Thanking the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act
November 22, 2023 •iSportsman Staff
Earlier this year, the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Defense (DOD) announced a new Readiness and Recreation Initiative (RRI). This conservation initiative will preserve green spaces around military bases while also increasing recreational access for everyday Americans.
Both departments are investing $40 million each: the DOI is pulling resources from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF) while the DOD is utilizing their Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program (REPI). This is possible thanks to a cost sharing match set up by congress, meaning that local and state governments can use REPI funding for 50% for conservational efforts around military bases.
“America treasures its public lands — and the Interior Department is committed to preserving our outdoor spaces and enhancing equitable access wherever we can,” said Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz. “This collaboration with the Defense Department is a natural partnership — one that will encourage planning and coordination across local, state and federal agencies to preserve natural areas that increase outdoor recreational opportunities, sustain native wildlife and habitats, and guard against climate impacts and severe weather events such as wildfire and flooding.”
The goal for this partnership is to identify which projects are eligible under REPI rules, and to develop them in a way that will increase access to outdoor recreational opportunities without getting in the way of military operations. Private, state, and local lands are all eligible for the identification process, in hopes that no stone will be left unturned.
“This unique partnership serves as a valuable opportunity for DOI and DOD to collaboratively support projects that create and protect recreation opportunities, safeguard natural areas, and sustain critical military mission capabilities,” said Brendan Owens, Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of Defense, Energy, Installations and Environment. “Through LWCF, these grants will allow DOD’s REPI Program to support on-the-ground partners to fund projects that enhance access to conserved land for local communities and military families, while ensuring the resilience of our military installations and ranges across the country.”
One of the main reasons that the REPI started was due to increasing urbanization and population density around military bases. It’s important for military installations to have natural, unpopulated land surrounding the base, giving them access to training areas, reduces noise complaints, and decreases potential environmental hazards.
This also affords the departments a great opportunity to provide more natural land to American citizens. Since they are already preserving green spaces around military bases, it only makes sense to make this space accessible to recreationists. The result is a mutually beneficial service that allows the military installations the freedom to operate as they wish while also giving the public greater land access.
In 2022, the REPI Program contributed $1.24 billion to protect over 1.18 million acres of land; meanwhile, the LWCF has provided over $5 billion in matching grants for conservation projects since its establishment in 1964.
Aside from the RRI, both the Interior and Defense Departments also participate in the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership (SLP).