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How the USA military co-opts nature conservation, and promotes the extinction of species

“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!” Counter Punch    “The Department of Defense’s ability to conduct realistic live-fire training, weapons system testing, and essential operations is vital to preparing a more lethal and resilient force for combat. . . . Starting in the late 1990s, the Department became increasingly concerned about “encroachment” pressures adversely affecting the military’s use of training and testing lands. Specifically, military installations saw two main threats to their ability to test, train, and operate: nearby incompatible land uses and environmental restrictions to protect imperiled species and their habitats.”
Such problems are to be resolved by the DoD Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program.
The program employs “buffer partnerships” that include the DoD, private conservation groups, universities, and state and local governments. Also involved, often as additional funders, are other federal departments: Homeland Security, Energy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce; and agencies, for example, the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). REPI regards these as “win-win partnerships,” as they share the cost of land or acquire easements to preserve compatible uses and natural habitats, without interfering with bombing or other essential training exercises. In addition to the helpful funding, the military can muster impressive influence over local development authorities, town councils, and adjacent landowners…….
At Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the “Maneuver School of Excellence,” (as well as the notorious School of the Americas, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), live-fire and other training was threatened by threatened species and their habitats.   Now the base and its partners are restoring habitat and offering contiguous land for buyers who would use the land for recreation. Among the partners are the Georgia Land Trust, The Conservation Fund, the Alabama Land Trust, and the Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Nationwide, TNC is likely the conservation organization with the greatest amount of funding from the DoD. The TNC grants for Fort Benning alone included (but were not limited to) one for  $11,115,000, and another for $55,517,470. Both were described as: “Assist State and local governments to mitigate or prevent incompatible civilian land use/activity that is likely to impair the continued operational utility of a Department of Defense (DoD) military installation.”

Washington State, very receptive to military activities, despite the Hanford nuclear disaster area, has several REPI projects. One of them, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, on Puget Sound, is to eliminate the “threat” to live-fire exercises and other missions coming from imperiled species and incompatible development. The extensive area beyond its 91,000 acres became a designated “Sentinel Landscape,” a partnership headed by Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Interior to “align resources” to protect military testing “while benefiting ALL partners and landowners.”  ……

The Defense Department has several other programs designed to prevent interference with live ammunition, bombing ranges, and other military activities. One is the Legacy Resource Management Program, which seeks civilian partners to help protect endangered species and “to promote stewardship of our nation’s. . . cultural heritage.” Already “The Department of Defense manages thousands of National Register of Historic Places-listed properties. . .” Also working with REPI is the DoD’s Office of Economic Adjustment; its Joint Land Use Studies Program helps local communities to avoid interfering with military operations by their civilian activities.

The military has a poor reputation as regards the environment—we think about the Marshall Islands, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, poisoned aquifers, toxic waste burns, underwater sonar, and much more. It has paid attention to the criticisms. It still engages in its former ways, including the world record of oil consumption and extensive toxic emissions, but now there is a soft cop.

The DoD now emphasizes its need for natural landscapes for realistic training, its wish to avoid displacing or accidently bombing locals, and its help in protecting endangered species. However it does not want any environmental restrictions to poke into its activities. The military wants more land, airspace, and ocean clearance, and will make concessions. It uses the carrot, and the commanding influence of military power. The REPI Program supplies funds and also leverages contributions from state and local governments and conservation organizations, which are henceforth partners…..
 there are serious concerns about the REPI project, and similar ones that partner with civilian governments and nongovernmental environmental organizations. First of all, by publicizing its protection of red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises and others, their habitats, working farmlands, forests, and wetlands, the DoD emits a dust cloud over the intense environmental destruction of land, sea, and air resulting from military operations and their preparations. Militarization is worldwide and beyond, into space. In addition to the contribution of the US, other nations’ militaries are increasing in size, activities, and lethality. Many have been armed by us, or against the threat of us; some in response to other perceived threats. ……

Toxic wastes are produced (and not sequestered) at many US domestic bases; our military has granted us the bulk of superfund sites. As Joshua Frankhas stated:

US military sites, which total more than 50 million acres, are among the most insidious and dangerous Pentagon legacies. They are strewn with toxic bomb fragments, unexploded munitions, buried hazardous waste, fuel dumps, open pits filled with debris, burn piles and yes, rocket fuel…….
Another major concern about REPI and other military “partnerships” with civilian institutions and terrain is that it erodes the boundaries, however weak these days, between civil and military.  Might the US be turning into a banana republic or a military dictatorship? Penetration is not new; the US Army Corps of Engineers have been developing and maintaining recreational lakes and flood control projects for a long time. However, the military is slowly expanding into every nook and cranny of civilian life. …..  https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/17/get-your-endangered-species-off-my-bombing-range/

May 18, 2019 - Posted by | environment, Reference, USA, weapons and war

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