- What is it?
Natural resources are often characterized by the amount of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems. The inclusive term, natural resources, consists of minerals, soils, forests, water, fish, wildlife, and plants. Natural resources define the wealth of a country and where lands are managed by the federal government, natural resources are held in trust for the public – this is a common law principle known as the Public Trust Doctrine. Therefore, the Army is entrusted with managing natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and available for future generations.
Because natural resources belong to the public, Congress enacted the Sikes Act to ensure public access to renewable natural resources on Department of Defense (DoD) lands, subject to safety requirements and military security. The Sikes Act Improvement Act (SAIA) requires DoD to develop and implement Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs) when appropriate, for military installations across the U.S. The SAIA promotes effectual planning, maintenance, and coordination of wildlife, fish, and game conservation on military reservations and provides for public to access these resources. The SAIA authorizes the Secretary of Defense to carry out a program to provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations while allowing the military lands to continue to meet the needs of military operations. Finally, the SAIA ensures, to the extent feasible, that sufficient number of professionally trained natural resources management personnel and natural resources law enforcement personnel are available and assigned responsibility to carry out all of 16 USC §670.
The SAIA-required INRMPs are prepared in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA-Fisheries) (if applicable), and the respective state fish and wildlife agency to reflect the mutual agreement of the parties concerning conservation of fish and wildlife resources on the installation. INRMP’s are reviewed annually for operation and effect by the installation and no less than every five years with the FWS and state signatory agencies.
- What has the Army Done?
The Army has 148 installations or camps containing significant natural resources, requiring the development and implementation of an INRMP for the management of installation natural resources. The Army spent over $60 million in FY16 implementing installation INRMPs. It is Army policy that INRMPs be fully integrated with the installation’s training and range operations and that the needs of military trainers be considered in developing INRMP goals and objectives. Through this integration, installation managers find common goals and balance Soldier needs with natural resource requirements, often implementing projects to redesign the landscape through sustainable vegetation management practices. This Army practice of balancing natural resources, vegetation management, and training requirements is often called developing a “missionscape.”
- What does the Army have planned?
The U.S. Army Environmental Command has developed and is working to test an INRMP template to facilitate additional structure and standardization to INRMPs. Current installation INRMP’s have the necessary components but tend to be cumbersome documents that inhibit functional review and implementation. A new template streamlines the revision process by locating and collocating natural resource media areas into functional areas that mirror the natural environment.
- Why is this important?
Military lands comprise over 30 million acres of land across the United States. These lands are rich in natural resources and encompass a wide variety of habitat types (e.g., wetland, grasslands, semi-arid scrublands, and forests). These and other high quality habitats host a wide array of threatened, endangered, and at-risk species. They also provide valuable ecosystem services and ensure a strong foundation for realistic and sustainable military training and testing. Proper management of natural resources not only meets the Army’s stewardship responsibilities, it is integral to meeting other compliance requirements, such as erosion and dust control for clean water and clean air and habitat protection for threatened or endangered species. Proper natural resource management protects the land and wildlife and most importantly provides garrison commanders flexibility in maximizing military training capabilities by providing a diverse landscape for realistic training scenarios. Installations conduct intensive, on-the-ground military missions that require conservation to minimize impacts and sustain natural resources capabilities. An INRMP is the integral tool for planning and implementing the multifaceted natural infrastructure goals.
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