National Defense: Saving the Environment

August 18th, 2009

One of the biggest forces of destruction of the natural world are military actions in wars and training exercises, such as extensive explosions at bombing ranges and pollution of groundwater from leaking gasoline storage tanks, chemical and nuclear wastes. Imagine if “national defense” missions were reconfigured to fully focus on saving the environment that sustains life on earth. A germ of that idea is contained in a current advertisement on the Military Times website, placed by Colorado State University.

The Sustainable Military Lands Management (SMLM) Certificate program is a one-of-a-kind online educational opportunity that trains current and future professionals in the breadth and complexity of military land management to provide you with knowledge of the rapidly evolving practices, technologies, and analytical tools necessary to support this national defense mission. Civilian and military land management professionals learn the key concepts for conservation and sustainable management of natural and cultural resources on Department of Defense lands. The knowledge and skills gained can be used by a wide array of United States and foreign, federal and state land management agencies.

This certificate will help you understand the importance of military lands management and the cultural and ecological significance of sustaining these lands. You will learn the general practices and the theory of land management as well as cultural anthropology. You will also study the ecological principles of military training and testing areas and the impacts of disturbances caused by these activities. Topics covered will include an overview of military lands in the United States in historical, geographical, and environmental contexts, cultural resources laws, policies, management, and preservation as they apply to military lands.

Imagine if every soldier, sailor, marine, airman, secretary of defense, member of Congress and president had to take this course. Under a law signed by President Eisenhower in 1960, the Department of Defense-which oversees 30 million acres of often prime wildlife habitat-is obligated to develop and follow a natural resources management plan. The purpose of these management plans is “to provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military lands,” according to an agreement signed in January 2006 by the Department of Defense and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Under other laws, the Department of Defense is obligated to clean up contaminated sites it owns or that were used by military manufacturing contractors, including some of the most heavily polluted Superfund sites in the nation. This is a mission that may require an army of well-trained experts to do right.

For more information:

Sustainable Military Lands Management Certificate, Colorado State University
MOU among Department of Defense, Fish and Wildlife Service, et al.
Final Agreement on Rocky Mountain Arsenal Cleanup Signed, DOD News Release

(This article was also posted at Earth Legacy.)

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One Response to “National Defense: Saving the Environment”

  1. Tom |

    Good ideas, and it’s a step or two above what we’ve always done. Army units operate under strict requirements to clean up and restore areas where exercises are held, report and clean any spills of fuels or other hazardous substances, etc. This is true both in the U.S. and overseas. Granted, there are a limited number of firing ranges which are under more or less constant use and are hazardous because of munitions that might still be present. But in general, the military was environmentally conscious and conservation-oriented before it was so politically correct.

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