Marines Less Prepared for Combat Thanks to Endangered Species Restrictions

July 7, 2008 - 8:21 PM

(Editor's Note: The following is the 29th of 100 stories regarding government regulation from the book Shattered Dreams, written by the National Center for Public Policy Research.CNSNews.comwill publish an additional story each day.)
Marines at Camp Pendleton in California may not be as prepared for action as they should be because of environmental regulations have been imposed on their training. The 125,000-acre Camp Pendleton is home to three Marine Expeditionary Units, including more than 100,000 soldiers, their families and civilian employees. Eighteen -plant and animal species the government considers endangered or threatened also are found there. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has tried to make over 70,000 acres of the base, more than half, off-limits to soldiers in the name of protecting endangered habitat.

According to Colonel Bennett W. Saylor, chief of staff of the 1st Marine Division, "There are certain standards in our training and readiness manuals that we cannot conduct... To be able to come from the sea, cross the beach and occupy firing positions adjacent to a beachhead, unopposed, and to go to firing positions inland is important to us." Local FWS representative Jane Hendron counters, "We understand that the U.S. Marine Corps has a mission, but our service has a mission, too - preserving endangered species."

Because of the endangered species regulations, amphibious landings at Camp Pendleton are made at only a few locations and soldiers are limited to a few authorized roads during training for fear of disrupting protected habitats and incurring $50,000
fines and other penalties. These restrictions on combat training concern military leaders.

Artillery rarely practice high-angle firing or "shoot and move" exercises due to the lack of necessary firing range sizes because of the Arroyo Southwestern Toad. A 1999 amphibious assault was reduced from 2,400 participants to 800 because of the presence of the Tidewater Goby, an endangered fish.

Camp Pendleton has received several exemptions from normal regulations, but an environmental organization has sued the FWS as a result. Andrea Durbin of Greenpeace says, "We need the military to protect the nation... which means protecting the environment as well."

Camp Pendleton employs 65 people and spends between $20 and $40 million specifically for environmental management and conservation programs on the base. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told a congressional panel that "Environmental concerns are... very important and we take those seriously. But we must be able to strike a balance with readiness requirements."
Sources: Fox News, North County Times


Copyright 2003, National Center for Public Policy Research