“Arizona has worked hard to protect lands near our military installations and in high-noise and accident potential zones,” said Dave Richins, director of the Sun Corridor Legacy Program at the Sonoran Institute. “This report documents the connections between public lands and facilities like Luke Air Force Base and their test and training ranges. From the F-35 coming to Arizona to opportunities with UAV’s, we need to look at the nexus between airspace and land use.”
The report, “Strategies to Protect Arizona’s $9 Billion Military Economy: Western Maricopa County Military Land Use Nexus,” provides new insight into the special relationship between the military mission and natural open space on federal, state, and private lands under Military Training Routes (MTRs). These areas, the report concludes, must remain undeveloped and unobstructed to ensure the long-term continuation of training missions that have historically occurred between military bases and the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR).
“As an urban planner in the West Valley, I’ve watched incompatible development move closer to these important military corridors,” says Ian Dowdy, conservation associate with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “At some point, unless action is taken, these key defense training routes may be jeopardized.”
The report also discusses the challenge of managing threatened and endangered species within military installations—a difficult balance requiring both the continuation of the military mission and the protection of habitat and other resources needed to sustain threatened populations of plants and animals. Referring to severe encroachment around Camp Pendleton, where growth has cut off
wildlife movement to and from the coast of California, the report calls on Arizona’s civic leaders and congressional delegation to protect key wildlife corridors extending from the Goldwater Range north to the Sonoran Desert National Monument and Gila Bend Mountains, to prevent similar wildlife management pressures on the BMGR.
The Goldwater Range is currently home to three known threatened and endangered species including the Sonoran pronghorn. The Sonoran desert tortoise and the acuna cactus could also be listed in the next few years, requiring the BMGR to broaden management practices to include protections for additional habitat throughout the range. The report concludes that wildlife corridors and the conservation of habitat outside of Arizona’s test and training ranges will reduce the impacts of protected species management on Department of Defense budgets and mission compatibility.
“Strategies to Protect Arizona’s $9 Billion Military Economy” is the first of a series of reports looking at land use in and around Arizona’s military installations and test and training ranges. The report also highlights the value of federal land conservation efforts like the Sonoran Desert Heritage proposal—a locally-driven effort to conserve approximately one million acres west of the White Tank Mountains near future high growth areas of Buckeye, Surprise, and unincorporated areas of Maricopa County. The plan would increase the amount of conserved public land under MTRs in Maricopa County and protect it from incompatible development and disposal—conserving ecological, cultural, and recreational values while safeguarding flight corridors and crucial wildlife connectivity.
“We are so blessed in Arizona to have this collegial collaboration between conservation interests and our military mission,” says Jim Uken, retired director for the Barry M. Goldwater Range. “Having worked military mission and conservation issues in a variety of venues nationally for more than 12 years, I can tell you folks from around the country are jealous of the special relationship we enjoy—that Arizonans work together to ensure these facilities can succeed.”
For more information and to read the report, click here.
The Sonoran Institute inspires and enables community decisions and public policies that respect the land and people of western North America. Facing rapid change, communities in the West value their natural and cultural resources, which support resilient environmental and economic systems. www.sonoraninstitute.org
The Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s mission is to permanently protect and restore wilderness and other wild lands and waters in Arizona for the enjoyment of all citizens and to ensure that Arizona’s native plants and animals have a lasting home in wild nature. We do this by coordinating and conducting inventories, educating citizens about these lands, enlisting community support, and advocating for their lasting protection. http://www.azwild.org