ACUB stands for Army Compatible Use Buffer, which is the Army’s implementation of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Readiness and Environmental Integration (REPI) program. The REPI program was established by an act of Congress in 2003 to combat “encroachment,” any activities occurring outside the boundaries of military installations that impact the ability of those installations to execute their missions. Examples of encroachment include residential development curbing noise and smoke generation by military training, tall structures near military airfields intruding into landing/takeoff paths, and legal requirements to manage rare, threatened, and endangered species that occur on military lands. The REPI program allows military services to enter into cooperative agreements with state/local governments and non-profit conservation organizations to secure interest (in-fee purchase, conservation easement) of lands adjacent to installations to prevent incompatible uses that result in encroachment. Management of the natural resources on those lands is also authorized.
Why Does JBLM Have an ACUB Program?
JBLM’s ACUB program began in 2006 in response to the declining status of three wildlife species that depend on native prairies as habitat. These species are the Taylor’s checkerspot (butterfly), the streaked horned lark (bird), and the Mazama pocket gopher (burrowing mammal) [photos of the species]. Most of the remaining prairie and populations of these species in the South Puget Sound Region are on JBLM because, elsewhere, most prairie habitat has disappeared due to urban/agricultural development and conifer forest invasion [map of former/existing prairie]. In addition, most remaining prairie, on- and off-JBLM, has been degraded by non-native plant species (e.g., Scotch broom, pasture grasses) and loss of fire as an ecological process. If these species were to be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Army would bear most of the burden of their recovery, which would include major restrictions on military training imposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The goal of JBLM’s ACUB program is to reduce environmental encroachment (restrictions on training) on JBLM associated with the listing or potential listing of prairie species under the Endangered Species Act by supporting the conservation of these species on lands off the installation. In 2013 and 2014, the checkerspot was listed as endangered, and the lark and gopher as threatened, under the ESA. Thus, the ACUB program’s focus is now on contributing to legal (ESA) recovery of these species.
The objectives of the JBLM ACUB program are to:
- Acquire an interest in parcels containing existing or restorable prairie, primarily in the South Puget Sound region.
- Manage these parcels, jointly with currently protected (public or private ownership) prairie lands, for recovery of prairie species.
- Accomplish the above objectives through partnerships.
ACUB Conservation Actions
To improve the status of the three species, the JBLM ACUB program and its partners engage in the following types of conservation actions:
- Land Acquisition
- Habitat Restoration and Maintenance
- Increase Sizes and Numbers of ACUB Species Populations
- Regulatory Relief
REPI Challenge and Sentinel Landscapes
In 2013, JBLM’s ACUB program was a winner of the annual REPI Challenge, a special pot of money allocated to REPI projects that are innovative in their approach to reducing encroachment. At the same time, we were designated as the first Sentinel Landscape under a new joint initiative between the federal departments of Defense, Agriculture, and Interior. The goals of this program are to:
- Preserve, enhance, or protect habitat and working lands near military installations.
- Reduce, prevent, or eliminate restrictions that inhibit military testing and training.
- Prevent incompatible development near military facilities.
As a result of these two events, the scope of JBLM’s ACUB program increased substantially in terms of land acquired, conservation actions undertaken, partners involved, and funding.
Accomplishments To Date
Highlights of JBLM’s ACUB program include:
- The USFWS decided not to list the mardon skipper butterfly, another prairie species originally part of the ACUB program, in part because of conservation actions taken on its behalf by the Army and its ACUB partner
- Enrolled 5,667 acres of prairie land in the ACUB program (both newly-acquired lands and lands owned by partners and already in conservation status) [map of ACUB lands].
- Includes 609 acres of agricultural lands with NRCS conservation easements.
- Upgraded prairie habitat quality on all ACUB sites, including:
- 4,300+ acres treated for invasive plants.
- Hundreds of encroaching trees and shrubs removed.
- Native plant seed and plug beds established, producing 1,300+ pounds of seed and 200,000+ plugs per year of 65 native species.
- More than 523,000 native plant plugs put in the ground and several million native plant seeds sown
- Prescribed burning of over 1,000 acres.
- Developed captive-rearing program for Taylor’s checkerspot
- Initiated population augmentation of streaked horned lark.
- Initiated species reintroductions:
- Four locations for the Taylor’s checkerspot.
- Two locations for the Mazama pocket gopher.
- Secured $16.4 million in funding from DoD, the Army and JBLM.
- Similar amount of leveraged funding from partners, grants, etc.