How the military is working with local communities to fight climate change
For some, the US Department of Defense (DoD) might be an unlikely player in the work to reduce the effects of climate change. But the military has a key role to play at the intersection of national security and conservation, and that’s where Kristin Thomasgard, director of the Integrated Preparedness and Protection Program, comes in. Ministry of Defense environment. The “Ocean, People, Planet” podcast series has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Tell us about your work at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s east coast — and why the refuge, established in 1933 as a sanctuary for migratory birds, is so important to the military?
A: The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, or BNWR, sits in a key location under critical airspace used by the Department of the Navy to train pilots from nearby Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Part of this training requires a very safe, quiet and dark space, such as that offered by BNWR.
We also test expensive equipment and sensitive systems at the Patuxent River NAS. Thus, any type of weather impact is significant. And having access to our runways and pavements is important.
Q: But your interest goes beyond BNWR, doesn’t it?
A: These challenges around BNWR are ones that any community could face in transporting people or equipment from one location to another and ensuring that we are not negatively impacting our ability to do the job. which needs to be done.
Management of natural resources and major waterways at all Department of Defense installations and ranges is essential. We are interested in maintaining these landscapes and protecting these resources, and we also have a crucial mission to accomplish. We need a safe and available space to perform testing, training and operations.
We truly view our military facilities and facilities as part of the community in which they are located. We have facilities both in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the country that are severely impacted by climate change, environmental conditions, and extreme weather events. We have often viewed these issues as a risk management challenge that we need to address and assess.
Additionally, most of the people who work at our facilities live nearby. People are central to the department’s ability to accomplish its mission. We are part of the same global ecosystem and face the same effects.
Q: What do you think is unique about the work you have done to protect the shelter?
A: I think our relationship with BNWR is really an incredible example of a diverse set of partners that you wouldn’t expect to encounter; that’s part of what makes it special and what helps it work. These partners have different reasons for wanting to protect the area, and they have come together in a common cause to preserve the refuge and the water and maintain the military mission. By bringing together these diverse perspectives, we can increase the sources of funding and the types of programs available. And I think when we talk about conservation in the context of mission protection and national security, that’s for members of different political parties.
Q: So specifically, how did the DoD engage with the shelter?
A: There is a major federal, state, local, and private partnership effort called the Middle Chesapeake Sentinel Landscape, focused on multiple efforts, but primarily on preserving historic farmland that adds to the conservation footprint around BNWR. We help identify and acquire properties adjacent to BNWR or that would positively contribute to conservation goals and improved habitat at the refuge through the expansion of BNWR.
There are also several other ongoing efforts and partnerships focused on coastal resilience, such as exploring ways to restore natural habitats near our facilities, both where these natural habitats were historically and where they provide a nature-based solution for climate and extreme weather events. We have worked with several partners, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Fund and the State of Maryland.
Q: Beyond the Chesapeake Bay, how is the DoD working to protect more military installations from the impacts of climate change?
A: There is a growing emphasis within the DoD on addressing climate change. We have seen significant increases in funding for programs focused on building the resilience of military installations and, more specifically, nature-based solutions – and expanding our partnerships is a helpful part of that process. Through these efforts, we can identify and work closely with local communities and organizations to advance common goals and implement nature-based solutions as a key component of sustainability.
To listen to the full conversation on the impacts of climate change at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Chesapeake Bay, find our full podcast episode here.