NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 7, 2005

The nation's military bases face an ever-encroaching new threat -- suburban development. And the need to protect base land for military training has the brass forming an unlikely alliance with conservation groups, say observers.

Albeit for different reasons, the military and conservation groups share the same goal: to preserve open space. Conservationists say that the 25 million acres owned by the Defense Department is home to almost 330 endangered species, while the DOD needs the land for valuable training exercises. As a result, states are trying to balance the needs of the military, conservation groups and homeowners, say observers:

  • In Florida, the Defense Department and conservation groups are working to create buffer zones, protected from suburban development, for the flight paths of five Air Force and Navy bases.
  • The army and environmental groups in Fort Carson, Colorado are working with ranchers to limit the development of nearby ranchland, which would impede the Army's artillery and tank warfare training.
  • In Fayetteville, North Carolina, the Army and state and local conservation groups formed a partnership to protect 9,100 acres near Fort Bragg for training and woodpecker habitat.

Fifteen states allow local governments to restrict development around military facilities. Not all suburbanites like the idea of restrictions, claiming that such zoning reduces property values and prevents land from being used for more profitable economic uses.

However, military observers argue that bases which are restricted from training exercises due to the disruption to nearby neighbors will be subject to another round of base closings, which also drains local economies, say observers.

Source: Haya El Nasser, "Sprawl Closes in on Military Facilities," USA Today, February 2, 2005.

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