Warfighting And Biomimicry in the 21st Century

How Does An Army Bombing Range Support Conservation And Protection Of Endangered Species?

Contrary to conventional thinking, the military and conservation efforts are not diametrically opposed. In fact, if we dive beneath surface-level assumptions that the military does not possess sustainable mindset, we will unravel a very different story.

In the United States, military land totals roughly 25 million acres. These are lands that are protected from commercial development and support numerous biomes. Often, these lands are considered to be rare, unique, and — typically — have endangered flora and fauna. Once the 1960 Sikes Act was signed into law, the value of the natural resources on these lands were officially recognized. Subsequently, mandates from the Secretary of Defense followed suit, specifically for the implementation of programs that “[provided] for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations.”

Further, the Sikes Act requires that the installation commanders are to create a comprehensive plan to manage natural resources effectively. Then, in 1997, the Sike Act Improvement Act broadened the scope of natural resource management to provide for the following: more funding, greater scientific research, and greater civilian oversight of existing environmental programs.

Did This Law Work?

Welcome to Townsend, Georgia the home of the Townsend Bombing Range that is ‘owned’ by the U.S. Marine Corps, but used by all branches of the military. Near this forty-mile, coastal strip of land is a ‘wildlife greenway’. Or, in other words, a corridor for conservation that actively works to reduce habitat fragmentation by keeping wildlife zones connected.

Since the 1960 and 1997 Sikes Act and Sikes Act Amendments, respectively, the Department of Defense has contributed $26 million to the $93 million project. The funds are used to prevent developers from breaking up these fertile areas into commercial or residential properties. Further, the Marine’s land management program is actively working to not only bring the frosted flatwood salamander back from the brink of extinction, but to also expand livable areas for the endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and to protect the water quality in the vicinity of the bombing range. These efforts highlight the positive role the military plays in conservation and sustainability efforts.

Why Are Environmentally Responsible Policies In The Best Interest Of The Military?

Since natural resources are used widely at military installations, there is an inherent national security necessity to protect and sustain. For instance, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a 6 megawatt solar array was installed with the ultimate goal of generating 100% of the base’s electricity on-site. This example addresses the environmental need to be decrease reliance on coal and also serves a fundamental function of government to provide value to taxpayers. Another example is the development of pulse technology by the Army. This pulse technology increases the life lead-acid batteries by 80% — a remarkable feat. Not only does the increased life of the battery reduce toxic waste from entering the environment as quickly, but it also significantly reduces costs for taxpayers and extends the product lifetimes for the Army.

Another reason for the military to promote sustainability is the availability of unique biomes for training. The Army’s 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, NY, is focused on warfighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. It is also home of the Sustainability Expo that brings together military and contracting personnel with sustainable vendors and innovators. Conservation and sustainability are critical to the Division because of their unique need to mimic the undeveloped mountainous terrain and snowy conditions that soldiers would experience abroad. Simply put, this training environment cannot exist without habitat protection and comprehensive sustainability planning.

Parting Thoughts

Not only are environmental stewardship and sustainable practices in the best interest of the Armed Forces, but the military has aligned their interests with conservation efforts. To be an effective warfighting force in the 21st century, it is critical for military members and all of society to recognize the need for environmental action and its impact on national security and natural resources critical to the military’s mission and success.