A federal conservation effort launched in 2013 to preserve working or natural lands that are critical to the nation’s defense mission on Tuesday added three military training sites to the program — Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla., Camp Ripley, Minn., and Eastern North Carolina.
The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership — a collaboration among the departments of Defense, Agriculture and the Interior — is designed to improve military readiness, protect at-risk and endangered species, enhance critical wildlife habitat, and restore working agricultural and natural lands. The program focuses on places where preserving the working and rural character of key landscapes strengthens the economies of farms, ranches and forests; conserves habitat and natural resources; and protects vital test and training missions conducted on those military installations that anchor such landscapes.
“What makes this announcement so significant is the benefit these partnerships provide to our national security,” Pete Potochney, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, said according to a news release.
“The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is an innovative initiative that protects critical DOD missions through efficient government and private sector collaboration,” Potochney said.
Within the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape in Central Florida, 26 federal, state and local partners have committed more than $8 million to protect or enhance 1,926 acres of working agricultural and natural lands. Avon Park is the Air Force’s primary training range east of the Mississippi River and is a training resource for all branches of the military. The range also is a biodiversity hot spot and home to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge. Avon Park and the surrounding area are part of a strong agricultural region where cattle ranches, citrus farms, croplands and working forests thrive, according to the release.
Camp Ripley, located at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Central Minnesota, is the primary training center for National Guard units from seven states. Sixteen federal, state and local partners have committed more than $5 million within the Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape to protect or enhance nearly 35,000 acres of working agricultural and natural lands. Protecting these lands will safeguard Camp Ripley’s training mission, the integrity of the region’s natural resources, and provide expanded access to hunting, fishing and recreation.
Military-related activity is the second-largest industry after agriculture in Eastern North Carolina, a region that is home to significant wildlife habitat and 29 federally listed threatened or endangered species. To protect national defense, preserve valuable regional resources and benefit local economies, the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape has 20 federal, state and local partners that have committed nearly $11 million to protect or enhance 43,000 acres.
The Sentinel Landscapes previously added Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and NAS Patuxent River-Atlantic Test Ranges in Maryland to the program. More details about the newly added training sites are available on the Sustainable Landscapes website.