US Military Makes Peace with Wildlife

Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:00am

The Mother Nature Network reports: “War is hell for everyone involved, including wildlife. But beyond the heat of the battle — where large tracts of land are often set aside for training, storage or other purposes — human conflict can actually be a boon for wild plants and animals.”

“One well-known example is the Korean Demilitarized Zone, a forested border between North and South Korea where the danger to people has created an inadvertent nature preserve. But smaller military menageries exist in many parts of the world, including North America, and some are less accidental than others. The U.S. military is increasingly embracing this role, for example, protecting national ecology as well as security.

“‘The Defense Department has a dedication to the environment that is wider in scope than a lot of people are familiar with,’ said John Conger, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, at a panel discussion on the issue last month. ‘We spend $4 billion a year on our environmental programs.'”

“The U.S. military manages nearly 30 million acres of land nationwide, Conger added, on which it hosts 420 federally listed endangered or threatened species and 523 at-risk species. About 2 percent of the former and 14 percent of the latter exist only on Department of Defense property. And according to a recent report by the Associated Press, DOD spending on endangered and threatened species grew by nearly 45 percent over the past decade, from about $50 million in 2003 to about $73 million in 2012.”