Defense Department Broadens Protections for Endangered Species
Pentagon records show that from 2004 to 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense invested $300 million to protect endangered species—more than the previous 10 years combined. Now the military plans to broaden those efforts affecting more than the 420 officially endangered or threatened species on its land to restore ecosystems that benefit 500 other species considered at risk. As the owner of 30 million relatively pristine acres that often comprise critical habitat, the military is working to honor conservation laws without curbing its training exercises.
The latest award-winning example heralded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is at Fort Stewart, Georgia, where the army grooms its 279,000 acres to accommodate 20 protected species, including five endangered or threatened inhabitants. A partnership with conservation groups is working to preserve another 100,000 adjoining acres to prevent encroaching development. Next door, the Marine Corps’ Townsend Range is working to protect 15,000 acres of critical watershed on the Altamaha River, a haven for several threatened species. Both are part of the Defense Department’s annual preservation purchases budget, which grew to $56 million in 2009.
“Overall, the military has done a great job,” Kieran Suckling, of the Center for Biological Diversity, told The New York Times, despite some activities that still conflict with wildlife concerns, such as the Navy’s use of mid-frequency sonar in whale and dolphin habitats. Army Deputy Assistant Secretary Tad Davis adds that, “Ten years ago, you would have had a three- or four-star general stomping up and down” if the Pentagon ordered such wildlife preservation measures. “Now they just ask, ‘How do I get it done?’”