Legislation that has helped the military protect sensitive habitats on its installations while still using the lands to train has been a key part of DOD’s conservation program since it was enacted more than 50 years ago, John Conger, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for environment and installations, told the House Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Thursday.
“This is an invaluable tool for us,” Conger told the panel considering reauthorizing and possibly amending the Sikes Act. “It has protected our mission in a myriad of different ways.”
The proposed bills would extend the act through fiscal 2019 and amend it to expand the cases in which federal and state matching funds could be used for conservation efforts, reported American Forces Press Service. The amendment would give the department more flexibility and foster additional interdepartmental cooperation, Conger said.
Because they are protected from human access, military lands contain some of the nation’s most significant natural habitats and threatened species.
More than 520 at-risk species live on military lands. “A surprising number of these species are endemic to military lands — that is, they are found nowhere else in the world — including more than 10 listed species and at least 75 species at-risk,” Conger said in his written testimony.
To read Conger’s statement, along with those of the other witnesses, visit the committee website.