SciSun: Veterans of Foreign Wars   Leave a comment

Did you know many United States Military bases are also home to threatened and endangered species? And ironically, it’s not the military live-fire training that’s keeping these plants and animals safe – it’s a decision made at the highest levels of military leadership. The US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, whose first duty is to serve and protect the United States and its interests, have found that by also guarding and protecting native wildlife the military can continue to train and drill with fewer restrictions and less intrusion by outside interests. It’s a lot harder to complain about early-morning cannon fire when the last refuge of an endangered species is that same cannon range. No one’s asked any of the endangered animals what they think of the sunrise cannon blasts.

Until recently, the military had considered any plant or animal within their base as a nuisance or worse – years ago, it’s said soldiers were told any moving target was fair game for rifle practice. But thankfully, and in part due to petitions and demands by scientists, researchers, and the public, in the 1990’s military leaders at the Pentagon – the headquarters for the Defense Department, in charge of all US military – decided it’s in everyone’s best interest to, wherever possible, preserve native landscape and species found on military installations; and of course to always protect threatened and endangered species. Many military bases are huge – thousands of acres – and the Army, Navy or Air Force typically uses only a small portion of those areas. The remaining land had been left neglected, or even used as dumping grounds. Now, efforts are being taken not only to protect these little-used areas, but also encourage native species and rid the environment of non-native, invasive, and foreign plants and animals. Today it’s almost as common to find soldiers at work clearing land of invasive foreign plants as it is to find these same soldiers on field maneuvers or combat training. Of course, many of these non-native plants are really resilient, and constantly digging up and cutting back these invaders can itself turn out to the quite a fight.

USMC plover

According to the Pentagon, approximately 420 federal listed species – threatened, endangered, and protected- live on more than 28 million acres of military-managed land. Of all the military bases in the US (the total number is classified – on a need to know basis. And we don’t know), on average there are 15 threatened and endangered species per acre. That’s more per acre than can be found on land under the responsibility of the US Forest Service and according to an independent environmental watch organization, land assigned to the Defense Department has the highest concentration of endangered species of any federal land management agency. And that’s not even taking into account all the full-bird colonels. (If you don’t know, you’ll have to look that one up).

But don’t think you can go nature hiking into these bases anytime you want to see the endangered Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii and Gopherus morafkai) at the 29 Palms US Marine facility in the desert of Southern California; or travel off the California coast to find the San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus mearnsi). Not only are these places highly restricted to military personnel only and there’s unannounced live-ammo practice that could happen at any time; in many places the land is still being cleared of those invasive non-native plants and animals. So just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could find yourself a veteran of foreign-species war.


Michonne Says:   I’m all for anything that protects animals. To all the people who help keep us and the land and everything we need safe – particularly berries and flowers and meadows – those are very important to keep safe – I say thank you for your service, and for giving of yourself for us all.

Posted November 10, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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