Sikes Act: A Dynamic Partnership
Military lands are comprised of approximately 25 million acres that are largely protected from development and that represent diverse habitat types and contain a wealth of plant and animal life. They preserve ecologically important native habitats such as old-growth forests, tall-grass prairies, and vernal pool wetlands. In many cases, these lands are havens for rare and unique plant and animal species.
The Sikes Act recognizes the importance and value of military lands to natural resources. It seeks to ensure that these ecosystems are protected and enhanced while allowing the military lands to continue to meet the needs of military operations.
Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB) has been selected to be the recipient of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2015 Military Conservation Partner Award. Vandenberg AFB is an outstanding example of the many conservation contributions that military installations make across the Nation.
Vandenberg manages one of the most critical Western snowy plover breeding areas in California. Thanks to their work with partners to restore beach and dune habitats, there has been a tremendous improvement in the numbers of nesting plovers and other shore birds at the installation.
The Air Force demonstrated impressive commitments to protecting and managing the El Segundo blue butterfly, California red-legged frog, and other species in decline. In cooperation with the Service’s Arcata Fish and Wildlife Field Office, Vandenberg AFB has made significant strides in the protection of monarch butterflies and plants listed under the Endangered Species Act. Their work includes the elimination of invasive plants species using reduced amounts of herbicide, along with the restoration of native plants on 2,300 acres of habitat.
The Service values its many partnerships with the military services and appreciates the role of military lands in conserving the nature of America. To recognize the hard work that our nation's military installations do for conservation, the Service created the Military Conservation Partner Award. This annual award acknowledges a military installation whose efforts represent significant conservation accomplishments often achieved in partnership with the Service and other conservation agencies.
Accordingly, the Sikes Act requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop and implement Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs) for military installations across the United States. The law was originally enacted in 1960. INRMPs are prepared cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and State fish and wildlife agencies to ensure proper consideration of fish, wildlife, and habitat needs. INRMPs are required at almost 380 military installations across the Nation, and direct the management and use of the lands on these installations.
Amendments to the Sikes Act required all INRMPs to be completed by November of 2001. These plans are reviewed every year by military installations, and modified as needed. The Sikes Act requires INRMPs to be reviewed at least every 5 years with the Service and States. The military and the USFWS established guidance to assist installations, the USFWS, and state fish and wildlife agencies with the INRMP review and concurrence process. This guidance provides direction to Service staff for the development, implementation and subsequent reviews of INRMPs required by the Sikes Act. In addition, public input is requested during an open comment period. The following documents describe the process:
The Sikes Act and the INRMPs it requires integrate many different aspects of natural resource management. Through the Sikes Act, the Service helps military installations manage their natural resources by providing expertise on the following issues:
The Service has designated Regional FWS Sikes Act Coordinators in order to help meet the needs for coordinating regular INRMP reviews with the military, the State fish and wildlife agencies and Service programs.
In addition to technical assistance that the USFWS provides to the military, the USFWS can enter into interagency agreements with installations to help implement INRMPs. These INRMP implementation projects can include wildlife and habitat assessments and surveys, fish stocking, exotic species control, and hunting and fishing program management. To facilitate these interagency agreements between the USFWS, the military, and the third party of the Sikes Act, state fish and wildlife agencies, the Sikes Act MOU was revised in January 2006. The new MOU lists the authorities available to the three parties of the Sikes Act.