HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. -- To celebrate the conservation effort between Kentucky landowners and Fort Campbell through the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Alex A. Beehler, alongside other dignitaries, thanked local landowners for their partnership.

"This represents one of the best win-win-win examples we can find," Beehler said. "It's great for the environment and conservation, the Army and the other military services came to realize that their best neighbors are fields, farms and forests."

The ACUB is mutually beneficial conservation partnership that preserves local undeveloped land and ensures Army training grounds and airfields stay preserved and safe for training exercises through purchased easements. These easements ensure a "perpetual open space buffer" around Fort Campbell's perimeter including Campbell Army Airfield.

"With this program, it is very important to us that we are also preserving these relationships with our neighbors," said Chris Brown, community planner with the Master Plans Division for Fort Campbell's Directorate of Public Works.

The Sept. 4 event at the Silo Event Center in Hopkinsville was hosted by one of Fort Campbell's ACUB partners. Col. Jeremy Bell, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Campbell commander and representatives from CLF spoke at the event, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed attendees via video.

By ensuring Fort Campbell has the best neighbors, it ensures the safety of Soldiers and training for the Army mission, Beehler said.

"The demands of the testing and training that goes on at major installations, especially Fort Campbell, require more resource use," he said. "Whether it is night training, the noise aspect of artillery, and so forth, the comfort of buffer land is so important in ensuring critical missions are carried out."

During the event, several landowners were recognized for their ACUB support and partnership.
"On behalf of the Army, we are so grateful of your continued support in regard to helping us make sure Fort Campbell does it's mission, and continues to do so, in our very challenging world," Beehler said.

Wayne Hunt, whose property is bordered on two sides by CAAF, was instrumental in getting area landowners to participate in the program and was recognized for his efforts with an award.

"Agriculture is the largest asset this country has," Hunt said. "The military, in my opinion, is an absolute necessity. If you put those two together, they work well together. As landowners, we like the partnership because we don't want our farmland developed. We lose so much land to development every year, it takes away our food supply and moves in closer and closer to our homes, this program secures our land, and they [Fort Campbell] want it. It's a good opportunity to work together."

Because his land borders both sides by the airfield, Hunt said he has come to appreciate his neighbor -- the Army.

"We live in quiet harmony with Fort Campbell," he said. "It's where we want to be, and where they need to be. We have mutual respect, it's been a good relationship, and it has always been."

Fostering the tight bond between Fort Campbell and the surrounding communities has created a lasting effect, Bell said.

"What strikes me is the idea of Family," he said. "You look around this room and you see husband and wife, kids, generations of Families represented here. When I returned to Fort Campbell as a garrison commander, I felt very comfortable coming back here, and I think the reason is because of the Family aspect. We have a very tight relationship with our community."

Fort Campbell truly appreciates the relationship and partnership between the outside communities in support of the Army mission, he said.

Robert Gregory, executive president of CLF, said they jumped at the opportunity to protect Fort Campbell operations and conserve land.

"The conservation values to be had and the realization of how critical Fort Campbell is to the Department of Defense was a perfect fit for our mission," Gregory said.

To date, 9, 565 acres of land have been preserved around Fort Campbell through the ACUB program.

"This has been an extremely successful partnership," Gregory said. "Landowners get it, they lined up for a chance to partner. The young men and women at Fort Campbell, and others who care about them, should realize this program is helping to ensure they get the training they need as well as preserving the environment. The program is designed to save lives and it also helps conservation efforts."

While in the area, Beehler also visited Fort Campbell Family housing, 1st Brigade Combat Team barracks and older vehicle maintenance facilities, and he discussed energy resiliency with Fort Campbell leadership.