Another Shade of Green

A very strange side effect of the continued over-development of real estate: the Pentagon wants to preserve some areas of rural America, and is willing to ally with environmentalists to do so.

Another Shade of Green: Military Aids Nature Lovers - The military can acquire additional land it wants only through an act of Congress. Under the program, the military can't own the buffers; land titles instead have to be in the name of an environmental group or other partner that preserves the land in its undeveloped form. ... When the Pentagon carved Fort Carson out of juniper-covered ranchland during World War II, the Army training camp was miles away from the town of Colorado Springs on the Front Range of the Rockies.

...So the Army has called in an unlikely ally: environmentalists. Through a little-known act of Congress, Army officials are tapping into a fund to help provide the Nature Conservancy and Colorado state agencies with money to buy remaining undeveloped land around Fort Carson. The goal: to set up a buffer zone against future sprawl. The Army has contributed $9 million to keep development off about 10,000 acres around Fort Carson, or about a third of its total goal.

Army soldiers practice maneuvers on rangeland at Fort Carson in Colorado.
The project is part of a Pentagon program known as the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative, which was established in 2003. Under the program, the Pentagon works with environmentalists and other local groups to achieve land conservation deals around military bases across the country. Deals are in the works for more than 45,000 acres adjoining 30 U.S. bases. In all, Congress has budgeted $40 million in the current fiscal year for the program, up more than threefold from 2005.

The beneficiaries are located across the U.S. In the Florida Panhandle, the Pentagon gave $1 million in 2004 to the state of Florida to help create a 100-mile conservation buffer for military flights and Florida black bear habitat. In Virginia, the Pentagon last year bankrolled the majority of a $3.3 million acquisition of 1,320 acres of wild lands around Fort A.P. Hill, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and Conservation Fund. And in Hawaii, an Army donation of $3 million to a local coalition of conservationists last year helped the group buy 1,875 acres overlooking Oahu's North Shore that had been planned for development.
The unusual alliance does offer mutual benefits, both sides say. The program gives funds to environmentalists to help conserve lands that provide habitat to endangered animals such as tiger salamanders, arroyo toads and fairy shrimp. Pentagon officials say the program helps them preserve the roughly 30 million acres of military training grounds that they say are needed for the nation's defense. These lands have been threatened by development because some homeowners complain about noise and traffic when they move nearby, Pentagon officials say. In addition, development can cause such safety issues as planes potentially crashing into homes and concerns among commanders that nocturnal training might be impeded by city lights.

In all, Defense Department officials estimate the majority of the nation's more than 400 major military installations either are impinged upon by development or soon will be.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 25, 2007 2:04 PM.

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