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  • Writer's pictureKevin Haynes

Geospatial Technology for Sustainable Management of Military Ecosystems

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

I have the pleasure to serve as the Environmental GIS Manager for the SC Army National Guard. You might be surprised to learn the US Military is a national leader when it comes to conservation. The SC National Guard manages over 20,000 acres of land, most of which is within a UNESCO biosphere, just a few miles from Congaree National Park in the Cowasee basin. It is an incredibly unique core ecosystem and one of the most biodiverse areas in the United States.

I use geospatial technology to help military facilities managers and wildlife biologists make better decisions when managing these precious ecosystems using the power of location data. This involves managing the spatial dataset using federal DoD data standards and applying that data to help biologists make more informed decisions.

One of the most exciting programs I support is the REPI (Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration) program. REPI is a national collaborative initiative that aims to promote compatible land use, protect military readiness, and conserve natural resources through partnerships between the DOD, government agencies, and private organizations. I use biological diversity data with Military data to balance military interests with conservation needs. I use a multi-criteria site selection model to weigh various factors to prioritize parcels for conservation easement acquisition. The DoD cannot spend money for us to protect land without any military interest, and the conservation community won't help us protect land that has no biodiversity importance. I use geospatial analysis to help justify using Department of Defense resources just north of $10 million on local conservation efforts.

The SC National Guard has partnered with the Army and the Airforce who own land within the Cowasee basis to purchase conservation easements that benefit everybody. This partnership, in turn, partners with conservation, to share the cost and collaborate on a shared conservation vision. As you can see from the map I created for the Congaree Land Trust, The Cowasee basin sits in between the city of Columbia and Sumter. Rapid urban growth has been and will continue to drive urbanization between these two cities. The conservation partnership has been working to ensure that the Cowasee basin doesn't get urbanized and remains an intact ecosystem core.

There are several key reasons why the U.S. military employs the REPI program:

Encroachment Mitigation: Military installations often face encroachment from urban development, incompatible land uses, and encroaching infrastructure. This encroachment can limit training opportunities, compromise operational readiness, and pose safety concerns. The REPI program helps address these challenges by facilitating partnerships and land transactions that protect military training capabilities and buffer zones around installations.

Conservation of Natural Resources: The military recognizes the need to be good stewards of the environment and conserve natural resources. The REPI program focuses on preserving ecologically significant lands and habitats, such as wetlands, forests, and other critical ecosystems. By protecting these areas, the program helps maintain biodiversity, supports wildlife populations, and safeguards important natural resources.

Enhanced Military-Community Relations: The REPI program fosters collaboration between the military, local communities, government agencies, and private organizations. By engaging in mutually beneficial partnerships, the program helps build positive relationships and strengthens ties between the military and surrounding communities. This collaboration promotes understanding, cooperation, and shared interests in balancing military requirements with environmental conservation.

Readiness and Training: Maintaining adequate land for military training and testing activities is essential for maintaining readiness. The REPI program assists in securing land adjacent to military installations, providing buffer zones that reduce potential conflicts with surrounding communities. These buffer areas help ensure that training can be conducted safely and effectively while minimizing disruptions and conflicts arising from encroachment.

Cost Savings and Efficiency: The REPI program leverages partnerships and innovative financing mechanisms to achieve cost savings for the military. By collaborating with conservation organizations and other stakeholders, the program can acquire lands or conservation easements at reduced costs, avoiding potential conflicts or expensive litigation. This cost-effective approach enables the military to allocate resources more efficiently and focus on core missions.

AI generated earth in space burning on fire

Impacts on Security and Defense

One of the core values we hold dear is good land stewardship—a commitment to preserving and passing on our precious natural resources to the next generation. As we navigate the challenges of climate change, security, and defense, it becomes evident that responsible environmental practices play a vital role in ensuring a stable and prosperous future.

The changing climate has brought about significant impacts on our security and defense, making it imperative to adopt conservative principles in our approach. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts, highlight the importance of protecting our infrastructure and critical resources like food and water. By embracing sustainable practices and investing in resilient infrastructure, we can better safeguard our communities and defend against potential threats.

One of the cornerstones of conservative values is recognizing the importance of natural resources and the need to manage them wisely. As climate change affects water supplies and arable land, responsible land management becomes crucial in mitigating tensions and competition between nations. By promoting good land stewardship practices, we can ensure the availability of vital resources for future generations and foster cooperation and harmony among nations.

The security implications of climate change also extend to our military operations and installations. With rising sea levels encroaching on coastal areas, it becomes essential to employ conservative strategies in adapting our military infrastructure. Additionally, investing in humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions showcases our commitment to preserving life and protecting those most vulnerable to climate-related disasters. I encourage you to watch the documentary Age of Consequences (2016) which goes into these issues in great depth.

Addressing biodiversity loss is an urgent global crisis, and it aligns perfectly with conservative values of responsible resource management. We must act decisively to halt the alarming rates of species extinction and protect our planet's intricate web of life. By promoting conservation efforts, mitigating pollution, and preserving natural habitats, we demonstrate our dedication to maintaining the rich biological heritage of our planet for the prosperity of future generations.

Let us remember that the path to change lies in collaboration and understanding. Rather than resorting to divisive tactics, let's embrace conservative principles of unity, responsible resource management, and a shared vision for the betterment of our planet. Together, we can secure a bright and sustainable future for generations to come.

Addressing biodiversity loss, and stopping the ongoing sixth mass extinction represent a critical global crisis that threatens the intricate web of life on Earth. Biodiversity refers to the incredible variety of species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity that sustains our planet's ecological balance. However, human activities, such as habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, overexploitation, and the introduction of invasive species, have led to an alarming decline in biodiversity. The current rates of species extinction are estimated to be thousands of times higher than the natural background rate, qualifying the present era as the sixth mass extinction event in Earth's history. This loss of biodiversity has far-reaching implications, impacting ecosystems, food security, human well-being, and the stability of the planet's life-supporting systems. Urgent action is needed to halt and reverse the alarming trend of biodiversity loss and ensure the preservation of the Earth's rich biological heritage for future generations. The issue is dire and continuing to yell at and shame each other will not bring forth the changes humanity desperately needs.

By applying geospatial technology to ecology management, we are able to make better natural resource decisions. One of the GIS applications developed to help facilitate data-driven natural resource management decisions is the REPI interactive web map. This map has tons of amazing data layers to help people make better decisions.

The Cowasee Basin serves as a remarkable example of the importance of preserving biodiversity and addressing biodiversity loss. By utilizing geospatial technology and fostering collaboration, we can find solutions that balance military needs with conservation efforts, while funneling tens of millions of dollars into making our communities more resilient and able to adapt to change. Recognizing the security implications of a changing planet, it is crucial to incorporate climate considerations into strategies and operations. Urgent action is needed to halt biodiversity loss. Let us come together, listen to diverse perspectives, and work towards a sustainable future that protects our planet and ensures a legacy of environmental stewardship. Together, we can make a difference for generations to come.

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