A Bill to Amend the Sikes Act to Promote the Use of Cooperative Agreements Under Such Act for Land Management Related to Department of Defense Readiness Activities and to Amend Title 10, United…by Representative Madeleine Z. Bordallo
Posted on 2013-03-12
in the house of representatives
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I have introduced a bill to amend the
Sikes Act to promote the use of cooperative agreements for land
management related to the Department of Defense (DoD) readiness
activities and to facilitate interagency cooperation in conservation
programs to avoid or reduce adverse impacts on military readiness
activities. The bill provides common sense reforms to the Sikes Act and
DoD Readiness Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI). These reforms
afford both programs with greater flexibility to leverage cooperative
agreements and other federal funds to meet program requirements.
In particular, section 1 of the bill would provide additional enhancements to the authorities provided to DoD under the Sikes Act and parallels a similar amendment made in the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to the REPI program. Specifically, the provision would authorize DoD, pursuant to a cooperative agreement under the Sikes Act, to provide funds for the long term maintenance and improvement of natural resources on non-DoD lands without first having to protect such lands through acquisition of easements. This will greatly enhance the ability of DoD to take action to relieve or eliminate current or anticipated challenges that could restrict, impede, or otherwise interfere with, whether directly or indirectly, current or anticipated military activities. For example, this provision would help DoD meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act and other applicable statutory and regulatory requirements through actions on non-DoD lands pursuant to a cooperative agreement with a state or local agency or a private landowner. This authority would help avoid or reduce the need to restrict training and testing activities on DoD lands.
Section 2 of the bill would help DoD better protect military installations and ranges from encroachment under REPI and the Sikes Act by enhancing cooperation with the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior. Sustainability and the long-term viability of many DoD installations and ranges continue to be threatened by incompatible development and loss of habitat in areas in the vicinity of, or ecologically related to, those installations and ranges. Current law allows funds from non-DoD federal programs to be used by REPI partners as contributions under a REPI agreement. Greater partnership and cooperation is enhanced under this provision by allowing funds provided by the DoD to protect bases from encroachment to qualify as match or cost share in the conservation programs of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior. For example, prior to the 2008 Farm Bill enactment, DoD, through the REPI program, was able to protect installations in Oklahoma, Kansas, and South Carolina from encroachment while at the same time assisting state and local governments and willing landowners in meeting the matching funds requirements of the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP, now the Farmland Protection Program (FRP)). However, technical changes to this program in the 2008 Farm Bill had the unintended result of terminating the authority for DoD funds to be used as matching or cost-share requirements for that program. The provision reverses that unintended consequence and addresses the broader issue of allowing the DoD funds to be used as a match to other federal programs to help address encroachment issues at military installations. This provision is important to improving the readiness of our forces and ensuring their installations and ranges can be sustained.
Again, the bill is a common sense approach to better enabling DoD to meet its conservation goals and requirements while protecting its ability to meet readiness requirements. In a time of fiscal austerity, it is important for Congress to provide the Administration with the tools and authorities to be flexible and adaptable to challenges with innovative thinking and minimal investment. I urge my colleagues to support this measure.