Defense Department Promotes ‘Buzz’ on Bases
By Meghan Vittrup
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 26, 2007 The buzz at the Pentagon today is all about the birds and the bees.
To help kick off the first National Pollinator Week, Defense Department officials signed on to a collaborative effort to preserve pollinators nationwide.
Alex A. Beehler, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, and Laurie Davies Adams, executive director of the Coevolution Institute, met today signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a partnership to help preserve and promote pollinator-friendly environments on Defense Department installations.
“The thing about the military is that we have 30 million acres of land,” said Beehler. “It has a great concentration of threatened and endangered species and continues to be an oasis for pollinators and birds.”
U.S. military bases usually are large and protected from public access, allowing the lands to become rich in plants and animals native to the geographical region. This provides an excellent opportunity for the Defense Department to be an active contributor to the eco-friendly campaign, Beehler said.
During the signing ceremony, Beehler cited several military installations as exceptional examples where threatened and endangered species are able to live. For example, he said, Marine Corp Base Hawaii provides a great habitat for endangered birds such as the red-footed booby.
Beehler also spoke about a military base in San Diego, where snowy plovers hide in aircraft dugouts because they feel safe from predators.
Officials at Dyess Air Force Base in Abiliene, Texas, have conducted several studies in an effort to restore habitats and drive out invasive species – defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as any species that isn’t native to the land or harms the land or its inhabitants.
Invasive species drive out the native inhabitants, one reason why some species of native animals and birds are on the endangered species list.
“Conserving biodiversity and protecting the integrity of military landscapes is essential to the Department of Defense’s mission to provide a realistic, sustainable, and more easily maintained training environment,” the memorandum asserts. “The Department of Defense recognizes the important role pollinators play in maintaining our natural landscapes and supports efforts to insure pollinator protection on the lands with which we have been entrusted.”
Servicemembers work around the habitats of pollinators on a regular basis, including learning to share the air in which they fly. All over the world, servicemembers are taught the importance of migratory patterns of birds, and in some situations they are required to adjust training missions to help preserve the habitats of the creatures that share their bases.
“Protecting pollinators creates a win-win situation for everyone,” Beehler said.
Protecting the birds and bees is not necessarily a huge effort that involves a ton of money; in fact, it can reduce costs of maintaining installations. Protecting the animals, birds and bees on military bases means less mowing and reduces water consumption.
A significant decrease in the number of bees and butterflies around the country since November underscores the need to protect the pollinator population, Adams said. It’s possible people aren’t as aware of that problem as they might be, she suggested, because they’re not spending enough time outdoors.
“Get out and enjoy a little bit of nature every day,” she said.