FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The Nature Conservancy of Texas and the U.S. Army entered into a formal cooperative agreement Sept. 17 to identify and protect habitat for endangered species surrounding Camp Bullis, one of the nation's most important military medic training facilities.

The agreement, known as an Army Compatible Use Buffer, will permanently conserve important undeveloped areas of habitat outside of the Camp for the golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered songbird, and help Camp Bullis continue its critical Department of Defense medical and combat training operations.

Rapid development of land surrounding Camp Bullis has been a concern to the Army because of the military's longstanding stewardship of habitat on the post. Camp Bullis now supports a robust and growing population of golden-cheeked warblers.

If key remaining habitat within the biological recovery unit where the Camp is located is not protected, continuing increase of the species at Camp Bullis could make training there more challenging in the future.

"The Nature Conservancy is honored to partner once again with the Army to ensure endangered species habitat remains undeveloped," said Laura Huffman, state director for The Nature Conservancy of Texas. "For nearly 20 years we've worked with the military at Fort Hood to protect golden-cheeked warbler habitat. This latest agreement reaffirms that our two organizations have a lot in common and can forge dynamic, effective partnerships that result in measurable conservation benefits for endangered species."

"This cooperative agreement is essential to allowing us to continue our Defense Department training missions at Camp Bullis," said Col. Mary Garr, garrison commander at Fort Sam Houston.

"With The Nature Conservancy's help, we look forward to acquiring conservation easements outside of the Camp that will protect habitat for endangered species and ensure a realistic environment for medical field training and tactical combat operations training for units of all branches of the United States Armed Forces."

Under the terms of the five-year agreement, the Conservancy will lead efforts on behalf of the Army to identify land within the Golden-cheeked Warbler Recovery Unit surrounding Camp Bullis with appropriate habitat and secure conservation easements - permanent land-use agreements that limit development and preserve wildlife habitat - with willing landowners who are compensated for the restrictions on their property.

These easements will create permanently protected areas outside of the Camp and will provide mitigation credits, allowing Camp Bullis to continue its military mission by avoiding or reducing restrictions on training areas imposed under of the Endangered Species Act. The easements may also benefit the Edwards Aquifer, regional water quality, and other rare and endangered plants and animals unique to the region.

The nearly 28,000-acre Camp Bullis is home to five known endangered species - the golden-cheeked warbler, black-capped vireo, Madla's cave meshweaver and two cave-dwelling beetles. The facility straddles Bexar and Comal counties and is a sub-installation of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

The post provides maneuvering grounds and serves as a combat training facility for active duty and reserve Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force units. It has long been considered the premiere medic field training facility in the United States. More than 160,000 soldiers train each year at Camp Bullis and by 2011, every medic in the Armed Forces will conduct field training at the camp.

(Source: The Nature Conservancy News Release)