Endangered Species and Military Bases: A Call for Eco-Sanity

Peyton Knight, who joined The National Center’s staff Monday as our new director of the John P. McGovern MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, is making a plea for eco-sanity on our military bases.

Our brave men and women in harm’s way have enough burdens to shoulder these days-without being hamstrung by environmental ideologues.According to the Associated Press:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned Monday that procedures designed to protect the environment can sometimes jeopardize U.S. troops and should be balanced against military needs.

Yet over the weekend, the White House was busy “playing environmental matchmaker, encouraging odd couples such as the Nature Conservancy and the Pentagon as they team to save wild birds and military ranges,” according to the AP.The fact is, environmental organizations have been wreaking havoc on U.S. military preparedness, using the Endangered Species Act, for years.

For instance, due to its unique terrain and coastline, Camp Pendleton in Southern California is regarded as one of the best places to train U.S. Marines. Unfortunately for the military, it is also home to the California gnatcatcher, the San Diego fairy shrimp, the tidewater goby, and more than a dozen other species listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

To comply with endangered species regulations, our men and women in uniform, when training at Camp Pendleton, must make pain to avoid treading in certain areas.

If they don’t, they could find themselves subject to penalties and fines.

Considering that about 25 percent of all species listed under the ESA are found on military bases, the conflict between the ESA and military prepardness may only grow deeper.

Unfortunately, Congress missed its chance to exempt crucial military training exercises from the long arm of the ESA two years ago, when related legislation was derailed in the Senate. Perhaps now is the time to reenergize this effort.

Rather than play environmental matchmaker, Congress and the White House should promote eco-sanity on military bases. Considering the tremendous sacrifices our troops make on a daily basis, it is not too much to ask that they be afforded the best training possible. After all, their lives are on line.

Welcome aboard, Peyton!

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