ACUB Program Protects Training Lands
Army program protects training lands
by Jacquee Minor, USAEC Contractor
The Army mission is to deploy, fight, and win our nation's wars. To ensure mission success, the Army must conduct tough, realistic, and dynamic training on lands designated for Army use.
Most Army bases were established in sparsely populated areas in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Decades of commercial development and urbanization have encroached on training land boundaries, putting constraints on the training requirements of some installations. In what can sometimes be conflicting and competing interests, the Army nevertheless finds a way to be good neighbors while meeting its training and testing requirements.
The Army Compatible Use Buffer Program was established to mitigate encroachment on Army bases from forces inside and outside of the boundaries. Military installations by their nature create lots of noise, dust, smoke, and other irritants that can be disturbing to its neighbors while, on the other hand, the lights and noises of mass development can interfere with Army training and testing.
Coral Eginton, U.S. Army Environmental Command ACUB team lead, said the goal of the program is to keep the surrounding community at a safe distance, to enable Army readiness through conservation of the natural landscape, protection of habitats and preservation of working lands. Under ACUB, installations work with partners to encumber off-post lands to establish a buffer zone that happens to benefit all parties involved.
Overall, the Army’s 40 ACUB programs have protected 390,903 acres to date. ACUB transactions total more than a billion dollars, including the cost of the land or conservation easements and a host of other costs associated with managing the land. There are 50 ACUB partners, which combined have contributed funds or services to cover approximately 45% of total program costs.
“The most dynamic thing about this program is not just that it preserves the natural landscape,” said Eginton. “It offers landowners the flexibility to sell their land or to continue to use their land for their purposes under a conservation easement. It’s not just a benefit to the Army or the habitat, it’s a benefit to the landowner as well. Everybody walks away happy.”
The U.S. Army Environmental Command oversees up to 25 active ACUB cooperative agreements, which allows the Army to develop partnerships with land trusts and other conservation entities. The partners establish conservation easements or acquire land in their name, then manage and maintain it in perpetuity to ensure it remains an effective buffer. The Army funds the partner to accomplish the common goal of preserving open spaces, habitat, and working lands, but doesn’t hold title to any of the properties.
“There are passionate environmentalists in the Department of Defense, working towards Army readiness,” said Eginton. “I had very little understanding of what the military services did to steward the environment before I worked for one.”
As an Installation Archaeologist at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, I saw firsthand how invested and interwoven these programs are on the ground. My respect for the Army’s environmental stewardship has only grown since entering into the ACUB world,” said Eginton. “Military installations manage some of the most well-preserved habitats in the country, and they engage those habitats to train soldiers effectively. It’s a beautiful partnering of conservation and use.”
Read more, including examples of installations that have mastered the ACUB program, at https://www.army.mil/article/237296