- March 31 - As part of the Bush administration's campaign to
roll back the nation's environmental protections, the Pentagon
is seeking sweeping, unwarranted exemptions from five major laws
safeguarding public health and wildlife. Congress is now considering
legislation that, if approved, will grant the Department of Defense
(DoD) immunity from the Clean Air Act (CAA), Superfund (CERCLA),
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Marine Mammal Protection
Act (MMPA), and Endangered Species Act (ESA). A full analysis
of the Pentagon's proposal is available in the NRDC press release
Accounting Office has concluded that (1) the military is at
a high state of readiness and (2) the DoD has failed to demonstrate
that compliance with the nation's environmental laws has significantly
impeded training. However, Pentagon officials continue to blame
these important anti-pollution and wildlife protection statutes
for restricting training and readiness restrictions.
sensing the benefit of politicizing this issue as troop training
versus wildlife protection, the Pentagon has targeted the Endangered
Species Act as a particularly burdensome. But when it comes
to purported problems posed by ESA compliance, the Pentagon's
only "evidence" consists of highly misleading and,
in some cases, completely inaccurate anecdotes.
Says... "At Camp Pendleton, proposed critical habitat under
the Endangered Species Act would cover 57 percent of the base..."
(Congressional testimony of Raymond F. DuBois, Deputy Undersecretary
of Defense, March 13, 2003.)
is... This refers to all lands for which critical habitat has
ever been "proposed," even though the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (USFWS) eventually excluded from its final
designation all but 875 acres of the base's 120,000 acres of
training land. Despite the presence of 18 endangered species,
less than four percent of the base is designated as critical
habitat for any species. It is worth noting that local base
commanders have lauded Camp Pendleton's successful efforts to
protect the endangered snowy plover. The Pentagon recently heralded
the camp in its "We're Saving a Few Good Species"
publicity campaign with a poster declaring that "an elite
military force can train in environmentally sensitive areas
and protect a threatened species at the same time."
Critical habitat restrictions would include "all
17 miles of beach that is critical to training operations
(DuBois' congressional testimony, March 13, 2003.)
is... Large-scale amphibious landings are limited on two to
three miles of the 17-mile beach, and only during the five-to
six-month nesting seasons of the endangered Western snowy plover
and California least tern. The biggest limitation on training
is not critical habitat designation but the presence of Interstate
5, the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Plant, a railroad, and
other topographic access limitations. Perhaps in recognition
of these geographic constraints, the FY03 defense authorization
bill provides Camp Pendleton with funding to purchase land near
the base as a buffer from additional development and sprawl.
Says... The proposed ESA exemption is narrowly tailored and
will only apply to portions of Camp Pendleton and other military
bases needed for training.
The exemption would apply to land owned by the military
even if used for non-military purposes. In the case of Camp
Pendleton, the exemption would apply to San Onofre State Park,
which is leased to the State of California by the Marine Corps.
San Onofre is the 10th most popular park in California and currently
is home to several endangered and threatened species and their
designated critical habitat. However, because the park is "owned"
by the DoD, the exemption would preclude any designation of
critical habitat on park property.
NAVAL BASE, CA
"When Navy SEALs land on beaches at Naval Base
Coronado during nesting season, they have to disrupt their tactical
formation to move in narrow lanes marked by green tape, to avoid
disturbing the nests of the Western snowy plover and California
least tern." (Joint testimony of Paul Mayberry, Deputy
Under Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Raymond Dubois,
Jr. before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military
Readiness, May 16, 2002)
is... Of the base's 5,000-yard ocean coastline, the presence
of these two endangered birds only restricts the use of one
500-yard training lane, and only during the birds' five- to
six-month nesting season. The Navy has acknowledged the importance
of this restriction (or "work around") to species
Claims... Over 22,000 acres of the base is designated critical
habitat for the Desert tortoise and is currently not available
for maneuver training. ("Encroachment Impacts on Army Installations,"
U.S. Army talking points document)
is... The Army voluntarily set aside this area, which represents
less than 4 percent of the 1,000 square-mile base, prior to
the 1994 designation of critical habitat. The primary reason
was to prevent maneuvers from accidentally going off the fort's
boundary; protecting the desert tortoise was a secondary benefit.
Even so, USFWS permits the Army to "take" or kill
up to 36 tortoises per year, and in 1995, the Army received
permission to lift protection from several key tortoise populations
across thousands of acres.
Says... The presence of the endangered loggerhead shrike shorebird
has curtailed the use of illumination rounds or other potentially
incendiary shells during shore bombardment exercises at San
Clamente during the six-month loggerhead shrike breeding season.
is... The loggerhead shrike, which first became imperiled on
the island due to the Navy's introduction of a goat that decimated
the bird's habitat, has rebounded from 13 to 106 birds, thanks
to conservation efforts. The use of live ordinance is restricted
from June to October (not during the February-June breeding
season) because of the risk of fire. This could be remedied
by the use of inert ordinance, of which the Marine Corps has
failed to keep an adequate inventory for use in training.
claims... At Makua Valley there are many training restrictions
based on a Biological Opinion, and a litigation settlement that
allows less than 18 Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercises per year
required by the 25th Light Infantry Division. (U.S. Army talking
is... The Makua valley is home to more than 40 endangered plant
and animal species. In 1999 the Army reached a voluntary settlement
with local groups, which allowed for continued training on the
Makua Military Reservation on Oahu. The settlement agreement
was based on a National Environmental Policy Act case, which
has nothing to do with the exemptions currently being sought
by the Pentagon. In any case, under that agreement, the Army
continues to train as necessary. For example, the Army requested
that they be allowed 18 training exercises -- the amount they
determined was necessary for joint training -- and ended up
only conducting 13 exercises. This year the Army requested 9
trainings, and so far has conducted two.
NC; FORT STEWART, FORT BENNING, GA; CAMP BLANDING, FL; CAMP
SHELBY, MS; FORT POLK, LA
Claims... Units cannot train because of the red-cockaded woodpecker
due to 200-foot buffers around each cavity tree, in which there
are various restrictions. These include no bivouacking or occupations
for more than two hours; no use of camouflage; no weapons firing
other than 7.62mm and .50 cal blank (e.g., no artillery, rockets,
etc.); no use of generators; no use of riot control agents;
no use of incendiary devices; no use of white smoke; and no
digging tank ditches or fox holes. Also, during maneuvers, vehicles
cannot come closer than 50 feet from certain trees. (U.S. Army
is... In the early 1990s, the Army stated it was having trouble
training due to the red-cockaded woodpecker restrictions. The
USFWS asked for a list of additional training activities the
Army would like to carry out within the 200-foot buffer areas
-- all of which were approved in 1996. Since then, the Army
has not made any other requests. It is important to note that
none of the Army installations with red-cockaded woodpeckers
have designated "critical habitat," which means that
the exemptions sought by the Pentagon would have no effect on
training at these bases. Currently, only 8,000 acres out of
200,000 are affected by habitat protections at Fort Bragg; only
about 1,000 acres are affected out of 100,000 at Fort Polk.
recent concerns raised by Pentagon brass, commanders at installations
with red-cockaded woodpeckers have celebrated this success and
highlighted how woodpecker conservation programs establish a
model for balancing training and conservation needs. For example,
Major General David M. Mize, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene,
recently stated: "Returning to the old myth that military
training and conservation are mutually exclusive, this notion
has been repeatedly and demonstrably debunked. In the overwhelming
majority of cases, with a good plan along with common sense
and flexibility, military training and the conservation and
recovery of endangered species can very successfully coexist."
(Symposium IV for Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers, January 27-31, 2003.)
Says... Only about 17 percent of Fort Hood's lands are available
for training without restrictions, and 33 percent of that land
contains endangered bird habitat. Tree or brush cutting and
digging is not allowed, and vehicle training is restricted to
established trails from March through August. (U.S. Army talking
is... Over 74 percent of the base's 217,600 acres is currently
restricted by private cattle grazing, not endangered species
protections. Roughly 34 percent of the base's training area
has faced only limited restrictions due to the presence of two
endangered birds -- the black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked
warbler. Aside from restrictions on the use of chemical grenades
and artillery firing in specified "core areas" within
the endangered birds' habitat, many training activities are
GOLDWATER AIR FORCE RANGE, AZ
Says... "In the calendar year 2000, almost 40 percent of
the live fire missions at the Goldwater Range were canceled."
(Paul Mayberry interview with National Public Radio, April 3,
is... The base is home to the last remaining Sonoran pronghorn
in the United States. With just about 30 animals left, it is
one of the most endangered species of large mammals in the world.
The pronghorn's continued existence is threatened by air and
ground maneuvers, including bombing, strafing, artillery fire
and low-level flights. Despite this fact, the Pentagon's proposed
exemptions would not apply here because USFWS has not designated
any of the range as critical habitat for the pronghorn out of
fear that doing so could seriously limit the Air Force's ability
to modify missions on its lands. In return, the Air Force is
cooperating with the Interior Department, the Nature Conservancy,
and the Sonoran Institute on a conservation strategy.
Says... "Training is limited on 72 percent of Fort Lewis
to protect a bird species that does not even live on the installation.
Seventy two percent, (approximately 63,000 acres) of the installation
is designated critical habitat-for the Northern Spotted Owl,
even though no owls are currently located on the installation."
(U.S. Army talking points)
is... Habitat destruction caused by rampant development and
unsustainable logging has left Fort Lewis with one of the last
intact forest areas in the Puget Sound Basin suitable for endangered
species recovery. Still, USFWS dropped its proposed critical
habitat designation by 84 percent -- from 4.7 million acres
to 58,000 acres. Although endangered spotted owls may not permanently
live on the base, the owls are expected to utilize critical
habitat on Ft. Lewis (at least seasonally).
before, critical habitat designation is not a de facto ban on
military activities. In fact, the military has hailed Fort Lewis
as a conservation success story. Gen. James Hill, former Fort
Lewis commander, told a U.S. Senate committee, "I am a
good steward of the environment because of two reasons: It's
the law, and it's the right thing to do." ("Fragile
species, military might strain to co-exist at Fort Lewis,"
Seattle Times, January 19, 2003) Additionally, Paul Steucke,
chief of the environment and natural resources division at Fort
Lewis, said the base has long been able to find a balance between
environmental protection and military necessity. "I can't
honestly tell you that (troops) can't continue their mission,"
Steucke said. "I don't think the exemptions would change
our management approach." ("Military doesn't want
to go green. Pentagon pushing for exemption from environmental
laws, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 13, 2003)
ISLAND NAVAL RANGE, PUERTO RICO
Says... ESA protections for the endangered hawksbill and leatherback
sea turtles have restricted training at this range, including
the possibility of halting the entire training exercise for
a Carrier Battle Group in the event of observing a single sea
is... As a result of formal consultation under the ESA, the
Navy agreed to institute precautionary conservation measures.
In response, USFWS issued a no-jeopardy Biological Opinion allowing
battle group exercises to go forward without fear of delay due
to ESA. The Navy's conservation measures, such as the relocation
of turtle eggs to a hatchery during amphibious landings, have
resulted in the successful hatching of over 17,000 hawksbill
and leatherneck sea turtle eggs.
ESA is A-OK
poses no threat to military readiness because the USFWS frequently
excludes military lands from critical habitat designations.
In the rare cases where critical habitat has been designated,
DoD has never indicated -- nor has it proved -- that this level
of wildlife protection is an obstacle to achieving readiness.
That's because critical habitat does not render land off-limits
to military use; such protection only requires that DoD consult
with the USFWS before undertaking training that might adversely
modify wildlife habitat. As a case-in-point, DoD has never found
it necessary to invoke the existing "national security"
exemption currently provided by the ESA. Clearly, the evidence
shows that the U.S. military has been able to carry out its
training mission while complying with the ESA, as well as the
nation's other environmental laws.
Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization
of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated
to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in
1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served
from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
environmental organizations published this document: Center
for Biological Diversity, Center for Public Environmental Oversight,
Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition,
Oceana, Military Toxics Project, National Environmental Trust,
National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council,
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, U.S. Public
Interest Research Group.