USDA, Dept. of Interior, Dept. of Defense announce partnership

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 10, 2013 - A first-of-its kind partnership is allowing for collaboration between three government departments to promote conservation and responsible land use.

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The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership includes a partnership between USDA, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Department of Defense (DoD) to work in areas near military grounds to allow producers to improve habitat and allow DoD training operations to continue. Jon Conger, DoD Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, said the partnership is a great way to accomplish a desired goal at a discounted price. 

“The big news today is that we're identifying lands that meet the goals ... of three separate cabinet departments and pooling our individual funding programs - which each have their own goals - but we're going to preserve these sentinel landscapes to meet each of our individual agency goals for less money,” Conger said. “We each get more bang for our buck in this resource constrained environment.”

This project will take place in the South Puget Sound region of Washington state, specifically near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which is a vital facility for troop training with some of the last remaining native prairie habitat in the state. Sentinel landscapes typically serve as a buffer zone outside of military bases, and this partnership will allow all three departments to ensure the land in that buffer zone is used responsibly and allows for protection of endangered species that might live in these areas. 

The three departments will join together to contribute $12.6 million toward the project with DoD working with USDA's NRCS and Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More than 2,600 acres of land will be affected in the initial project. All three departments pledge to include more areas in the future. 

“No doubt there will be future projects,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. 

“There will be more, and we're going to be aggressively looking for more of these opportunities to partner,” Conger said. “It just makes too much sense.”

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