Peace Time: June 16, 2001


The American military has asked for clarification on how the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws should apply to military bases and operations. Interpretations to date have limited training, incurred billions of dollars in clean up expenses and left the troops wondering "what next?" While the laws themselves are fairly clear, their interpretation is often left to federal agencies. And these interpretations can change. Thus far they have changed at the expense of the military. Often the military is left with a "can't win" situation. When it appears that it will cost billions to clean up an old firing range, the military often asks to hold on to it, or just turn the land into a wildlife refuge. But if the land in question is close to an urban area, voters (especially developers) get after their member of Congress to force the military to clean up the site and make it available for development. This often requires removing the top three feet of soil, removing any detectable metal below that and replacing the topsoil. This problem is one of the generally unspoken reasons why it is so hard to close some military bases.


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