The Departments of Defense and the Interior announced Tuesday an $80 million investment to preserve land around military installations through the new Readiness and Recreation Initiative, according to a release.
As part of the joint effort, the National Park Service will provide $40 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with the Pentagon matching the contribution through a Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program.
Additionally, officials will work to identify projects around the country that support both the preservation of land around military installations and the readiness of the units that occupy them, the release said. The Defense Department is also expected to enter into cost-sharing agreements with local and state governments to acquire land “in fee or under easement” to prevent residential and commercial development from encroaching near bases.
“America treasures its public lands — and the Interior Department is committed to preserving our outdoor spaces and enhancing equitable access wherever we can,” Assistant Interior Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz said in the statement.
The collaboration with the Pentagon would “sustain native wildlife and habitats, and guard against climate impacts and severe weather events,” Estenoz added.
Protected areas adjacent to military bases will act as a buffer to developments, the statement read, and protect at-risk species while improving resistance to the impacts of climate change.
Since 2013, the Pentagon and Interior have participated in the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, which consists of federal, state and local governments working alongside private landowners to promote “sustainable land management practices” around military installations, according to the partnership’s website.
Through fiscal year 2021, the Pentagon has contributed nearly $200 million to sentinel landscape partnerships, totaling more than $1 billion across the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and other local government organizations.
More than 600,000 acres of land have been permanently protected as a result of these efforts, according to the statement.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.