Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

Message from the Director

Natural resources management is both a cross boundary challenge and a regional challenge, and the Department of Defense (DoD) has a vested interest in working across the boundaries of our installations and ranges to cooperatively manage the natural resources we share with our communities. Failing to do so can result in encroachment and limitations or restrictions on testing, training, or operations, so the REPI Program is often a key player in these efforts.
Installations and ranges protect and manage natural resources to maintain realistic training and testing environments, comply with environmental regulations such as the Sikes Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and proactively work to prevent habitat loss and population decline of candidate species found on our installations. DoD lands are home to more than 400 threatened and endangered species, and over 550 at-risk species. The presence of ESA-listed species, specifically, can lead to restrictions on the use of DoD training and testing lands, which threaten the sustainability of military operations. Therefore, it is necessary for DoD to take an active role in supporting land protection and natural resources management efforts as stakeholders in the landscapes that include our installations and ranges. These larger landscape efforts complement our own natural resources management work being accomplished on-base, and help to protect installations and ranges from future encroachment concerns.

This newsletter explores the ways in which installations and their partners are developing innovative approaches to addressing natural resources management and prevent or manage related encroachment. States, local governments, NGOs, and other Federal agencies have joined DoD in rethinking how to best manage natural resources and sustain ongoing human activity. Exciting expansions in legislative authorities and opportunities for collaboration are revealing new ways to effectively and economically protect mission flexibility, and we are proud of the role the REPI Program has played in each case.

If you have any questions about any of the authorities, case studies, or documents discussed in this newsletter, please do not hesitate to reach out to the REPI Program office.

Best wishes,

Kristin Thomasgard-Spence

A Red-cockaded woodpecker at its nest site, a tree crevice. (Credit: Eric Spadgenske, USFWS)

A Red-cockaded woodpecker at its nest site, a tree crevice. Fort Bragg is host to much of the Primary Core Population of Red-cockaded woodpeckers. (Credit: Eric Spadgenske, USFWS)

The Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, recently listed under the Endangered Species Act. (Credit: Aaron Barna, USFWS)

The Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, recently listed under the Endangered Species Act and found on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. (Credit: Aaron Barna, USFWS)

Spotlight: Natural Resources Encroachment Mitigation & the REPI Program

Gopher Tortoise. Credit: Randy Browning, USFWS

Expanded Opportunities for Natural Resources Encroachment Mitigation under the Sikes Act

Unlike development, natural resources pose a number of dynamic issues for installations to address. Threatened, endangered, and at-risk species move without regard for property, county, or installation fenceline boundaries. Furthermore, the habitat that supports such species is not all alike. Quality of habitat can differ dramatically between parcels of land, and based on considerations like size and isolation, the capability of a specific parcel of land to support listed or at-risk species changes. Therefore, an installation’s strategy for mitigating natural resources-related encroachment should be designed differently from, but aligned with, the strategy for mitigating encroachment from incompatible development.

REPI buffer partnerships operate under the authority of 10 U.S. Code § 2684a, which allows DoD to enter into cost-sharing partnerships to protect and manage land that buffers installations from encroachment and is ecologically connected to installations through conservation easement acquisition. These partnerships are also able to take advantage of DoD’s authority under the Sikes Act (16 U.S. Code § 670c-1) to fund off-installation natural resources management and restoration on lands that DoD does not hold an interest in, where doing so provides a benefit to the military. In 2014, the National Defense Authorization Act expanded the Sikes Act authority to allow DoD to also fund “management endowments” for these natural resources stewardship actions occurring off-installation.

This authorization adds flexibility to REPI buffer partnerships, because it allows DoD to fund natural resources “management endowments” where management alone benefits the military, without the additional investment in acquisition. In a natural resource management context, funding “management endowments” is important because it allows DoD to make an investment in resource management that needs to occur on a regular basis in order for installations to receive the benefits of these actions. With this widening of scope, military installations and partners gained another tool to smartly address encroachment stemming from the loss of critical habitat for threatened, endangered, and at-risk species that can lead to restrictions on testing, training, and operational capabilities.

The model that the 2684a authority established gave installations, communities, and their partners a pathway to prevent and mitigate obvious sources of encroachment, like the development of residential neighborhoods, tall structures, or similar infrastructure. In all of these projects, there is a very clear connection between the geographic location of the military installation and the proposed development or action. However, the encroachment concerns that arise from incompatible development – most often noise, dust, safety, and frequency spectrum impingement – are often separate from how the presence of threatened, endangered, and at-risk species create encroachment concerns. 

Under the expanded Sikes Act authority, installations can now take advantage of the opportunity to address natural resources concerns in the manner that makes the most sense: with flexibility. Funds from the REPI Program can be used to maintain or improve natural resources located outside of installation fencelines, even if the property is not part of a REPI buffer partnership.

For more information about submitting a REPI project under the Sikes Act authority, please contact the REPI Program office at osd.repi@mail.mil.

Draft DoD Gopher Tortoise Conservation and Crediting Strategy Proposes New Model for At-Risk Species Management

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a species may warrant protection through listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. For military installations that host such species on their ranges, listing under the ESA can result in restrictions to vital testing, training, and operational activities and costly workarounds. As DoD lands host over 400 threatened and endangered species, and over 550 at-risk species, the listing of a species under the ESA is no small consideration to the military and its ability to provide realistic testing and training. Because of this concern, DoD is currently developing a pilot project that incentivizes conservation measures that can later be used to offset military test, training and operational activities. Once finalized, the Strategy will provide a framework that can be adopted to proactively address other at-risk species around the United States whose listing would impact mission flexibility.

The gopher tortoise, pictured at the top of this article, is a long-lived, native burrowing species of the open, fire-maintained longleaf pine ecosystem in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. It is called a “keystone species” because many other wildlife species benefit from its presence and abundance. More than 300 other species have been known to use gopher tortoise burrows, including ESA-listed species such as eastern indigo snakes and many at-risk species such as the gopher frog and Florida pine snake. While the gopher tortoise has been listed under the ESA as a threatened species in its western range, it is still a candidate species in its eastern range of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of Alabama. If the eastern population is listed as threatened or endangered, restrictions on military testing, training and operations may become necessary at some installations and ranges.

In recognition of this concern, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DoD, and the states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina have developed the DoD Gopher Tortoise Conservation and Crediting Strategy. The Strategy, open for public comment in the Federal Register until 9 June 2016, proposes a framework for incentivizing proactive conservation that will earn military installations “credits” that can be used to offset test, training, and operational activities if the gopher tortoise is listed under the ESA in the future. This strategy builds off of the 2013 Range-Wide Conservation Strategy and 2008 Candidate Conservation Agreement. 

What the gopher tortoise strategy proposes to do is provide a framework for coordinating and directing the conservation and management actions of partners in areas where the gopher tortoise has yet to be listed, and where twenty-two Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and National Guard installations are located. The strategy’s framework calls for coordinated efforts to preserve the best tracts of habitat and manage them accordingly, which calls for prescribed fire, hardwood and shrub encroachment mitigation, and similar activities. If this can be achieved in an effective manner, it is possible that gopher tortoise populations can recover to a point where listing under the ESA is unnecessary and military installations within the region can test, train, and operate at current levels of flexibility. However, if conservation efforts are not adequate and the eastern population is listed under the ESA, the proactive conservation efforts made by DoD will create quantifiable credits that can be used to counter additional restrictions on mission resulting from the listing. Since the framework aims to benefit the gopher tortoise population as a whole, the overall result of the Strategy is a “win-win” for the species and national defense.

The Federal Register notice on the Draft Gopher Tortoise Strategy can be accessed here.

Natural Resources REPI Projects: MCB Camp Pendleton/MCAS Miramar, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and the Southeast Regional Army Project

How else are REPI projects addressing natural resource management and protection across the country? Here are three examples from MCB Camp Pendleton/MCAS Miramar in California, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington, and the Southeast Regional Army Project in Georgia.

MCB CAMP PENDLETON/MCAS MIRAMAR: Coastal mountain habitat at MCB Camp Pendleton hosts amphibious assault training and Southern California’s last best coastal refuge for several threatened and endangered species, while MCAS Miramar is home to the Corps’ master air station on the West Coast. Sandwiched between the major metropolitan centers of Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south, the Marine Corp’s most important western training and operational installations are also havens to species like the Pacific pocket mouse, California least terns, Stephens’ kangaroo rat, and Least Bell’s vireos. With surrounding development continuing to isolate remaining populations of species in the Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar areas, REPI partnering efforts are acquiring parcels that will create a wildlife corridor and crediting system to ease restrictions on training and operations.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD: Due to fires routinely ignited during training exercises, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s artillery ranges have become ideal habitat for a handful of threatened, endangered, and at-risk species in Washington State.  As the installation hosts the majority of remaining prairie habitat in the South Puget Sound, loss of prairie outside the base can lead to increased restrictions on Army activities. Therefore, REPI funds are being leveraged with the resources of eighteen partners to protect, restore, and manage prairie habitat around JBLM, which was designated as the pilot Sentinel Landscape in 2013. The installation is currently working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service towards a credit and species recovery program that would grant additional training flexibility and consideration for investments JBLM makes to protect and manage habitat. This is especially important due to the recent listing under the Endangered Species Act of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, streaked horned lark, and Mazama pocket gopher. 

SOUTHEAST REGIONAL ARMY PROJECT: In an innovative application of the REPI Program's buffer partnership authority and expanded authority under the Sikes Act, the Army partnered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Forest Service, and a private foundation to protect one of the most important tracts of high-quality habitat for the gopher tortoise. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Army and USFWS signed in 2015 allows for collaboration on projects of mutual benefit, with the goal of protecting Army mission flexibility while conserving habitats in ecologically related areas outside, and even removed from, the vicinity of installations. Now, the first project under the MOU is using a regional ecosystem approach to protect a tract of land considered critical for the gopher tortoise as it may prevent the species’ listing under the Endangered Species Act. The listing of the gopher tortoise could have significant implications for the missions of Forts Benning, Gordon, Rucker, and Stewart; however, by conserving this specific tract of land, the partners will advance their mutual goals. In addition to protecting Georgia's third largest population of gopher tortoises, partners will protect habitat for two federally threatened and candidate species and five additional species currently being petitioned for federal listing. Through this single action, the Army is making an investment in the future of mission flexibility for several Southeastern installations.

For more information about any of these projects, please visit the REPI website.

Members of SERPPAS attend a prescribed burn.

Members of the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability (SERPPAS) at the May 10-11 Principals' Meeting attend a prescribed burn at Fort Benning, GA. (Credit: Mike Shaw)

A prescribed burn on Fort Benning.

Prescribed burns are critical to maintaining the health of longleaf pine and meadow ecosystems across the Southeastern region of the United States. (Credit: Mike Shaw)


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 2016 REPI Webinar Schedule is on the website and can be downloaded here.

Upcoming Webinar

Thinking Outside the Base: Off-Installation Solutions to Environmental Regulatory Issues
Summary: Over the past few years, the Department has worked carefully with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, interested states, and other experts on the Endangered Species Act and habitat crediting methodologies. This webinar will review opportunities for regional crediting schemes and other options for DoD installations to address ESA and other species and habitat-related issues through innovative off-installation practices, while highlighting DoD's efforts at updating its Natural Resources Program strategy.
When: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 1:00PM ET.
For instructions to join the webinar, please click here.

Past Webinars

If you missed the most recent REPI webinars, "How to Develop your Sentinel Landscapes,” “Annual REPI Help Session for FY17,” or “The Full Suite: The REPI Toolbox,” 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.

How to Develop your Sentinel Landscape
•Designated Sentinel Landscapes Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges, and proposed Sentinel Landscapes Avon Park AFR, Camp Ripley, and Eastern North Carolina presented on aspects of their local partnership efforts that have made them successful designations or proposed designations.
•The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is an agency level cooperative forum between USDA, DoD, and DOI. From a REPI Program perspective, participating in the Partnership leverages significant additional funding and benefit to installations working to protect military mission.  
•Key steps to developing a Sentinel Landscape are: defining the unique aspects that make a proposed Sentinel Landscape important, depicting the partnership area for the Sentinel Landscape in a defined map, establishing goals and desired outcomes, establishing a process for partners to coordinate, and identifying the local, state, and Federal tools or programs that can be used to achieve the expressed goals. 

Annual REPI Help session for FY17
•The annual Help Session webinar provided detailed information about the FY 2017 REPI buffer proposal guidance. For the first time, in FY17 proposals will be submitted via the new online proposal system. Installations will receive access instructions from their Service leads.  Installations should tell the story of their projects, with a focus on their long-term planning strategy, end state objectives, and the value of the REPI investment in protecting the mission. The more quantifiable information in the proposal the better!
•All applicants should read the Guide thoroughly and refer to the webinar recording for additional information, or feel free to contact the REPI office or your Service headquarters.

The Full Suite: The REPI Toolbox
•The REPI Program office has a number of tools and materials that can help installations craft messaging about their projects for press releases and media events.
•The REPI Interactive Map and REPI Story Map are dynamic tools that can help introduce a new partner to the history, mission, and accomplishments of the REPI Program.
•An annotated list of REPI’s tools and materials can be found in the Fall 2015 Newsletter.

REPI in the News

Unusual Partnership at Joint Base Lewis McChord Supports Endangered Butterfly and Military Mission
A PBS News Hour segment featured the unique REPI partnership at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington that is helping to alleviate restrictions on artillery range training through reintroducing the endangered Taylor's checkerspot butterfly - with some unusual help. The Washington Department of Corrections, with assistance from JBLM, the Oregon Zoo, and other partners, have set up a lab at a women's minimum security prison to breed butterflies which are then released onto protected prairie habitat. By supporting efforts to help the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly recover, JBLM will maintain current training range capabilities and gain flexibility for future training activities.

Encroachment Mitigation at Buckley AFB helps Installation’s Bid for F-35 Fighter Jets
The Aurora Sentinel (Aurora, CO) reports that encroachment buffering projects funded by the REPI Program, the Trust for Public Land, the State of Colorado, and the city of Aurora are making Buckley AFB more competitive in the application process to receive the next round of F-35 Fighter Jets. One of the four primary categories 18 installations are being ranked on in the bid to host the Air Force's newest fighter evaluates how encroachment from development and other sources impacts or threatens to impact mission capability and flexibility. The REPI project funded at Buckley AFB will ultimately create a more than 1,000-acre buffer around the installation, and not only provide permanent protection against residential and commercial development but will be open to local residents for recreational use.

Hawaiian Farmland Preserved through Collaborative Effort
The Hawaii Army Weekly (Schofield Barracks, HI) reports that the REPI Program, the ACUB Program, and the State of Hawaii Legacy Land Conservation Program have recorded a Grant of Conservation Easement that permanently protects 468 acres of productive farmland in Kahuku on Oahu’s North Shore.  The parcel is adjacent to the Army’s Kahuku Training Area, as well as military training flight paths, and will protect the Army’s training mission by preventing encroachment that can limit or restrict training activities.

Acres near Fort Harrison Secured as Open Space
The Independent Record (Helena, MT) reports that the Prickly Pear Land Trust recently acquired two parcels, totaling 556 acres, near Fort Harrison.  The land was once slated for a subdivision, but instead will have trails and remain in a natural state.  The purchase was made possible with funding from the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) Program.  “Having that buffer protects our training areas.  We do a lot of small arms training, and we were a little nervous that dense homes wouldn’t be compatible with our uses,” said Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn, the Adjutant General for Montana.