USFWS Southeast Region and United States Air Force Partnership
The US Air Force is steward to millions of acres of lands used for national defense purposes that include a variety of intact ecosystems, including habitat that harbors listed and at risk species. An interagency agreement between the USFWS and Air Force solidifies the cooperation between the agencies in relying on Service expertise to execute a program to protect and enhance the ecosystems under Air Force stewardship. This also benefits the Service's mission for the American people in that it allows protection of lands and waters that are essential for conservation and sustainment of listed and at risk species while at the same time allowing the Air Force to maintain mission flexibility while complying with Federal laws.
USFWS/Air Force Partnership in Florida
In Florida, the Air Force manages more than 625,000 acres of land from the panhandle to the southern end of the peninsula, including eight installations. The Service has biologists stationed on Avon Park AFR, Tyndall AFB, and Eglin AFB who assist with a variety of collaborative work including, ecological monitoring, prescribed burning habitat restoration, species recovery, guidance for mission avoidance and minimization measures, and assistance on public use and recreation management. The partnership is guided by the Florida Strategic Plan for Sustaining Military Readiness through Conservation Partnerships (the Plan).
The Purpose of the Plan
The Plan is a “proof of concept” demonstration of regional predictive planning to allow for mission flexibility and avoid Air Force lands serving as natural resource islands on the landscape. This concept combines landscape ecology with geospatial planning to identify the Air Force’s conservation priorities in Florida. The Plan’s overall goal is to establish a regional approach to natural resources management that minimizes multiple encroachment threats and alleviates on-installation constraints to provide a landscape to support military mission. This is accomplished through:
- Compliance with the federal laws and policies that govern natural resources management Air Force lands.
- Pro-active prevention and abatement of encroachment.
- Working in collaboration with other agencies and organizations in Florida with mutual objectives.
- Incorporating the needs of the military mission into those priorities.
Florida is an ideal landscape to test this concept. In addition to the number and size of Air Force installations in Florida, the State already has two critical components to help achieve this goal: 1) a strong network of conservation-focused partner organizations, and 2) a robust geospatial program that identifies conservation priorities across the state.
A copy of the plan can be obtained by contacting the Panama City office.