April is widely considered “Earth Month” around the world. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton honors, protects, and conserves the Earth not just on this occasion, but every day of the year. A lot of land and resources are devoted to the conservation and care of wildlife on board the facility.
The main force in the fight against land degradation and climate problems is known as the Department of Environmental Security. This department has a very diverse staff, ranging from logistics and environmental planners to 10 biologists who manage coastal, riverine and upland species across the base, who also implement policies to mitigate habitat loss.
“It is hard work and responsibility that drives the organization to help manage the natural resources available to Camp Pendleton,” said Melissa Vogt, Environmental Security Conservation Law Enforcement Officer. “Camp Pendleton is a biodiversity hotspot. If it weren’t for Camp Pendleton, this whole shoreline would be made up of condos and hotels.
“For any wildlife biologist working with a threatened or endangered species, the ultimate goal is to get the animal off the list and make sure the species is doing well.” Nate Redetzke, Environmental Security Wildlife Biologist
The facility is home to 19 federally listed species and several state threatened or endangered species. One such species is the California Lease Turn, which is currently endangered. This bird lives on the California coast and is protected by the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan.
“The Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, which is a combination of military priorities, natural resource management priorities, and outdoor recreation priorities, is a major document that outlines methods to help preserve this desert habitat” , Vogt said.
“Every command that conducts training on or near protected lands receives this document to ensure the viability of the base.”
A large portion of Camp Pendleton’s budget is earmarked for conservation due to the amount of protected land. If the facility is not properly secured, Camp Pendleton could potentially lose the right to continue training in certain areas.
“If an acre of land is disturbed, depending on the species, Camp Pendleton may be required to mitigate and set aside double or even ten times the amount of land elsewhere on the facility that cannot be used for the ‘workout,” Nate said. Redetzke, wildlife biologist in the Uplands Management Section, Environmental Security. “Whenever the Marine Corps wants or is required to construct new courses, or move a course to another area, it must complete the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 process.”
Photo by Lance Cpl. Nataly Espitia
Lake O’Neill, located on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., is a popular fishing and camping destination and home to a wide variety of wildlife, April 7, 2022, . As a result of the Pendleton Department of Environmental Safety’s takeover of environmental and wildlife habitat protection, the California gnatcatcher and kangaroo rat were reduced from endangered to threatened species. Safeguarding endangered and threatened habitats also allows Camp Pendleton to maintain the same training environment and quality training opportunities for Marine Corps task forces.
NEPA’s main objectives are to ensure that agencies consider all aspects of a proposed project’s environmental impact, and to inform and involve the public about potential hazards and their alternatives.
Through Department of Environmental Safety, Land Conservation, Conservancy and NEPA processes, two species aboard Camp Pendleton have been downgraded from endangered to threatened: the California and the kangaroo rat.
“For any wildlife biologist working with a threatened or endangered species, the ultimate goal is to get the animal off the list and make sure the species is doing well,” Redetzke said. “Camp Pendleton is very special. It is the least disturbed area between Los Angeles and San Diego. Nowhere else will there be vast lands like this where habitats can be restored to make them more beneficial to the native ecosystem.
With environmental safety in mind, Camp Pendleton can maintain the same quality training environment and training opportunities for years to come. Camp Pendleton will always take steps to ensure this does not affect the training or lives of animals that thrive in some of their only remaining habits.
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