NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmental Rules Hobble Defense Training

March 28, 2003

Endless efforts to protect this or that species from harm at home are making it more difficult to prepare U.S. troops to fight abroad. Valuable parcels of military real estate formerly devoted to troop training have been declared off limits to all but certain birds.

  • Some 72 percent of Fort Lewis, Wash., is restricted because it is "critical habitat" to the Northern Spotted Owl -- although none have been seen on the base.
  • About 22,000 acres of California's Fort Irwin are largely unusable for training because of concerns over the Desert Tortoise.
  • Roughly 77 percent of Fort Hood in Texas is restricted at some time during the year because of species and cultural artifacts.
  • Environmental lawsuits would put 57 percent of California's Camp Pendleton off limits for Marine training.

America's troops have just 25 million acres on which to train -- less than 1 percent of the nation -- but they must look after 300 threatened or endangered species. The General Accounting Office has warned that the situation "limits units' ability to train as they would expect to fight...."

The Pentagon has been seeking mild reforms and clarifications of the Endangered Species Act to free up some of these off limit areas for training. But so far its efforts have been thwarted.

Source: Editorial, "Birds and Warriors," March 27, 2003, Wall Street Journal.


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