Conservation Earns Its Stripes

A 3,600-acre forested reserve created in the mountains of O’ahu. A Mississippi River overlook preserved in Minnesota. And more than 1,300 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat conserved near the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

These Trust for Public Land (TPL) projects and dozens of other seemingly unconnected conservation success stories have at least two key factors in common. Each was viewed as important to national defense, and each was completed in part using dedicated conservation funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

Established in 2004, the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program (REPI) works with conservation organizations and communities to protect land around military bases where development could interfere with training or threaten critical habitat or environmental resources. The effort emphasizes the need for military installations to “work outside the fence,” managing their lands in concert with communities.

Since the program was established, we’ve completed 23 projects totaling more than 16,000 acres with the help of REPI funds.

For most REPI projects, DOD funding is combined with funds from conservation groups, foundations, donors, and other public funding programs. But while REPI funding has been increasing-from $12.5 million in FY 2005 to $54 million in FY 2011-there is not enough to complete every project, and DOD is always looking for ways to make funding decisions more strategic.

Over the past year, under a grant from DOD, TPL has been bringing its planning and analysis tools to the REPI process. These include LandVote, Conservation Almanac, and National Conservation Easement databases, along with GIS analysis of potential REPI project locations. This suite of tools allows REPI planners to understand where partner funds might be available to help complete projects, where development is projected to impact military installations, and where a REPI effort might further the identified conservation goals of other federal agencies, states, counties, regions, and conservation nonprofits.

Land&People Fall/Winter 2011