April is widely considered “Earth Month” around the world. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton honors, protects and preserves the Earth not just on this occasion, but every day of the year. Much land and resources are dedicated to the conservation and care of wildlife aboard the facility.
The main force for combating land deterioration and weather problems is known as the Department of Environmental Security. This department has a highly diverse staff, ranging from logistics and environmental planners to 10 biologists who manage coastal, riparian and upland species across the base, who also implement policies to mitigate habitat loss.
“It’s work and responsibility that drives the organization to help manage the natural resources that Camp Pendleton has,” said Melissa Vogt, conservation officer for Environmental Safety Law. “Camp Pendleton is a biodiversity hotspot. If it weren’t for the existence of Camp Pendleton, this entire shoreline would be 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 does well.” Nate Redetzke, Environmental Security wildlife biologist
The facility is home to 19 federally listed species and several state species that are threatened or endangered. One of those species is the California Lease Turn, which is currently in danger of extinction. This bird lives on the California coast and is protected by the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan.
“The Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, which is a combination of military priorities, natural resource management priorities, and outdoor recreation priorities, is an important document that outlines methods to help preserve this desert habitat,” Vogt said. .
“Every command that conducts training on or near protected land receives this document to ensure the viability of the base.”
A large amount of Camp Pendleton’s budget goes to conservation due to the amount of protected land. If the facility is not properly secured, Camp Pendleton could potentially lose rights 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 training,” Nate said. Redetzke, a wildlife biologist with the Upland Management Section, Environmental Security. “Whenever the Marine Corps wants or is required to build new fields, or move a field to another area, then they have to complete the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 process.”
Photo by Lance Cpl. nataly espitia
Lake O’Neill, located at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, is a popular fishing and camping destination and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, April 7, 2022. As a result of the Department of Environmental Safety’s Pendleton took it upon himself to protect the environment and wildlife habitats, both the kangaroo rat and the California kangaroo rat have been reduced from endangered to threatened species. Safeguarding threatened and endangered habitats also allows Camp Pendleton to maintain the same training environment and quality training opportunities for Marine Corps operating forces.
The primary goals of NEPA are to ensure that agencies consider all aspects of the environmental impact of a proposed project and to inform and involve the public about potential hazards and their alternatives.
Through the processes of the Department of Environmental Safety, land conservation, environmental protection, and NEPA, two species aboard Camp Pendleton have been upgraded from endangered to threatened: the kangaroo rat 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 expansive land like this where habitats can be restored to be more beneficial to the native ecosystem.”
As a result of Environmental Safety taking charge of protecting the environment, Camp Pendleton is able to maintain the same training environment and quality training opportunities it will have for years to come. Camp Pendleton will always take steps to ensure that it does not affect the training or lives of animals that are thriving on some of their only remaining habits.