Partnership will enhance military readiness and strengthen rural economies
WASHINGTON, DC, April 8, 2015 – The Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Interior today designated as Sentinel Landscapes Fort Huachuca (Arizona) and Naval Air Station Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges (Maryland). The 2nd and 3rd landscapes designated under the growing effort, the collaborative Sentinel Landscape Partnership supports efforts to promote working lands, protect wildlife habitat, and ensure military readiness at military bases across the country.
Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges will build on the initial Sentinel Landscape designation of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, in 2013. That highly successful effort aims to protect and restore more than 8,000 acres of the vanishing South Puget Sound prairie landscape by 2020 and enable the reintroduction of federally-protected native species like the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly.
“The Sentinel Landscapes program provides an important way to engage partners in proactive conservation while helping ensure the preservation of working landscapes and our military readiness,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “Military lands are often home to some of our nation's best remaining habitat for wildlife, and provide an excellent opportunity to conserve species that are threatened or endangered. We congratulate Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River and look forward to further collaborative efforts like these across the country.”
Both locations encompass vital military ranges needed to test and train with new and advanced aircraft and communications systems necessary to meet new threats as they arise. The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership aims to preserve the working and natural lands most compatible with the military's need for relatively undeveloped environments to conduct its sensitive testing mission.
“This partnership is a great example of coordination and collaboration across the federal government and with private partners, demonstrating that we can have an impact well beyond what a single partner or agency can accomplish on its own,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By connecting local citizens and organizations with our shared resources that best address their priorities, we are able to protect working lands, improve our military readiness and propel rural economic growth.”
Within the Fort Huachuca Sentinel Landscape, the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and DoD are working with the Arizona Land and Water Trust, the Arizona Department of Forestry, and more than 40 other local, state, and federal partners to discourage incompatible land development, preserve native grassland and working ranches, and ensure the availability of scarce groundwater resources for the entire region. Priorities include grassland and wetland restoration efforts around the Babocomari and Upper San Pedro Rivers – key habitat for the Chiricahua leopard frog, yellow-billed cuckoo, southwestern flycatcher, ocelot, and jaguar; implementation of the State of Arizona's Forest Action Plan; and conservation of nearly 5,000 acres of working ranchlands, all of which will buffer and protect Fort Huachuca's mission as the leading unmanned aircraft system training center in the western United States.
In the Chesapeake Bay region, NAS Patuxent River has already protected nearly 3,000 acres of surrounding agricultural, wildlife, and conservation lands using funding from multiple state and federal agencies. Protecting lands beneath its Atlantic Test Ranges reduces noise and safety concerns, preventing costly testing delays, and protects one of the most vulnerable wildlife corridors along the Nanticoke River, home to species such as the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel and the American burying beetle.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and many state and other non-governmental partners are working together to ensure that the lands in and around the Navy's premier aircraft research, development, test, and evaluation area continue to support working farms, high-priority fishing and recreational opportunities and sustain more than 260 rare plants and animals.
“What excites me the most about this announcement,” said John Conger, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment, “is how this partnership will protect the test missions at Pax River and Fort Huachuca. The Sentinel Landscapes will be a magnet for conservation activities, but the real motivation at DoD is creating the buffer we need to protect these critical missions.”
Together, the Sentinel Landscape partner agencies, along with state, private, and non-profit partners, have committed over $25 million in funding to Fort Huachuca and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges from 2014 to 2017 to conserve and restore habitat, implement conservation practices on working lands, and build strong local economies in Arizona, Delaware, and Maryland.
USDA, DoD, and Interior will continue to work together to identify opportunities to designate Sentinel Landscapes at keystone locations across the United States. The program represents one of the newer innovations the Administration has chartered under species protection. Sentinel Landscapes demonstrate how perceived incompatibilities in land use can coexist, and shows why the Endangered Species Act is an important tool to build partnership and build community.
For more information on the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, including project specific fact sheets, please visit www.sentinellandscapes.org.