route from the 75 miles of trails in the South Hills of Helena down to the floor of the Helena Valley, where the majority of residents in the area live.  In addition to providing the first urban access to the City of Helena’s drinking water source, these projects form a link between the Montana WILD Center, Fort Harrison, and the VA Hospital, providing pedestrian and recreational access to veterans, a vital part of Helena’s community.
•Dan Chapin, Senior Legislative Assistant with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) in Washington, DC, discussed TPL’s work outside of Buckley AFB in partnership with the Air Force and local community to protect land in the vicinity of the Base for recreational use.  To buffer Buckley from future incompatible development, the Trust for Public Land used funds from the REPI Program and the CO Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to acquire a 124-acre parcel to the east of the Base.  The City of Aurora, the current owner and manager of this property, will use this land to connect new and existing recreational trails and wildlife habitat, providing recreational opportunities for the local community. TPL is also a partner at other installations around the country using recreational land uses in their REPI Buffer Partnerships: Fort A.P. Hill, Naval Base Kitsap, Army Garrison Hawaii, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
•Santa Rosa County Commissioner Don Salter (District 3, Santa Rosa County Board of Commissioners, Florida) presented on his work to incorporate recreational opportunities into the Buffer Partnership around Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field.  In partnership with the Navy, Santa Rosa County has used REPI and state funds to protect land around the installation to connect over nine miles of public, non-motorized paved trails.  Land protected within the NAS Whiting Field REPI Buffer is also set aside for off-highway vehicle recreation, biking, and camping.

How to Submit Applications to Become a Sentinel Landscape
•Kristin Thomasgard-Spence, DoD REPI Program Director, provided a briefing on the 2017 Sentinel Landscapes Application, which the Sentinel Landscapes Federal Coordinating Committee (SL-FCC) released on 12 December 2016.  The briefing included information on the requirements, evaluative criteria, and timeline for 2017 designations as well as the benefits that come along with becoming a Sentinel Landscape.  The briefing went through each of the questions included in the 2017 Application in detail.
•The webinar also provided information on the 2016 Sentinel Landscapes Accomplishments Report and updates to the Sentinel Landscapes Website [http://www.sentinellandscapes.org/].
• For more information on the application process and to download the 2017 Application, please visit the Sentinel Landscapes Website.  Applications are due to the Sentinel Landscapes Federal Coordinating Committee by 8:00PM EDT on March 30, 2017

REPI in the News

Fort Drum Buffer Program Receives $500,000 from State. The Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, NY) reports that Fort Drum’s Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program received a $500,000 grant from New York’s State and Municipal Facilities grant program, which is administered by the State Dormitory Authority. The Fort Drum ACUB program is a partnership between Fort Drum, the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, and Ducks Unlimited that seeks to promote land uses around the installation that are compatible with its training mission. To date, the program has purchased the development rights on 24 properties, covering approximately 6,900 acres near the installation.

Blackwater River State Forest Gets 626 Acres of Wolf Creek Forest around NAS Whiting Field. The Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, FL) reports that NAS Whiting Field acquired 626 acres of Wolfe Creek Forest and added to the Blackwater River State Forest. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) acquired this property by leveraging funds from the REPI program and Florida Forever program, which funds willing-seller land acquisition to protect the state’s natural resources. Protecting this property ensures the Navy’s continued ability to conduct flight operations and other military training exercises by limiting incompatible development.

Land Trust Acquires Land for Conservation near Camp Blanding. WJXT News4Jax (Jacksonville, FL) reports that the North Florida Land Trust has acquired 624 acres of adjacent to the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. The acquisition was funded in part through the REPI Program and the Clay County Development Authority, which secured a grant of $390,000 from the Florida Defense Support Task Force. Preserving this parcel will not only help to protect the military mission of Camp Blanding by limiting incompatible development, but also benefit several endangered species that rely on this natural habitat including the gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, and indigo snake.