Shared priorities for conservation and land preservation converge to strengthen national defense
WASHINGTON, July 12, 2016—The U.S. Departments of Defense (DoD), Agriculture and the Interior today announced the addition of three military bases to the Sentinel Landscape Partnership, a conservation effort begun in 2013 to improve military readiness, protect at-risk and endangered species, enhance critical wildlife habitat and restore working agricultural and natural lands in the Southeast and Midwest.
Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment; Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at Interior; and Pete Potochney, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment announced the designation of Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida, Camp Ripley, Minnesota and training grounds in Eastern North Carolina as Sentinel Landscapes. Sentinel Landscapes are working or natural lands important to the Nation's defense mission—places where preserving the working and rural character of key landscapes strengthens the economies of farms, ranches, and forests; conserves habitat and natural resources; and protects vital test and training missions conducted on those military installations that anchor such landscapes.
"The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership works because it meets multiple objectives for each of the different participants. This collaboration achieves shared goals and extends our relationship with dozens of organizations at the local and state level," Bonnie said. "By using USDA's conservation programs to protect viable farmland, rangeland, forestland and grasslands from development around these military bases and training sites we ensure that our military has flexible locations for training while at the same time protecting water resources and prime wildlife habitat on working lands."
"The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is an important conservation tool benefiting some of the nation's most significant working landscapes and wildlife habitat," said Bean. "The designation is proof that we can preserve military readiness while also protecting important landscapes and wildlife habitat."
"What makes this announcement so significant is the benefit these partnerships provide to our national security," said Pete Potochney, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment. "Not only does the collaboration around Avon Park, Camp Ripley, and throughout Eastern North Carolina ensure the continued availability of critical military installations and ranges, but this partnership also preserves working lands that provide food and fiber to our nation, and sustains key natural resources that help to ensure water quality and provide climate change resilience. The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is an innovative initiative that protects critical DoD missions through efficient government and private sector collaboration. This is a true win for warfighters and taxpayers."
Within the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape in Central Florida, 26 federal, state and local partners have committed more than $8 million to protect or enhance nearly 2,000 acres of working agricultural and natural lands. Avon Park Air Force Range is the U.S. Air Force's primary training range east of the Mississippi River. A biodiversity "hot spot" and home to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, Avon Park and its surrounding area is also part of a strong agricultural region where cattle ranches, citrus farms, crop farms and working forest thrive.
Camp Ripley, located at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Central Minnesota, is the primary National Guard training center for seven states. Sixteen federal, state and local partners have committed more than $5 million within the Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape to protect or enhance nearly 35,000 acres of working agricultural and natural lands. Protecting these acres will safeguard Camp Ripley's training mission, the integrity of the region's natural resources, water supply, and increase access to hunting, fishing and recreation for local residents.
Military-related activity is the second largest economic driver, behind agriculture, in Eastern North Carolina, a region that is home to significant wildlife habitat and 29 federally-listed threatened or endangered species. The Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscapes has 20 federal, state and local partners that have committed nearly $11 million to protect or enhance nearly 43,000 acres.
The new Sentinel Landscapes join three previously designated bases, including Fort Huachuca in Arizona, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges in Maryland. For more information on the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, including project-specific fact sheets, please visit www.sentinellandscapes.org.
Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with a record 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide. For an interactive look at USDA's work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit USDA Results: Caring for our Air, Land and Water.
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