Texas A&M to engage private landowners in national program

Oct 4, 2013
by WLJ

A Texas A&M University System institute is playing an integral role in a new federal, local and private collaboration dedicated to natural resource sustainability for areas surrounding military installations, according to officials.

The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources is assisting the USDA, U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Department of the Interior in developing a viable framework for the nationwide Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, said Bruce Beard, associate director for the institute’s military land sustainability program.

The Texas A&M Institute for Renewable Natural Resources will play a role in the new Sentinel Landscapes Partnership—a federal, state and local initiative to promote the Through this partnership, the three federal departments and other entities will work together in priority areas near military installations, recognizing those areas as “sentinel landscapes.”

Beard said large rural landscapes are vital to sustaining agricultural productivity and protecting wildlife habitat.

“Large landscapes are also important to preparing this country’s military for the challenges of combat,” he said. “However, many training and testing areas, once remote, are now encroached upon by competing demands, such as urban sprawl, habitat fragmentation and energy siting.”

By maintaining certain landscapes such as farms, ranches, timberlands or simply open space, landowners have for years— and without due recognition—significantly contributed to the nation’s defense, according to a Sentinel Landscapes fact sheet. Through the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, landowners will be recognized and rewarded for using their lands in ways that are compatible with the military mission and will be encouraged to continue those land-use practices well into the future.

“The vision for the initiative is to better engage private landowners and frame a truly comprehensive and cost-effective landscape approach to protecting the military’s test and training mission,” Beard said.

“The Sentinel Landscape Partnership takes a different approach in applying federal programs to land management challenges, because it promotes working lands, conservation and national defense together,” said Dr. Roel Lopez, the institute’s director. “Too often, federal programs approach land management objectives in isolation when competing demands often require a more collaborative approach. The Partnership is taking that different approach by looking to see how conservation, working lands and national defense can actually be mutually supportive.”

Beard said the institute’s military sustainability program is providing its landgrant expertise in sustaining the environment and building economic and social vitality in local communities.

“Conservation, working lands—including those for farming, ranching and forestry—and national defense each have unique requirements,” Beard said. “We can apply our landgrant expertise in helping to find where those interests share commonalities and where mutual support provides desirable outcomes for each mission.” — WLJ